On any given afternoon we have ferries at our disposal. This fact, coupled with an intense desire to see everything wonderful in Yeosu, prompted us to hop on a boat heading across Gamak Bay to Gaedo. Gae Island is about an hour and ten minute ride from the passenger ferry in Yeosu. The name means “surrounded by islands.” The day was markedly overcast and left a lot to the imagination as hazy outlines of islands passed by our boat’s periphery. Visibility was limited but we remained optimistic for our island experience, while fully knowing nothing about the rock our boat glugged us toward. We saw on our phones that there were roads and hiking trails and this seemed to be enough to warrant optimism.
Once we arrived there was a 30 minute period of wondering and doubting our 6 hour time table on Gaedo. We had planned to eat lunch almost immediately and then hike for a while before relaxing on a beach, waiting for our departure ferry. At the point of arrival there was virtually nothing that caused hope for restaurants and stores. A lonely seafood restaurant (not yet, or ever open) welcomed us with an eerie reminder of how hungry we had become on the boat ride. Our aching bellies beckoned us down the road where we found small conglomerates of housing but still no markets or businesses to sell us the sustenance we so needed. A small restaurant down the road eventually welcomed us like the starving and ragged foreigners we had become in the 30 minutes after stepping foot on Gaedo.
A nondescript and humble restaurant, Momma Gaedo‘s House of Happy (name embellished) provided us one of the two tables inside and a bellyfull of delicious cold buckwheat noodle soup (냉면). Following typical Korean hospitality that one often encounters in the countryside, multiple plates of free food were used for bribes to ensure our continued stay and excited return in the future. The proprietor of this kitchen and two tables sang songs, joked with us in Korean, and made us feel like we had come to her island just for this stop. Reluctantly, and with a fear for more food stuffed into our full stomachs, we made our bows, thanked Mamma Gaedo profusely, and set off to see the other coast.
Each island we’ve been to in Korea has had a way of tempting us back. Before we found that in Gaedo, we walked through a ghost town. The main village on the island was all but entirely empty on this Saturday- apparently evacuating its residents during the weekends. In total we encountered a mere 10-12 people during our entire visit to Gaedo, and all of them were gracious and welcoming. At one point we found ourselves on the opposite pier from where we arrived and a couple invited us to join their picnic on the dock. We helped the husband fish and laugh about who-knows-what while his wife cooked us corn on the cob and brewed us coffee. Before she could finish boiling a whole pot of shelled animal scrounged up from the rocks lining the pier, we regretfully bowed ourselves out and onto our last destination before our ferry came.
Our feet ever carrying us onward, we trekked into a beautifully quaint little collection of houses on our way to a small bay we saw off, over the rooftops. People had, apparently, started returning to the island and we came across a few groups of elderly Koreans playing games in pagodas, and women bringing in the days catch. All of them smiled enthusiastically and rattled off joyous Korean compliments; one woman even saying how attractive we were and shaking our hands in congratulation. Faces sore from happy expression, we finally found ourselves awestruck on a beach. Instead of sand, we stood atop millions of rocks, round and soft from decades of tumbled wear. The tide coming in, we were treated to a symphony of clicks produced by the moving rocks each and every time the waves receded.
Pulling ourselves away from a stunning landscapes and incomprehensible natural beauty, we marched back to the ferry port to await the boat. While waiting we each had a much deserved beer after a hot and humid day and played with Jindo dogs presumably owned the restaurant that originally welcomed us to Gaedo. With our beers emptied and the ferry approaching, we knew that we’d return later on in the season, hopefully with a tent and hammock in tow.