Tales of a Migrant: Daytripping in Danyang

by Kris Adam Santos
Stripes Korea

While on the road street cafés disappeared.  Tenement buildings lined up in a row faded. For a day Seoul was no longer the epicenter of life. It was overtaken by the country's green expanse. The mountainous region was damped in the rain. It lay sodden a path for those that chose to venture in nature.
The swaying trees in wind with their moveable leaves. This was Danyang.

Three's a Magic Number

Astronomical evidence claims that earth is the third planet from the sun.
Perhaps that is why the number 3 is a signifier on Earth – especially in Western culture. The old adage “third time's a charm” is a superstitious mindset. The number 3 is also a number that represents the holy trinity in Christian faith.

In Danyang this western signifier merges with Eastern filial thought. At Dodamsambong three stone peaks jut out Namhangang. Its interesting formation may be attributed to rockslide from the mountain range that stretches above the inlet. While my parents and I took pictures in front of it, it never crossed my mind what these rock peaks represent in Korean culture.

Dodamsambong characterizes a disagreement in familial matters. The big rock represents a Husband Rock (Janggunbong). To its left is the Mistress Rock (Cheopbong). To its right is the Wife Rock (Cheobong), turning away from the Husband Rock due to its decision to produce a male heir with the said mistress (VisitKorea).

Staring at Dodamsambong, it began drizzling. A rumble in the air echoed, but the thunderstorms were far from here. Near the base of the three rock peaks a skiff excursion roared its motors and circulated in the water below Dodamsambong. I wondered if this had disrupted the old rock formation's own tension and mossy squalor.

Somewhere over the Rainbow

Across the parking lot and into the trees a slope within the thicket led up towards a higher view of Dodamsambong. From there a traditional gazeebo is set for tourists to capture Dodamsambong and the inlet below.

I'd lived before in a mountainous region similar to the Northern Chungcheong province. Hiking was a joy. I led mom and pops up the trail Seongnam trail but not without wondering where other trajectory dirt paths meandered. I held onto a handrail that was drenched in droplets until it took me to the Stone Gate. Hunched over like camels on a long journey we reached the rock formation together.

Up ahead our tour guide Clara explained that Stone Gate was a rainbow-shaped stone opening that many people come to see in Danyang. With some geologic speculation one could infer that the Stone Gate falls under natural processes related to Karst topography. In other words, extreme weathering throughout time had resulted in the formation of Stone Gate and its unique formation – much like a donut hole in my eyes.

I gazed through Stone Gate's rainbow-like formation. At the other side I could see the river become penetrated by puddles on water. I wondered where all fish swam. I wondered if I could skip rocks from where I stood.  I could cast my line out and see where it would land. Somewhere in my mind I was back in the Pacific Northwest.

Enveloped by Darkness

With cars and trucks and pedestrians coming from various locations, it had become clear that summer crowds were eager to wander inside Gosu Cave. Clara led us to the entrance of Gosu Cave. My first impression before entering harken back to the cavern in “The Goonies.” In the movie, the Goonies, a ragtag group of kids, traverse through as they run away from the Fratellis in search of a hidden treasure. It's amazing how pop culture is the medium in which many of us envision our expectations.

Fortunately the reality of nature prevailed. My examination led me to believe that Gosu Cave was one of Earth's own geologic haunts. Discovered in the 1970s the cave is known for its limestone formation: a sedimentary rock subject to weathering. Its many twists and turns – low cave ceilings and narrow entrances – provide a challenge to novice hikers.

Once occupied by cave men in prehistoric times (specifically the Stone Age), Gosu Cave brings up an image no different from the Western notion of cavemen and women. I constantly focused my eyes on what areas where etches or drawings could be made. Shadows prevented my sight. Stalactite hung as Gosu's many chandaliers.

I do not know how long we spent inside the cave, but when we emerged at the exit the river town below kept on going. Children with their mothers, fathers with their sons, brothers and sisters. Outside it never stopped. Time – the real treasure.

The Sun Also Rises

Late afternoon began. It was dark. Cumulonimbus clouds emerged. Our stomachs filled with homemade sandwiches and Nescafé coffee, we embarked on a final excursion on Chungjuho Lake. Although the cruise was conducted on a crammed ferry, it provided a clear view of the Gudambong and Oksunbong.

Upon research, Gudambong is named after its reflection being made out to look like a turtle; Oksunbong is named for its bamboo shoots and mossy rocks (VisitKorea). While mountain ranges and peaks have their own mythology, I eschewed from trying to figure it out. Nature as an explanation is all that is needed.

The rain pelt down. I watched as the landscape changed became a gradient of green and brown. Drivers on jetskis nearby zoomed by, showing off their talent. Tents on shore were erected. Out here life didn't exist only in high-rises.

Families snapped pictures to remember the day. I pulled out my own camera, but not without looking through the gallery to look at all the adventures that I had been through. The people I had been with. The friends I had made.
And the ones that were no longer in my life. For a rare moment I closed my eyes and listened to my surroundings. I could hear the water borne against the ferry. It brought the memory of yesterday's travels. I was happy that I had journeyed in Danyang for the day. Until our journey's end, the Korean flag flowed proudly with the wind.

While the sun did not set that afternoon in Danyang, I knew that it would rise another day. Maybe that one day I'll be there. I'll climb the peak and see how things look below.

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