Camping in Deokjeokdo

21 07 2013

Over the last two plus years, I can say that I’ve traveled in Korea more than most Koreans. There are a handful of places still on my hitlist, but Deokjeokdo wasn’t even on my radar when my friends Katie, Stef, and Na invited me to go. In the last year or so, I’ve accumulated quite a bit of camping gear, but haven’t really had many opportunities to camp. I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to crashing in pensions in the mostly empty big rooms on a pile of blankets. Not this time! Camping time!

We searched Naver maps and blogs to find all the best info on Deokjeokdo, which mostly turned out to be wrong and outdated, so we had to wing it. I’ll try and give some more realistic advice for your adventure!

First thing, is that there are only two ferries that go to Deokjeokdo each day. The first leaves at 8, the second leaves at noon. For the sake of travel time, go for the 8 AM boat, because you’ll want as much time on the beautiful beaches as possible. Getting to the ferry terminal is a fun experience, because you’ll get to try and negotiate with terrorists, err, taxi drivers. Since the ferry is so far out, the drivers from Oido Station wouldn’t budge for less than 20,000 won. The estimate is 13,000 won on Naver, but since they have to come back to civilization, they want extra moola. Without traffic, it’s about a 20 minute ride.

Here’s a map to give you an idea of how far out of civilization it is:

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We got ferry tickets to Deokjeokdo for 9,800 won each way, and the boat takes about two hours. Make sure you get there early, because tickets tend to sell out on summer weekends according to the tourist info line.

While on the boat, do your best to avoid the little kids with shrimp chips. They feed the seagulls from their hands. You will get pooped on. There is indoor and outdoor seating, but the ground is a little dirty. I recommend bringing a beach mat with you (you can find these at Daiso for next to nothing.)

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Once you get to Deokjeokdo, there are several options for beaches. There are not, however, several options for taxis. Try to be the first off the boat and you might find a cab that can take you. Many pensions offer pick up, but the actual cabs on the island are tough to find, and no matter where you go, it’s 15,000. There is a bus that runs around the island, but if you’re in a big group with lots of gear, it’s just easier to grab a cab. Here’s the number of the man we used when we were going back: 010-2055-5855. I didn’t catch his name, but he speaks some English, even though I couldn’t understand him on the phone. I spoke Korean with him the whole time while giving him directions to where we were, then shows up speaking English. Oh well, my Korean skills are improving!

While we were on the ferry from Bangamori, a Korean business man came up and started chatting up Katie, then he proceeded to put whitening cream on Na, and bought us a couple beers. He invited us to go fishing and diving with him, explaining to us how he owns a factory in China that makes makeup brushes, and that diving and fishing is expensive, but he’ll take us and cover it. OKAY LET’S GO!!! But only 4 can go. The other 4 in our group had to find a way to get to the beach. Alone.

I didn’t really like that idea, and our sugar daddy of the day noticed. He had us all pile into the back of a Bongo truck with all our gear, but he had to stop for gas first. I should probably mention that Deokjeokdo is famous for bike riding, and massive 18% grades on hills. Steep stuff.

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Not our best idea…

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Weak engines and 10 people and gear in the bed of a tiny truck on a big hill at a gas station means crashing backwards into a cement fence and a pretty brick flower bed. Thank God for those otherwise we might have had some serious problems.

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Then, they dropped us off at Seopori Beach and went off to lunch… and never came back. Oh well. I’ll dive like crazy next month in Malaysia! 🙂

We set up camp up in the trees back from the beach. It wasn’t even noon and it was HOT. Weather reports suggested 90F for the high. It definitely felt like it. Make sure you bring a frisbee or a soccer ball or something, because this beach is huge and flat at low tide. There’s even some mud for playing! The girls had their own mudfest and were covered head to toe.

Here are a few pictures from my phone:

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