05 September 2010

Donneko (돈내코)

Yesterday, Lizzie and I went to Donneko (돈내코) waterfall. It's one of many waterfalls on the island, but only really comes to life after the rains.

We took a long route to get to the waterfall, delayed by an "eco-park" with a good view and a horse pasture - Lizzie has a congenital disability by which she is compelled to stop and feed ponies by the side of the road. It's very rare and costs us much time.

But we got there, and immediately went down the wrong one of three paths. Climbing down a muddy path, we did find the river, but no waterfall. Still, it was hot and the water looked great, so we changed into our swimsuits and climbed in. And let me tell you something: that was cold. I don't know if it comes from snowmelt or springs, but Wong-an River was icy enough that we could put our snacks in it and find them cool them in minutes.

We relaxed on the rocks in the sun or splashed in the whitewater that shot between the rocks, and ate hard-boiled eggs and muffins. I also had a half-bottle of Korean drinking vinegar, which is always great (sour sugar in liquid form).

Eventually, we decided to seek the actual waterfall, and started climbing down the river. We had our packs to keep dry, so we strapped them high on our backs and leapt from rock to rock, bracing ourselves and clambering to get over the bigger ones, or sliding down the side and scrabbling for a hold. We passed a group of kids (fourteen years old maybe?) skinny-dipping in the cold water and giggling and strangely unconcerned about two foreigners skidding over the rocks nearby.

After a half hour of hard traveling that had brought us maybe 200 yards, we found an impassable place and decided the waterfall must be back the way we came. But now it was either swim or climb up the bank. We did the latter, and found that the highway was right there, easily accessible. Given this boon, it took us only ten minutes to double back and tromp down a wet old set of wooden stairs. Voila: waterfall.

The river poured in separate streams from over the edge, twenty feet up. It was even colder here, if possible, as it pooled into a small but deep lagoon. It was absolutely, utterly clear: barely a speck of dirt or and errant leaf hung in the waters. They were just clean and light blue and achingly cold.

We found a big flat rock hanging over the pool across from the waterfall, and spread our blanket. We settled down to alternately reading quietly, napping, or going for quick swims in the lagoon and under the falls. After only a minute, fingers went numb and limbs slowed. I had brought my goggles, but going under the water made the bones of my face ache sharply; I dipped and bobbed around, yelping.

We spent hours there, relaxing and snacking and reading (Pillars of the Earth and Pale Fire). It was only with reluctance that we packed everything up and made the short climb back up to the car, thumping down into the seats with a tired and happy sound.

Donneko: go there.

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