It all started with Olle 5 in January 2014 and with the completion of Olle 4 on Sunday, we’ve now walked all the Jeju olle trails, the 21 that make up the circumnavigation of the island and the half dozen that are loops and alternative routes or that are on smaller islands around the coast.
Olle 4 is the longest trail at 22.9 km and Sunday was a scorching hot day to walk, with little shade from the sun. The trail does make an excursion inland but mostly follows the coast – a turquoise sea and waves crashing on the rocks (was that an effect of tropical storm Halola off to the south-east?). We celebrated with a cup of tea once we reached the end in Namwon Pogu, glad of the air conditioning and a place to sit down.
What’s next? Well, there’s a 770km trail that follows the east coast of South Korea between the border with North Korea and Busan, or a series of Olle trails in Kyushu.
You won’t get any sense of Olle 3 from these photos, although food is an important part of a successful and enjoyable walk: those all-important questions of how much to carry, where to get a hot meal along the route or a refreshing drink. Or even, having found somewhere to eat, to be confident about ordering from a menu that’s all in Korean.
We knew that we would get noodles (kuksu) for lunch yesterday but didn’t know that they would be served cold, in ice. Given that it was a hot and humid July day on Jeju, that was an inspired choice.
The route runs over 20 Km from Onpyeong-pogu to Pyoseon. These are the same start and end points as the recently-opened and shorter Olle 3B, but takes in two oreums whereas 3B keeps closely to the coast throughout its entire length. The best part – on a hot day in summer, anyway – is the few hundred metres at the end where you remove walking boots and wade across the shallow water on the beach at Pyoseon.
Anyone who thinks Jeju is too mainstream and cosmopolitan may find Chuja-do to be just what they’re looking for. This small island (rather, four inhabited islands and lots of uninhabited islands and rocks) lies half way between Jeju and the mainland. There are just a few villages dotted around the coast and the population has a high proportion of elderly folk. It’s served by one boat which makes the round trip from Jeju to the mainland and back, stopping on Chuja-do each way.
You can walk around the island in one day – that’s what Olle 18-1 does. The guide book describes the trail as hard and I can vouch for that; it’s no longer than the trails on Jeju but there are a lot of hills to climb.
We met the island’s only English teacher near the top of Mt Dondae-san yesterday evening. Come and visit my school, she said, and this morning we did. We arrived as she was teaching English to eight middle-school students. In Chuja-do’s only middle school, there are only 18 students altogether and around 10 teachers. Anyone wanting to go to high school must go to the mainland.
These photos don’t give an accurate impression of Olle 14-1. Long sections of this trail pass through the gotjawal, Jeju’s forested landscape. Due to the well drained, volcanic soils the vegetation is somewhat scrubby, not able to reach any great height. Still, it’s good to know that extensive areas remain in the face of Jeju’s ongoing development. The trail is narrow and winding and rocky in places and the dappled sunlight make it necessary to watch carefully where you put your feet.
It’s also the trail that passes closest to Global Education City, the closest point being the O’Sulloc tea plantation at around halfway. This attracts huge numbers of visitors, who probably have no idea why less-than-immaculate hikers are passing through their midst.
It’s been far too long since we walked an Olle trail so, yesterday being the first day of the half-term break, we headed off to Olle 3 on the south-east side of the island. We started to realise that something was going on as we approached the start and arrived to find hundreds of other walkers celebrating the opening of Olle 3-B. Just when we thought we had almost completed the full set of trails, we had stumbled on the opening of a new one.
Olle 3-B is just a variant of Olle 3, having the same start and end point but keeping closer to the coast in the first half. Early on, we met two other walkers and spent the rest of the day sharing the trail with them – not to mention their food and hospitality. The people of the village of Sinsan provided noodles as walkers passed through and our new friends ensured we were given some, even though we should have booked in advance. We were also offered makkoli by fellow walkers along the trail (a Korean rice-based alcoholic drink – no picnic is complete without it) and rice cake. Korean people are very hospitable.
We stopped at one point and watched a group of Haenyo, Jeju women divers, emerge from the sea with their catch. This is a tradition that can’t last indefinitely; it’s a hard life and the Haenyo are getting older. It’s good to be able to see them while they’re still active.
On the side of Gonaebong, close to Jeju’s north-west coast, is a large rock, several metres high and home to ivy, moss and grass. The surprise comes if you walk around to the side of the rock away from the path, the side looking out through the trees and over the farmland below. There’s a tree growing close to the rock with cloths tied to its branches. Some are tattered, some more recent.
This is one of Jeju’s shamanic shrines. A description of shrines, their meaning and history, is given on the Culture & Nature pages of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province website. That page talks about historical attempts to eradicate shamanism; the challenge today is to preserve this part of the island’s heritage in the face of declining interest in shamanism.
These little men are Dol Harubang, a symbol of Jeju island. They’re carved of local volcanic rock and are guardians – as it says in Wikipedia, giving protection from demons travelling between realities. They come in pairs, either side of gateways and doorways or on bridges. They all look a bit grumpy to me, and always have one hand placed a little higher than the other. In a pair, one will have his right hand higher and the other his left hand.
This isn’t just any pair. These sit either side of our front door. We even saw the final touches being made to the ear of one of them in the masons yard. If there any demons around here, they won’t be coming in through the front door.
I haven’t posted much recently but I’m still here. Today is the first day of the holidays and I took these photos on a relaxing morning close to cafe 7373, on the coast below the World Cup stadium. I think these are flowers from stray radish plants which were attracting lots of bees.
I didn’t take my camera with me on Friday so I’ll have to make do with these shots from my iPhone. This is Udo Island, a short ferry ride away from Jeju’s east coast. The name derives from the alleged resemblance of the island to a cow but it doesn’t look like any cow I’ve ever seen.
It’s a popular destination for people on a day out. Many visitors hire a quad bike, scooter or push bike to travel around but we walked the Olle trail. The trail does a clockwise loop, although the trail on the ground cuts out some parts of the trail as shown in the Olle Trail Guidebook. Peanuts are a local product and peanut ice cream is sold in many cafes.
Jeju’s annual fire festival may have an origin in traditional culture but it’s a thoroughly modern event now. The event is timed to coincide with the first full moon of the lunar calender and traditionally local people would start fires in the fields at this time of year in order to burn off old grass and kill vermin. In the modern version, setting fire to the hillside of Saebyeol Oreum is accompanied by fireworks and a laser show and performances on stage. The event attracts huge crowds and quite rightly so – this is pyrotechnics on a grand scale.