Jeju island is on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list for its natural beauties. The black lava rocks that line the beaches, the famous volcanic mountain (Hallasan) that dominates the island, numerous waterfalls, caves, cliff, along with the mild weather makes Jejudo a wonderful place to visit. But yesterday the island felt miserable as my brother, his friend Peter, and I arrived in Jejudo under fearsome conditions. Strong winds made our landing one of the scariest I’ve felt in years and the driving rain forced us indoors for the most of the day. We ventured out to a nearby city of Seogwipo for lunch but returned back to the hotel quickly after getting completely soaked through. It was just as well since I was exhausted from the weekend trip I took (will post separately) and could really use a day off. We had a tight schedule for sightseeing and eating all the local foods of the island, but we decided that it was better for us to relax and see how we feel as we went.
Luckily the weather was perfect today for what we had planned. First we had a great breakfast of traditional Korean dishes (I had the abalone porridge, a local specialty) and we set off on a long hike along the southern coast of Jejudo. We followed something called the “Olle” trail, which had us walking along the coastline all day. Olle, according to the brochure I picked up from the tourist information booth, is the Jeju word for a narrow pathway that connects the street to the front gate of a house. The Jeju Olle trails was started by a local woman who did the “Camino de Santiago de Campostela” pilgrimage in Spain and was made from small forgotten paths (hence the name Olle) around the island. The first trail was opened in 2007 and since then over 200 km of walking paths have been developed, enhanced, and connected. We did about 6 km of the 8th course and all of the 7th course today, but there are 16 courses now that cover most of the island.
Trail #8 runs through our hotel (The Seaes Hotel & Resort) so we naturally followed the path that took us towards the start of #8 and continued all the way through trail #7 to its beginning. Since I didn’t know that I’d be hiking I was ill equipped for the trek but a little pain didn’t prevent me from walking the whole trail. It was definitely more difficult than I had anticipated; there were parts of the trail that required us to walk on giant lava rocks by the ocean, which we found quite treacherous. There were muddy and slippery trails (the result of heavy downpours from yesterday), places where we had to hoist ourselves up with ropes, narrow passages to squeeze through, and pesky pebbles that hurt our feet. But we had so much to take in and appreciate that we never thought of giving up. When it was all said and done, we had walked 21 km (~13 miles) in 7 hours with two short breaks. I will probably wake up tomorrow morning with a blister or two, and my fellow trekking warriors are looking a bit lobster-like in color (they did not heed my advice regarding sun block). But all three of us are in agreement that we had a wonderful day.
We are sharing a traditional Korean style (Jeju-style) house at the Seaes hotel. Our place is a replica of a seaside abode that local women divers used to live in (the original house it actually still standing and is just a few steps away from where we are). We have an ondol room, a Korean room where the floor is heated for warmth and you sleep on the floor with a futon, and a regular western style room with a traditional Korean living room in the middle. The ceilings are quite low, the doors very small, and we have to duck a bit to come into the house but I can hear the waves crashing outside and it is very cozy.
I know that there are people who trek for several days and also climb Hallasan. I don’t think I am fit for that (at least not now) but I would like to try another trail next time. I’m a bit sad that we don’t have more time here on the island but now that I’ve had a little taste of what it’s like here, I’ll be sure to come back.
The Seaes Hotel & Resort: 2563-1 Jungmun-dong, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do, Korea Tel : 064-735-3000