Jeju Olle Trail – Route 7, Sunday 25th September 2011

The Jeju Olle Trail is a series of hiking paths that mainly follow the coast around Jeju Island. I think that there were initially twelve routes that totalled over two hundred kilometres, but it seems that as more villages want to get in on the action there are now over twenty different routes. The intention looks to have been to try to divert hikers from the popular hikes up and down the 1950m Hallasan and to give some of the coastal areas a bit of a tourism boost.

The previous day Jen and I had walked the 15.6km route 7-1 from Oedolgae Rock to the World Cup Stadium and as we were staying in the area we thought we might as well return to Oedolgae Rock and hike along route 7 to Wolpyeong.

It’s a short taxi ride from Seogwipo to Oedolgae Rock. Most people arrive by coach though as part of a touring party to visit the location where one of the characters in a television soap opera died. A lot of the visitors had apparently come all of the way from Japan and China just to stand and gawp at a rock because it had briefly been on the telly. Although I suppose they may very well raise an eyebrow at the idea of me travelling six thousand miles to Korea and then watching third division football. Or wandering around an empty stadium if there isn’t a game on.

The monk on the right found a bit of peace and quiet.

The crowds disappeared after the first few hundred metres and there were a lot of wooden walkways in this early section, so it didn’t take too long to cover the first few kilometres. It’s generally as scenic as you’d expect a coastal walk to be with plenty of cliffs, beaches and, due to it being a bit warmer than the rest of Korea, lots of palm and orange trees.

Slightly out of step with the rest of the walk though is the section where the route passes through a sewage disposal plant. I was a little surprised that the trail hadn’t been diverted to detour around it.

I didn't get a photo of the sewage works, so here's one I took of a dog instead

An hour and a quarter into the walk and we reached the World Cup Stadium, or at least the crossroads where you could leave route 7 if you wanted to go to the match. There wasn’t a game on so we just carried on. That’s twice we’ve seen the stadium now without getting to see a match there.

You can just about see the roof.

Some of the fishing villages that we passed through looked as if they hadn’t changed much in years, apart from signs in restaurants advertising their Olle Trail Specials and an occasional newly opened coffee shop. At one place we saw women washing clothes by hand in the seawater.

"Tide's in, dirt's out."

At others there were women bundling and bagging seaweed. I’m not too sure what the blokes were doing whilst all this was going on.

The bags weigh 50kg each.

There were plenty of stalls along the way selling food and drink so you could leave the backpack at home if you wanted. You could buy a box of oranges if you fancied, or just a slice of pineapple.

I felt like the man from Del Monte.

About two-thirds of the way along we passed a site intended for a new naval base. It looked as if the locals were none too happy to have had their land used and there was a peace camp protest, a large police presence and plenty of slogans in both Korean and English painted on the perimeter walls of the base.

I doubt that you would see that North of the border.

It took us just over four hours to complete the 15.1km route to Wolpyeong. There isn’t a great deal at the end apart from a small shop and a fish restaurant. We called in and got some soup and a raw mackerel. The mackerel was fresh from the tank and at one o’clock it looked like this.

Does that count as 'freshly caught'?

Ten minutes later it looked like this;

Served raw - eat with a bit of rice and spicy sauce wrapped in seaweed.

We were fortunate to be able to get a taxi back to Seogwipo afterwards as I don’t think too many cabbies would tend to hang around at the end of that particular Olle route. There was enough going on in Seogwipo to fill in the rest of the afternoon and we took a ride in a submarine to a depth of about fifty metres and then had a walk along to a waterfall.

We were sat just behind the driver.

Both were interesting enough. Disappointingly the submarine didn’t make that sonic beeping noise that they do at the pictures, instead we got some relentless babble in Korean from a crew member who fancied himself as a bit of a comedian. The waterfall was busy but worth the effort too.

It takes a while for the new fashions in Seoul to reach Jeju.

We’ve got plans to do a few more sections of the Olle Trail. With the exception of the start where we encountered the coach-trippers there weren’t many people about and so out of season it should be even quieter. I doubt that we’ll get around all of the trails but with there being not too many hills I think it’s quite possible to do two routes in what would be a 30km day. We’ll see.

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