Talk about crazy… Bjorn and I arrived at Mt. Halla to see the now defunct volcano with no food or water. And I was in flip-flops. Not exactly prepared to assault the rocky ascent up the 10-meter mountain. Nevertheless, we set off. After the first meter or so, I told him to go on ahead–it was slow going in my choice of footwear. Not to mention hot and tiring. I toiled upward alone–save for my friendly fellow climbers. Most bowed or gave cheery greetings. A few tried out their English (not nearly as many English-speakers on Jeju Island as in Seoul). And several shared their food or water. One man with two children invited me to join their chocolate fest–and I tasted Jeju raspberry-filled & orange-filled varieties. Delicious! At lunchtime, when I stopped, exhausted and starving at the first shelter, a woman who spoke no English broke her cucumber in half and shared it. What a refreshing snack! Then she gave me a packet of jellied jujube, which slipped and slid down my parched throat. Midafternoon, when I sank down on the stones, panting, two older men heading down stopped and handed me a bottle of water. I drank half, then saved the rest for Bjorn. Turns out I didn’t need to. He’d run into people as generous as I had. We met up again as I was toiling downhill, worried I might not make it to the bottom before the park closed at sunset.
Because I didn’t make it to the top, I had to content myself with Bjorn’s descriptions and the lovely photos. But I returned impressed with the people’s generosity and friendliness, and–even more exciting–an idea for my next book. The ancient cave dwellings, an ice cave, and an unusual stone structure sparked my creativity. Can’t wait to begin writing!!