Saturday, August 10, 2013

Jeju Island (Tuesday)

The following morning I woke up early and got some breakfast at the hostel. The provided eggs and toast and cereal, so I made some scrambled eggs with toast. I then asked the hostel worker guy for directions to a bus that would take me to the beginning of Olle Trail #6. He gave me directions, I grabbed a couple bottles of water and a snack for my backpack, and hit the road.

Olle Trails are Jeju Island's version of a pilgrimage. There are around 30 something Olle Trails around the island which interconnect to circumnavigate the entire thing. I was only going to do one, #6, which takes you along the south coast of the island to some of the big sightseeing spots.

I got off the bus where the guy told me to (with the help of a local reading the scrap of paper with my stop written on it in Korean), and started walking towards the beginning of the trail. It ended up being nearly a mile away from the bus stop. I put on my sunscreen (which I'd forgotten to put on at the hostel) and started following my google map on my phone. Eventually I hit larger looking street and saw some huge rocks in a ravine on the other side of the road. I decided to check it out. Because, well, this whole trek was about checking things out, enjoying the journey, and so on.

The beginning of Olle #6 was at an estuary, and this seemed to be the up-river part of it. It was a ton of big rocks in a ravine that had a small brook that seemed to lead to the ocean. I climbed down among some of the rocks and got to the edge before taking some pictures. It was really pretty!

After spending some time there, I continued along the path that was between the road and the ravine, eventually encountering many more masses of Koreans. There were more outlooks built into the rocks (a bit safer than my venture onto the rocks) as it got closer to the ocean. Eventually the rocks opened up into the estuary and there were some people kayaking and these flat wooden boats (which I had read about called Teus). I wanted to take a ride on one, it was touted as the "slowest form of transportation in the world" in the Jeju Olle Trail Guidebook, and it was supposed to be 5,000W to take the ride. But, I couldn't see where you get tickets or board the boat, so I just continued on my path.

I eventually got to the beginning of the actual Olle Trail and started my journey, officially. I immediately got sidetracked by the beach next to the estuary. It was a pebble beach and a little difficult to walk out on, but worth it. It was so beautiful! The water was gorgeous blue and there was next to no one (since it wasn't a sunbathing beach).

I headed back up to the road and continued on. The Olle trails are marked with a few different things to show the way. Sometimes there are arrows, sometimes there are little ribbon/flags, and sometimes these little statues that look like horses. I only got a little confused by them maybe 2 or 3 times in the whole path, so I would say they are dependable.

Big chunks of this path were boring. There was probably a mile or two near the beginning that was just walking along a road next to the coast (which was beautiful), but nothing too exciting. At one point I got to another patch of big rocks jutting out into the ocean. I once again climbed out onto them and worked my way out to be next to the surf crashing on the outermost rocks. It was so beautiful!!!! And totally worth the risk on the rocks ;)

After I climbed back, I again walked without incident for another mile or so. Then the arrows directed me into a forested hill. I was a little hesitant because the path so far had been only on the road, but now it was sending me into the trees. I had seen some big nasty bugs and wasn't keen to meet them up close and personal. But, I foraged on. It was pretty steep at points, very narrow and I had to hunch over at times too. Finally I got to a little clearing, expecting to start heading back down on the other side of the hill, but rather I was directed to curve around the hill I had been heading up, and keep going. Thankfully after that it was "paved" (with wooden stairs nailed into the rock). At that point it got quite steep. All I could think was "This is an 'easy' trail?!" By the top of the hill, I was drenched in sweat and had guzzled the rest of my first bottle of water. I was a little nervous since I only had 2 bottles, 1 now gone, and about 6.5 more miles to go (~2.5miles already finished, not including the mile it took to get to the start of the trail). But the view at the top was gorgeous so I had a rest and took some photos.

After 20 minutes or so I started heading down the stairs on the other side of the hill (when I say 'hill', it is more like small mountain....) At the bottom, I again hit the road and walked with renewed vigor for another mile or so until I saw a cute little store that touted food and coffee. I nipped in to have a look at their menu. It was now around 1:30 and I was quite hungry and needed another rest from the relentless heat. (Did I mention it was around 95°F with around 80% humidity?? -___-  )

The sweet girl working the shop helped me pick out a smoothie ("Mango is not delicious. You should have blueberry!") and I settled in for a rest. Then 3 old Korean men came into the shop and ordered and sat down at a table behind me. The shop was only big enough for about 2 tables and a counter along the window, where I was currently located. I can't speak Korean, but I know enough to know when I am being talked about and sure enough, I was the topic of conversation at the table behind me. I eventually turned around and kind of smiled/made a face that says "I know you're talking about me!!". They then started smiling at me and speaking over each other in Korean. I looked at the girl working and she laughed and said "They are saying you're beautiful". Now, I love Korea because I am an exotic beauty here, but sometimes it's a little exhausting and creepy for my appearance to always be the topic of old men's conversations... SO, as the worker girl put their drinks on the counter, I asked what it was (it looked similar to a smoothie, but a little more creamy). They said something in Korean, I looked at worker girl, who also didn't know the English translation, and about 4 smartphones were pulled out to start looking at dictionaries. Eventually I was shown a phone, and still didn't know the fruit they were explaining. I saw a picture and as I blog, I have googled strange fruits and drawing from memory and photos, I have determined that it was either Myrica Rubra or Rubus Chamaemorus. I am leaning more toward the Rubus Chamaemorus, even though it isn't grown in Korea, because when I asked if it was a native/local fruit, they all said no. But, regardless, one of them let me try it (using my own straw of course), and it was DELICIOUS! I don't think it was quite a smoothie, but it was cold and sweet and so good. After sipping that, I was not very happy with my blueberry smoothie!

As the old men were making to leave, one of them spotted my near empty water bottle and grabbed it, gave it to the worker girl and told her to fill it up with water (I assume, since that's what she did). Then, another saw my full, unopened bottle on the other side of my backpack and grabbed that one too. He said something to the worker girl, she nodded and he opened the fridge and swapped it with a cold bottle. He grinned at me and said "Same, same!" I couldn't help but laugh. I was thankful for their thoughtfulness and some fresh cold water to drink!

They left and I had a nice chat with the worker girl. She was from Jeju but lived in Seoul. She was working part time at the shop while on summer vacation back home. She was studying theater and wants to be a theater director off-broadway. She was pretty awesome. :) I asked about food and she told me they had mini pizzas so I got one. Cheese only, and not terribly mini - larger than a personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut - for 4,000W. It was good and thin, so not too heavy on my stomach. I ate and decided it was time to head back out. I'd spent at least an hour there and felt the need to keep going or I would never make the end.

I hit the road again and walked with determination about 3 miles before I checked my phone again. I was surprised to see how far I'd gone. Nothing much interesting happened (except for seeing the beautiful sights in the photos above) until I hit some waterfalls at around 6miles into the trail (which is around 9miles total). The first waterfall I got to was Sojeongbang Falls. It is a small waterfall that is close to its big brother waterfall, Jeongbang Falls. I loved Sojeongbang Falls because they weren't too tall, and with some carefully footing and strategic moves, you can get under the falls and feel the icy water drench you. I saw some Korean guys doing it, so I made up my mind to do it too. I took off my dirty tennis shoes and shocks, and using body language and simple words, I asked the Korean guys the best way across the slippery rocks. They guided me and as I crossed a particularly scary point, reached out and grabbed my hand to steady me.

Finally I got to the waterfalls and hesitantly made my way into the water. It was so cold!!!! But, it was refreshing, as I was so hot and sweaty! It was a shock to the system and I had to catch my breath. The Korean guys laughed at me but encouraged me too. After around 15 minutes of chillin on a rock by the falls, I made my way back to the platform. I chatted with the Korean guys for a few minutes then said goodbye. As I was sun drying, waiting for my feet to dry enough to put my shoes back on, some other Koreans talked to me. Some girls probably in their mid- to late- twenties started chatting with me (the usual: "Where are you from?" "Are you in Jeju alone?") and it was obvious her father was encouraging her to talk to me. She told me that her dad loves foreigners. When I said I was from Texas, he got super excited and she translated: "Oh, that's close to West Carolina! And Atlanta!" I couldn't help but laugh and told the daughter "Um... there is no west carolina. And Atlanta is actually pretty far from Texas. But you can tell him yes, if you want." It was so funny. I said goodbye to them after a few minutes and headed back to the trail.

I walked a little further and came across an Olle Trail Information Center which had a water fountain (hello free refills for my water bottles!) and fans to help continue to try out from the waterfalls. The lady working was so nice but spoke very little English. I continued on after taking full advantage of the water, and came across the big waterfalls: Jeongbang Falls. I had to actually pay an entrance fee to get close to them, but being under 25 finally had a perk as my ticket was half price - 1,000W! There were loads of Koreans and I struggled to get a good position to take some photos. I asked a woman to take my photo at one point, but she was definitely not a photographer. The falls were beautiful, and there were some kids at the bottom in the pool playing in the water, but after my freezing foray into the other falls, I wasn't too excited by the prospect of doing the same, but with literally 100x more people. I decided I preferred the smaller, yet more peaceful and deserted Sojeongbang Falls.

I headed back to the trail and had logged some more boring, blistering hot miles into town. I walked through some markets and actually walked past my hostel (about one block away from it), and continued on out of town. I stopped at this one artist street at a jewelry shop. The woman made everything by hand and I bought a bracelet (my ONLY Jeju souvenir I bought the entire trip). As I got further out of town, the landscape started getting more hilly and my exhausted body began to protest each step more and more. I kept thinking "It's almost over! It's surely nearly the end..." But that last mile or two was pretty painful. Of course, I couldn't give up so close to the end! So when I hit another hill, as steep as or steeper than the first one, I struggled my way up it. I had to stop for a rest halfway up, shared my protein bar with a hungry looking dog, and guzzled the last of my water.

Finally I hit the top, took a photo and decided I was too tired to be too impressed. I found the final checkpoint of the trail and stopped my RunKeeper tracker at nearly 11 miles (total from getting off the bus). It had taken me around 8 hours!! The guidebook had claimed 4-5 hours, but I guess I did have a long lunch break and detoured several times to take photos and see all the beautiful things along the way.

Rather than trying to figure out a bus route back to the city, the correct stop to get off, and basically use my brain or body any more than necessary, I flagged down the first cab I saw and jumped in. He took me to the only place I knew was close to my hostel and walked the last tenth of a mile to my hostel and, upon peeling off the sweaty and sticky layers of clothing, took a glorious shower and even better rest.

It was a long and exhausting, yet fulfilling and productive day. I accomplished a hike that was quite long, I saw the waterfalls (one of my top things I wanted to do in Jeju), and spent the entire day outside enjoying the sun and fresh air. Unfortunately, my sunscreen was pretty pathetic and even with 2 reapplications, I still managed to fry the crap out of the back of my neck and forehead...

I forced myself out of bed and went to the kimbap place I'd found the night before and ordered some bibimbap. I think anything I ate was going to be absolutely delicious, but this was exceptional bibimbap! :) I treated myself to some chocolate afterwards, then headed to my room to pass out in preparation for the next day.


  1. What a great post! You are so adventurous!

  2. Agree with the above reply! I think I want to live in Korea - hahaha This is the BEST BLOG. Full of action, entertainment and education - very impressive. Enjoy the rest of your stay and keep blogging! loving it.


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