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