YEONGDEOK, North Gyeongsang Province ― Set to be the country’s longest walking trail stretching 770 kilometers along Korea’s east coast, the Haeparang Road trail offers some of the nation’s most diverse and scenic walking and hiking experiences.
Starting in the south from Busan and heading north all the way toward the demilitarized zone in northern Gangwon Province, “Haeparang Road” allows walkers to venture days on end through more than 15 cities and counties on one long, uninterrupted trail.
“Haeparang Road begins at Oryukdo Island in Busan and ends at the Unification Observatory in Gangwon Province. It includes trails along the beach, through forests and villages as well as coastal islands and much more throughout the country’s longest walking tour,” said Kim Hoon of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
The construction of the still-developing trail was announced in 2010 and initially would establish 40 distinct courses; however, that number has now jumped up to 50 trail sections, according to Kim.
A group of 10 researchers made up of topography experts, travel writers, a novelist and a historian brainstormed the design and destination of the walking trail. One objective behind the development of Haeparang Road is to string together some of Korea’s most scenic and cultural eastern coast scenes to create a “storytelling road.”
“Haeparang Road is not a trail that was constructed and developed from scratch,” Kim explained. “Rather, we have taken already established roads and trails and selected ones we believed would make for a good walk. We have also created safe pathways to enable hikers to walk through otherwise hard-to-reach locations.” Haeparang Road Course 19
The trail that runs through Busan, Gyeongju, Pohang, Yeongdeok, Gangneung and Goseong ― totaling 143 km ― is considered to be among the five best courses on the Haeparang Road walking trail. Course 19 of Haeparang Road is approximately 15.7 km and stretches across Pohang and various locations in Yeongdeok-gu, North Gyeongsang Province. The course starts at Hwajin Beach and passes by Jangsa Beach and Samsa Marine Park before finally ending at Gangguhang Port.
|Locals fish off a port near the Samsa Marine Park in Yeongdeok-gun, North Gyeongsang Province. (Julie Jackson/The Korea Herald)|
On this particular course of the trail, visitors can spend hours witnessing endless ocean views ― both by walking along hillside paths as well as walking directly on the sand on the area’s many beaches ― all the while watching the locals do what they know best: fishing.
Yeongdeok is best known for its shores and has no shortage of quaint fishing villages and docking ports. By venturing off onto Course 19 of Haeparang Road, walking enthusiasts can experience the heart and soul of the coastal region by visiting some of the area’s most popular attractions such as Gangguhang Port.
However, despite the scenic, breezy routes and seaside walks along calm beaches, the Pohang and Yeongdeok portion of the extensive Haeparang Road is not the easiest trail to navigate, with very limited signage and course maps along the way. The trail is easy only in the sense that there are no steep inclines or hills to hike, with the course entailing quite significant terrain changes from sidewalk to dirt or grass, to both soft and wet sand.
Course 19 takes around seven hours to complete, taking into consideration a quick lunch break as well as the inevitable bouts of getting lost and having to re-navigate the trail. The course, in fact, intersects with another trail called the Blue Road, which is a popular local hiking trail in the Yeongdeok area. Therefore, walkers will encounter some signs indicating they are on the Blue Road path, which in fact is now also part of the Haeparang Road trail through the region.
“There is not much information offered in other languages to assist foreigners while on the trails. However, we are currently in the processes of preparing for readily accessible information,” said Kim of the Tourism Ministry. “However, those who wish to explore the trails now, you will still be able to find your way with a little bit of awareness and attention; I strongly recommend Course 1 for beginners.”
Much of the Course 19 trail, similar to other courses along Haeparang Road, is off the beaten path and involves not walking on a dirt trail path per se, but simply having to walk alongside the motorway and on a city sidewalk. This is where much of the confusion can occur, so carrying a smartphone with a GPS system is highly recommended for those who wish to take on this particular trail.
“The official opening of the entire Haeparang Road trail is scheduled for January 2015, and by that time, we hope to have established an easy-to-navigate and more foreigner-friendly trail,” he said.Yeongdeok eats
Gangguhang Port is one of the Course 19 trail’s biggest highlights as the last stop of the section. The largest port in Yeongdeok-gun County is a 3-kilometer stretch of road that is lined to the brim with rows upon rows of restaurants serving up the region’s most popular local delicacy: snow crab.
The giant red snow crabs are no doubt the theme of the Yeongdeok region. En route toward the port, one’s eyes will be bombarded with huge crab figurines that decorate the entire city like scattered billboards. And Gangguhang Port is without a doubt one of the most famous destinations for enjoying hearty, filling snow crab meals from steamed crab to spicy crab stews.
|A fishing boat passes through Gangguhang Port in Yeongdeok-gun, North Gyeongsang Province. (Julie Jackson/The Korea Herald)|
During the snow crab season, which runs from about November until May, snow crab boats flock to this location to unload their catches of the day. There is even an annual Yeongdeok Snow Crab Festival held annually between March and April in the Gangguhang Port area.
The Yeongdeok Snow Crab Festival is of the region’s most highly anticipated annual events and celebrates the local snow crabs, which were once enjoyed by the country’s royalty. Festival highlights include the snow crab public auction and the snow crab market. Visitors can also ride on a snow crab fishing boat, put on their chef hats and join a snow crab cooking competition, and sample a wide variety of snow crab dishes.
For those who are not so keen on the crustacean, Yeongdeok serves up many other local delicacies to fill one’s appetite. The county’s next popular dish is its local fish. The Yeongdeok coastline is home to countless numbers of dining spots serving hoe and hoe deopbap ― raw fish and raw fish mixed with rice. Customers can walk up to a fish tank, select what they wish to try and the meal will be scooped out of the tank and prepared on the spot.
On the other hand, for those who like their seafood cooked, grilled whole fish, called saengseon gui, and spicy seafood stew, or maeuntang, are also available at almost every establishment.
By Julie Jackson (email@example.com