Spring 2014 Trip, Day 2: Jeju-do (My first Olle Trail :Route 5)

Update (7 Mar 16): You can now download the Jeju Olle Trail Guide in English here (pdf file). 

Coastal view along Jeju Olle Route 5
Coastal view along Jeju Olle Route 5

The romance and beauty of Jeju had long been the stuff of my dreams. It was formed through several years of watching variety shows featuring Jeju, such as 1N2D, We Got Married and Family Outing. (Scroll below for some links to the relevant episodes of these shows with subtitles. You’re welcome :)). I had also watched many dramas featuring Jeju; Boys Over Flowers being one of the more famous ones. Visiting Jeju was definitely top of my list on my Korea trip.

While the evening before, I had managed to catch some glimpses of Jeju’s famous coastline, I knew that was just the tip of the iceberg and I ain’t seen nothing yet… so when Day 2 dawned, I was practically hopping with excitement to explore the island. I chose to do so partly on foot, by hiking along one of Jeju’s famous olle trails. Route 5 was my trail of choice.

The olle trails are a series of connecting coastal walking paths that take you around the island. The concept was introduced in 2007 by ex-journalist Suh Myung-suk, who got inspired after walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. She set up a non-profit organisation to further develop the trail and it has now expanded to more than 20 routes, maintained by volunteers. I met a pair of them, Jeju residents, who were patrolling Route 5 in their car. They were excited to see a foreigner and stopped to ask where I was from. At that point, I was perhaps an hour into the trail and had hardly seen anyone else. I was really happy to meet the olle trail volunteers and felt reassured that there were people patrolling the trail.

A lot of thought and research had gone into choosing the first olle trail that I would ever walk. At first, the myriad of choices was daunting. I had to spend several days before the trip reading up on each trail and scrutinising the pictures on the very useful official website (English lang option available): http://jejuolle.org/?mid=40. The first page of the website features an interactive map showing the locations of all the trails. You can click on individual trails to read more about it. At the top of each route’s page is a useful sketch of the cross-section of the trail, giving visitors an idea of the landscape that would be encountered along the trail at a glance. When I got to Jeju, I picked up a guidebook at the hostel which gave more details of each route and it finally helped me decide on Route 5.

Screenshot of Jeju Olle website on Route 5
Screenshot of Jeju Olle website on Route 5

I gathered that the route would be largely flat and mostly along the coast, unlike some other routes which involve climbing one of Jeju’s many volcanic cones, cutting across fields or walking through forested areas. The route was graded as medium difficulty and it was estimated to take 4-5 hours (I took about 3 hours to walk half the route before giving up). The site also usefully provides information on buses to take to get to the trail. Thus I knew to take bus 730 from Yeha Guesthouse in Jeju-si to Namwon Port. The bus-stop where I dropped usefully had this sign pointing towards the starting point of the trail. It was a few minutes walk away and you could pick up snacks at some of the shops in the small town before going into the wilderness (I got my first ever Paris Baguette bun there).

Map to starting point of Jeju Olle Route 5 from Namwon Port bus-stop
Map to starting point of Jeju Olle Route 5 from Namwon Port bus-stop


The above is a video clip that I took showing the beautiful coastal scenery at the beginning of Route 5

The beautiful coastal scenery right from the beginning of the route, featuring Jeju’s famous black lava platforms and cliffs, told me I’d made the right choice. Seeing the very first route marker abut 1 km down the route, the distinctive blue and orange ribbons of the Olle Trail, was exhilarating. At the same time, it was really daunting to think that there would be 13 km or so to go!

The first route marker I saw
The first route marker I saw
Small blue sticker showing there was more than 13 kilometres of the route to go
Small blue sticker showing there was more than 13 kilometres of the route to go

I pressed on for about 5-6 km more before finally giving up at Wimihang (Wimi Port), tired but pretty satisfied that I had made it at least that far on my first solo trek. The trek had offered had been a feast for the eyes, with wonderful coastal views and greenery galore. I had chosen a fine sunny day for the trek and the spring air was fresh and crisp. As there were so few fellow trekkers, it got kinda lonely but in return, I felt a blissful sense of tranquility which would be hard to get elsewhere. I plan to return and walk the other treks and would certainly recommend this healing experience to everyone.

Below are some of the views that I captured.

Another distinctive trail marker in the shape of a horse. This one provides information about one of the attractions along Route 5, the Namwon Keuneong Boardwalk
Another distinctive trail marker in the shape of a horse. This one provides information about one of the attractions along Route 5, the Namwon Keuneong Boardwalk.
At the beginning of the Namwon Keuneong Boardwalk
At the beginning of the Namwon Keuneong Boardwalk
Along the 2-metre strech of the Namwon Keuneong  Boardwalk
Black lava platforms near Namwon port
Along the 2 km stretch of the boardwalk
Along the 2 km stretch of the boardwalk
My heart fluttered every time I saw these blue and orange ribbons, for they told me I was on the right track. They appear frequently enough along the trail, but I got worried every time I couldn't see one after  several mins.
My heart fluttered every time I saw these blue and orange ribbons, for they told me I was on the right track. They appear frequently enough along the trail, but I got worried every time I couldn’t see one after several hundred metres.
A pretty guesthouse
A pretty guesthouse along the trail, with the sea right across from it
Sneak-shot of a group of "oppa" who I followed from afar on part of the route. At some points, they helpfully gestured me towards the right path (some of the paths were kinda tricky to get to)
Sneak-shot of a group of “oppa” who I followed from afar on part of the route. At some points, they helpfully gestured me to the entrances of the trickier paths along the trail. I envied their easy-going camraderie. How nice to have a group of friends to walk along a jeju olle trail with.
Pretty flower 1
Pretty flower 1
Pretty flower 2
Pretty flower 2
Pretty flower 3
Pretty flower 3
One of the harder parts along the route. I had to scrabble on a rocky path and later enter a small stretch of forest. This was where I lost sight of the group of guys I was following.
One of the harder parts along the route. I had to scrabble on a rocky path and later enter a small stretch of forest. This was where I lost sight of the group of guys I was following.
The orange and blue arrows tell you where to turn at some tricky parts. The blue arrow is for people who start from the beginning of the route and the orange is for people coming from the opposite end.
The orange and blue arrows tell you where to turn at some tricky parts. The blue arrow is for people who start from the beginning of the route and the orange is for people coming from the opposite end.
2014-04-11 11.42.58
Storage area for nets and floats of the Jeju haenyeo (woman divers)

As promised, below are the youtube videos of some of my favourite variety show episodes featuring Jeju-Do.


1 Night and 2 Days (1N2D) Season 1, Go to Jeju Island! Part 1


Family Outing Season 1, Ep 23, featuring Cha Tae Hyun


We Got Married, JoongBo Couple, Jeju Honeymoon Ep 1 (part 1 of 3)

Advertisements

One thought on “Spring 2014 Trip, Day 2: Jeju-do (My first Olle Trail :Route 5)”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s