Monday, October 20, 2014

Jeju Island Road Trip Day 1: Manjanggul Cave / Lava Tube

A few minutes drive from Gimnyeong Maze Park is Manjanggul Cave. Also known as Manjanggul Lava Tube, this is one among several other lava tubes created during the eruption of Geomunereum volcanic crater. Being the 98th natural monument of Korea (1962), as a UNESCO's World Natural heritage lister (2007) and the only one that's open to the public, I definitely had to include this in road trip. Some adventure we have never had.

A bigger parking lot meant more visitors flock the area. As we walked from the car park to the entrance of the cave we saw a lot of familiar structures, famous symbols of the island. Statues of the dolharubang abound. There was even a giant one we just had to take a photo with. There was also a miniature of the lava column that was inside the cave. We knew then what we were supposed to look for.

We passed by a washing area, flower beds, went down flights of stairs and walked further more to get to the ticket counter. It was located near the entrance of the cave. Admission fees were 2,000 won ($2.37) for adults and 1,000 won ($1.18) for children. When the ticket lady saw us (I was wearing a sundress, the boys were wearing shorts and everyone in flipflops or slippers) she warned us how cold it was down there and that we would be better off wearing jackets and rubber shoes. She made us decide first if we were still willing to go to the cave before she sold us the tickets. We observed the few people coming up from the cave and some of them had very muddy shoes. That got us worried that our footwear were not suitable for a cave adventure. Most of them were wearing jackets or sweatshirts, clothes to keep them warm. Well, we couldn't do anything about the rubber shoes since we left them in the hotel. We did bring our jackets but left them in the car. The boys had to go back to get them. 

We were lucky to be the first few ones who drove in before the tour buses with loads of tourists came. We didn't have to jostle our way in and out of the cave. The staircase the led to the entrance of the cave was steep and a bit slippery. As we made our way down we could feel the temperature falling. Thank goodness we brought our jackets along and that we heeded the ticket lady's warning.
this was us inside the cave giving each other hugs to keep ourselves warm
I was expecting almost total darkness with a colony of bats resting on the cave ceilings, the thought brought chills to my spine. But as we entered the cave, we saw spotlights that were strategically located - either pointing to the different features of the cave or along the path visitors walk on. The idea of being inside a cave didn't seem scary or dangerous anymore. It didn't feel cramped inside this cavern. But the cold did get to us.  It became colder as we walked further into the cave.

The good thing about Manjanggul Cave was that it was easy to navigate. No sharp rocks to step on, no climbing required. It was mostly flat surface, with some puddles to avoid, and in some areas there was even a walkway built for the visitors (mainly to avoid walking into the bigger, sharper rocks). We didn't even need rubber shoes. Flipflops were A-OK.

We learned a lot of things about the cave as we moved along. There were signs indicating what lava formations were nearby and how they were formed. In the area closer to the entrance were lava flowlines which were marks from the lava flows thousands of years ago. They felt surprisingly smooth. After these were lava shelves (made from accumulated lava flows onto cave walls) and lava stalactites (created as the melted ceiling accumulated at the bottom of the cave while hot lava passed through). There was even a stone turtle (lava stone mark) which was formed when a breakdown from the ceiling of the cave were carried along with the lava flow before it hardened to form a mass of rock. Some of the info were a lot to take in and difficult to remember. But we did not forget the lava formations, especially the lava toe that somehow did resemble a big toe.

There were also indications of how far along we were in the cave. The first one had 250m with arrow pointing to the entrance and 750m pointing further into the cave. Second one was 500m pointing to entrance and 500m further in. Third one indicated 250m more before we got to the end. Ira was getting tired already. But we said it was just a few more hundred meters and we were closer to the end than to the entrance so might as well finish it. Ira enjoyed hopping around the rest of the way as he tried to avoid the puddles (but I think some of the times he really meant to land on them). He waited until the sign said 1000m with arrow pointing back to the entrance and an opposite arrow indicating "turn" which meant we've reached the end point. We couldn't wait to get to the end where the lava column was. When we got there, Ira got the shock of his life. With his very sensitive sense of smell, he noticed the sudden change. It stunk and he couldn't stand it. I think it was the smell of sulfur, or something. He wanted to leave right away. The three of us, on the other hand, could tolerate the stench and said we would just take photos and then leave.

The viewing ledge was not that big so we had to wait for other tourists to finish taking their photos before we could take our turn. Once we've snapped a good shot we were on our way back to the entrance. There were more people coming in then, some with kids who were smaller and younger than Ira. That's how easy this cave adventure was. 

After an hour and 2kms of walking, we were out of the cave and back up to the surface. We were hungry and thirsty but not that tired at all (maybe it was the high temperature in the cave which was 13.5 degrees celsius that made the walk easier). We headed to the main building and had lunch at the restaurant there. 

Well, that's one adventure ticked off of our Jeju Island list. Cave exploration, check! Your family can try it, too.

More photos from our Manjanggul Cave exploration trip:
an exhibition centre and the main office, beside is a restaurarnt


unauthorized section: entrance no. 1

stone turtle

got our hands on lava flowlines
we've conquered Manjanggul Cave, so can you!

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