Olle 1

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Seongsan Ilchulbong is never far away on Olle 1. The photo above is taken from the top of Meolmial Oreum, soon after the start of the trail as it makes a large northwards loop before turning back southwards again, following the coast. The peak gets larger and larger before the trail passes beneath it to finish a couple of kilometres further down the coast.

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There are a couple of Haenyo restaurants along the way; the photo below shows their floats and nets hung up in a Haenyo house in Seongsan village.

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Jeju trail run 2014

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The first race I did on Jeju was the 2013 edition of the Jeju Trail Run, one year ago; that was one of the toughest races I’ve done for a long time. This year’s race had the same venue, the same course, set on the eastern flank of Mt Halla and over two oreums. The weather was suitably grey and stormy, giving the views over the moor-like landscape a bleakness reminiscent of  some parts of  upland UK. The swish of the blades of the wind turbines in the strong winds added to the atmosphere.

Paths through the woods with roots and rocks are a challenge and other runners seem to deal with them better than I do. The same is true of the steep climb of the oreums and the equally steep descent on the other side. It’s just as well I can recover lost ground on the relatively flat and smooth sections of the trail. Anyway, I was four minutes quicker than last year and quite happy with that.

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Yeongsil trail

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Here are some photos from the Yeongsil trail, on the western side of Mt Halla. The trail doesn’t go to the top of Halla but climbs through woodland before emerging onto the treeless mountainside below the crater. The start is just below 1300m and  the goal is the Witsae-oreum shelter at around 1700m. Much of the route is on wooden steps and walkways, roped to prevent walkers from wandering off the straight and narrow.

Weather permitting, there are views to the coast on the north, west and south sides of the island, and you can look down at the oreum-covered landscape of western Jeju.

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Olle 13

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You can see the end point of Olle 13, Jeoji, not long after you leave the start. The trail starts on Jeju’s western shore at Yongsu Pogu (port) and passes through the village before emerging into the fields – with a view of Jeoji oreum in the distance. That’s it in the photo above, rising from the flat landscape beyond the darker line of trees and with the paler shape of Mt Halla beyond.

Olle_13_2The route passes through agricultural land – more onions and radishes, barley and citrus – and the profile of the oreum appears at different times, getting closer each time. Once you start to climb the oreum, it becomes apparent that the western slopes are covered with graves, much like Museulbong on Olle 11. The final few kilometres include the circumnavigation of the rim of the crater, before dropping down into Jeoji village, from whence a taxi back to Yongsu Pogu to collect the car.

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Jeju Peace Museum

Peace_Museum2Here are two views from Gama Oreum. The top one looks through the trees northwards towards Jeoji Oreum; the one below looks at some more distant oreums a little more to the east.

Apart from being a vantage point from which to admire the scenery, Gama Oreum is the site of the Jeju Peace Museum, on account of the three-level network of military tunnels within it. A total of 2 km of tunnels, with 33 separate entrances, were dug between 1932 and 1945. Jeju was strategically important, and Gama Oreum was in turn important because of the view over Altteuru airfield.

There’s a film for visitors to watch as you enter the museum. It has a message of world peace; indeed, Jeju has been designated as an Island of World Peace. However, I’m not sure that the message is unambiguous within the film, or fully supported in the rest of the museum. It’s a difficult thing to achieve – telling things how they were without either pointing the finger at the aggressors in the war or simply allowing visitors to draw conclusions that are unhelpful.

And it’s not just the events of the Second World War that are covered. There’s a shell on display that was fired by the North Koreans at the south in 2010, and some booklets for sale with illustrations that show the South Koreans and their allies with benevolent faces and soldiers from North Korea with wild eyes and fierce faces. Sigh.

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Mulchat in the snow

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We were at sea level yesterday but above the snow line today. This is Mulchat oreum, reasonably high on the eastern slopes of Mt Halla. The top of the oreum was off limits today (for conservation reasons?) so we didn’t get to look into the crater. Instead, I’ll just have to imagine it from the description on the notice at the highest point on the path we walked:

“There’s a funnel figured crater lake with watered, year round and it’s one of the very precious crater lake in Jeju island with 1km out-diameter.”

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Kunsan

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The school hiking club visited Kunsan (or Gunsan – the Korean character can be transliterated as either a ‘k’ or a ‘g’) this morning, an oreum south-east of Global Education City. It doesn’t have the classic caldera summit that makes some oreums so impressive but the hike to the top gets the blood flowing and it’s worth it to be able to look out across the landscape of this part of the island.

Having said that, there was cloud today and the top of Mt Halla was hidden. In the other direction Sanbangsan and Songaksan were not far away, and visibility was just about good enough to see the islands of Gapado and Marado.

There’s a freshwater spring on the side of the oreum. The water drips into two stone bowls and a plastic scoop is provided to allow hikers to drink.

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An oreum with a view

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Not long into Olle 6 the trail takes you up Jejigi Oreum. It’s not so high but from 74 metres up you get a good perspective on the landscape on this part of the island. The picture above looks northward, towards Mt Halla; the one below looks eastward along the coast.

As far as I know, most of these greenhouses (plastic rather than glass) are for mandarins; I’m not sure why, given that they seem to grow perfectly well without the protection that covering them gives. Indeed, even though it’s a small island, different parts of Jeju seem to have noticeably different climates, and this area on the south coast around Seogwipo is reputed to be several degrees warmer than other parts.

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Olle 6

Olle_6_1Another Sunday, another Olle trail. Olle 6 starts where Olle 5 finishes, east of Seogwipo City on the south coast and finishes west of the city. It follows the coast, via the top of two oreums (parasitic volcanoes, neither very high). The picture above was taken from the top of one, which is also in the background of the photo below. The conditions were just right – cool, sunny and dry.

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There are around 25 Olle trails. They mostly follow the coast, giving a single loop that allows hikers to walk around the whole of the island. There are also some spurs inland, and there are trails on three of the islands off Jeju’s coast. Naturally, Olle 7 is the next target.

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On the road to Jeoji

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There was snow visible on distant Halla this morning, but it was bright, sunny and (reasonably) warm in south-west Jeju. On clear days like this, Halla catches the eye, dominating the landscape as it does.

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I took my bike out – yes, I have a bike and it’s a nice one, too. It’s been a long time since I’ve owned a bike and they’ve moved on so much; it’s so light, and gear shifting is precise and effortless.

I took the road towards Jeoji, a not-very-exciting village with an oreum of the same name. I discovered some new roads and came across this grave site beside the road, at the foot of Majung Oreum.

I’ve commented on these graves before, and they’re all over Jeju – in fields, beside the road, in villages, on hillsides. They’re traditionally placed in a location close to the home of the deceased, allowing the dead to watch over the fields they cultivated over their lifetime. The grave itself is often in the shape of a dome, surrounded by a volcanic-rock wall called a sandam. You’ve got to do something with the rocks you remove from the fields, or from your grave site, and building walls is to mark boundaries and offer protection from wandering animals is a good solution.

You’re not allowed to bury people in this traditional way any more.