|▲ Olle’s newest hiking trail, Olle No. 18, takes a new turn from previous courses and traverses the bustling Jeju City. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
The newest addition to Jeju Olle has a gritty persona with a rough cut, urban edge.
Olle Trail No. 18 starts at Sanji Stream by Dongmun Rotary in Jeju City and stretches 18.8 kilometers to Manse Hill in Jocheon.
Along the way, the trail snakes itself through 14 landmarked places. Chances are a northern Jeju resident has been to many of these separately. Linking these spots over a five-hour trek makes the journey worthwhile.
Be forewarned, if seeking nature is the hiker’s objective, the other 21 Olle segments will provide much better opportunities.
Olle No. 18 is for understanding the beautiful relationship between many of the island’s things, which will broaden and strengthen the dendrites in your collective Jeju memory.
How do tight high-rise apartments, unkempt Jeju Clean Houses (neighborhood garbage separation and collection areas), well-used oreum (parasitic volcanic cones), winding village roads dotted with houses and sparkling vehicles, chained barking dogs and a few horses, unsuspecting bountiful wildflowers, snickering old folk lounging next to small harbor entrances, Buddhist temples, a ghost village, multiple sea views, used farm space no matter how sparse, omnipresent litter in all forms, modern coastal roads and old habits in architectural stone design and urban planning all fit together?
These answers and more are all around the trail.
From the beginning, getting to Dongmun Rotary is easy by way of the 100 bus or the minimum 2,200-won taxi fare from City Hall.
I admit I had no idea where on Sanji Stream the course officially started. At the north end, I spotted a small blue directional arrow and three Koreans with aluminum hiking sticks and was on my way.
My human compasses promptly missed the first turn off after passing the Jeju Coastal Ferry Terminal toward Sarabong. Alone, I had to now rely on my fading Photo Hunt skills to pick out the painted blue or orange arrows, or eye-level Olle ribbons hidden amidst the heaps of overbearing metropolitan stimuli.
OK, nothing really special is in the beginning of this course, yet the trail makes a surprising and twisting sidetrack during the fourth spot of Byeoldobong, away from the crowds and out the back door. Nice and peaceful.
Over some dry rock beds, and back to civilization, Goneuldong, a town that was completely destroyed during the April 3 Massacre, near Hwabuk is next. The trail lends itself to a modern meaning of Olle.
According to the Jeju Olle English Web site, it is “the Jeju word for a narrow pathway that is connected from the street to the front gate of a house. Hence, an Olle is a path that comes from a secret room to an opening space and a gateway to the world.”
The roads are tight, really tight in this area. And the occasional local stares are a bit awkward toward the Samyang Coast Road after witnessing parts of Jeju’s intact Great Seawall along with the restored Hwabuk smoke signal edifice.
“I’m just walking the Olle trail,” I wanted to communicate to the lookie loos.
Safe, back to the wide roads and en route to Samyang’s famed Black Sand Beach. Following, the most difficult climb is Wondangbong. On top, almost 360-degree views can be had to see the course traversed before and that which lies ahead. The various adjacent temples and Bultapsa’s five-story stone pagoda, are not to be missed.
Out of this area, Olle No. 18’s literal and figurative climaxes fade quickly.
Eastward, the area quickly turns rural before hitting the last long homestretch past the villages of Sinchon and Daeseom toward Manse Hill’s anticlimactic finish.
Luckily, the bus stop close to the trail’s end offers the 20 going west to the city or the island bus east for Seongsan.
The best parts of the course are its approachability, few hikers, and the occasional notion of being alone and surrounded by so much. Yet, the feeling of walking aimlessly anywhere between Jeju City and Jocheon is rather common.
Many times No. 18 did not really seem Olle enough.
|▲ Photo courtesy Jeju Olle