Olle 20

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Olle 20 takes the walker past the northern-most point of Jeju, almost as far as you can get from Global Education City. The route follows the coastline closely for much of the 16.5 km. Just like all of the trails, it’s a pleasure to walk through the landscape – the coastline, farmland and oreums. But the trails also take you through villages which start to give a picture of how life is now and has been in recent decades for Jeju people.

The villages aren’t exactly pretty – don’t think Cotswold picture-postcard. There are shared elements of style, with single-story dwellings set behind stone walls and often around a concrete-covered courtyards, but there’s little apparent attempt to achieve a village-wide beauty or aesthetic. The multi-coloured corrugated roofs take some getting used to; the use of breeze blocks in an otherwise volcanic stone wall, or the slapping on of cement with no regard to how it looks, seems so unnecessary. The remains of little bonfires – ashes mixed with tin foil and other non-burnables – and liberal amounts of plastic that probably once had an agricultural purpose all undermine the effect.

But perhaps I should put those cultural values to one side (maybe, I’m not sure). The settlements are honest and organic and changing. Old buildings are left to decay, newer homes are built with new wealth and new materials. I’ll continue to enjoy them on olle 21 and beyond.

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