Danyang Gosu Cave & Surprising School Holidays

“According to the legend there lived a couple who loved each other, but had no child. They found a mistress because they wanted to have a baby, but once she had the baby, she began to mistreat and taunt the wife. The heavens saw them, and turned all of them into stones.”

And they all lived happily after in Gosu cave!

After a lazy Saturday updating my blog header photos, Sunday saw a long-awaited visit to the Danyang Gosu Cave. Located along the upper reaches of the Namhan River (the major feeder of Chungju Lake), this resort town at the foot of Sobaek-san National Park is a reincarnation of the original town that was partly flooded from the completion of Chungju Dam in 1986. In addition to the Namhan River, Sobaek-san National Park, and many caves, the area has 8 wonders of historical and cultural significance. Providing you have the resolve of a Salmon and the navigational skills of Sir Francis Chichester, then I am sure you will find them all.

On the way to Gusu we stopped off at the main ferry terminal which inconveniently is around 10 km from Danyang proper. You can take a ferry from Chungju Dam, which takes around 2 hours, to here. I think the best time to take this trip would be in the Autumn as the scenery (I am told) is at its best.  It seems bizarre but I did not notice any taxis or buses to shuttle people downtown and hence the cave. After watching a parade of proud parents engaged in the real reason Apple invented the iPhone (baby snaps), we settled down in the well trodden terminal cafeteria.

The lunch was excellent and the view of the mountains and Chungju Lake would on most occasions be beautiful, but the flotsam that had gathered around the boat landing was of both a turds consistency and colour! I suspect much of this was due to last weeks fake tornado’s but it was an eyesore all the same. As the masses disembarked we made great haste to exit the terminal to protect ourselves from the threat of mass meltdown, lack of spatial awareness style. Some 10 minutes later we arrived at the Gosu Cave area.

Gosu Cave (Gosudonggul in Korean), National Monument No 256, is named after the tall thickets of grass that grow in the area.  The Spleological Society of Korea initially investigated this grotto in October 1973 and it’s exploration is ongoing. The cave is within walking distance of Danyang (10 minutes from the bus station) and a great place to escape the heat if visiting the area in the summer time because the cave stays at around a cool 15 degree Celsius all year long. On arriving at the car-park their are a multitude of eateries and souvenir stalls, the short 50m ascent to the ticket office (5000 won entry) and 30 meter stone staircase to the cave entrance offer no access to the infirm or disabled visitor.

Gosu is one of Korea’s most famous limestone caves, generally it gets large brigades of tourists that can make seeing the cave a proverbial pain but not on this occasion is was busy but comfortably so. This limestone cave started to form 450 million years ago and features a variety of monumental stalactites and stalagmites throughout. We viewed the 1,300 meter cave along an extensive combination of narrow steel stairwells and cat-walks, which at times were slippery and almost all badly lit. This cave is definitely not for those who are claustrophobic and the walkway which guides you through to the other side of the mountain has steep ascents and descents and is a no-go for the disabled or unfit visitor. Much of the time, I found myself forced to duck down to navigate the narrow and low passageways. This did not inhibit our ancestors, crude stone implements have been excavated at the cave entrance, revealing that this area was home to prehistoric humans. It’s documented that around 25 kinds of animal species inhabit the cave. Some of the rocks resemble animals or human figures, like Lion Rock, Octopus Rock, Eagle Rock, and even the Virgin Mary Rock. About 120 various shapes of stalactites and stalagmites are found within the cave and are valuable resources for researchers and geological scholars.

Maybe when I leave Korea the sign at the cave exit will remind me of the perfect English used by the Korean Tourist Board and it’s many regional offshoots!

 “For a moment look back, and then goodbye”

Say goodbye, Say hello wave goodbye, Gudbye to Jane, Goodbye girl, Goodbye to love, who knows?

There is plenty of garlic around outside so maybe love does not enter the equation. On a hot day partake of Ice cream and then take the journey home, we skirted Woraksan National Park and made a minor detour to Sujupalbong Peak. Later that day a  spicy spaghetti with salami cooked in red pepper sauce, a couple of glasses of Bordeux finished an excellent day. Next the realisation that another 48 hours of weekend freedom was over, the Monday morning 8am class awaits. As it turned out Monday was a good day!

More head meanderings!

I was under the misapprehension that public schools in SK have less holidays than the UK, but that is not the case, many school teachers have less holidays but the kids do not.  If you are an Art teacher, Sports teacher or Music teacher which are now NOT funded by the SK government then you apparently get the same holidays as the kids (I’m not sure whether you’re paid less!). For GETs as we are appropriately named (as that’s often how I feel), in your “off teaching” periods it is expected that you attend school as normal, this is commonly known as “desk warming” within the EFL community.  On a positive note it is a good time to build up your portfolio of teaching materials for future job opportunities. Unfortunately, if you among the small army of EFL mercenaries who do not see teaching as a career, but an opportunity to build a bank account (or to travel and party) then this “desk warming” time can be particularly miserable if not engaged in Summer and Winter Camps.  I am so far ahead with my prep I have no doubt it will become torturous for me particularly if the attendance at Winter Camp mirrors that of Summer Camp when only 2 kids attended! There is something soul-destroying about desk-warming as there is no good reason for you to be there, I see it is a complete lack of trust and ultimately de-motivating. Korean teachers, who have a different contract to ourselves, are not there, and therefore it starts to feel punitive. Resentment understandably sets in, you work hard all year, helping co-teachers, essentially doing all the prep and then you are put into jail and not allowed to pass Go!

The School Year in South Korea

Most schools operate year-round, but their peak hiring months tend to be February and March. Universities make most of their final hiring decisions in early August and spend a few months prior to this gathering resumes and doing interviews.

The dates listed here are the major holidays. Expect to be given time off on these days. Be sure to make plans in advance if you plan to travel on summer vacation. The usual contractual holidays are 8/10 in summer and 8-10 in winter plus public holidays.  There are anomalies, such as the day between Ch’usok and National Foundation Day is a holiday for most schools but at mine it’s Sport’s Day.

  • Late August: School begins
  • September 29 – October 1: Ch’usok (also called “Korean Thanksgiving Day”)*
  • October 3: National Foundation Day
  • Mid-December – end of January: Winter vacation (for middle and high school)
  • December 25: Christmas
  • January 1 – 2: New Year’s Day
  • January 22 – 24: Lunar New Year*
  • One week in late February: Spring vacation (for middle and high school)
  • March 1: Independence Movement Day
  • April 5: Arbor Day
  • May 5: Children’s Day
  • May 8: Fathers and Mothers’ Day
  • May 28: Buddha’s Birthday (also called “Feast of the Lanterns Day”)*
  • June 6: Memorial Day
  • Mid-July – mid-August: Summer vacation
  • July 17: Constitution Day
  • August 15: Liberation Day

My school does have an extra day for School Foundation Day i.e. the schools birthday. In addition my school is a charitable foundation and is run privately though under the watchful eye of the Provincial Office of Education.

* Dates of these holidays vary with the lunar calendar.

Today sees the start of my morning conversation classes, one student has left through school related stress and the other removed by her parents for her particular interest in sampling Soju, they obviously want to keep a careful eye on her.  This semester I am encouraging them to contribute to a school blog and newsletter, I’ll put them into three teams of “reporters” to cover various school, and personal events that affect their day-to-day lives.

Next weekend Suwon Fortress and Cheonan……………………..