Contributor Steve Oberhauser has meticulously planned (and now will execute) an ambitious project to hike and write about all the main Jeju mountain trails, every oreum (volcanic cone) open to the public (about 150 of them), and assess every Olle trail, all in the span of about 50 days. Look for Steve’s reports over the coming weeks, and as always you can send your feedback to Steve and The Weekly on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/JejuWeekly). —Ed.
The Journey These are the top 15 sites in sequential order for Day 7: Seongsan passenger ferry terminal - Goseong Main Street - Olle Course No. 1 start (and trail office) - Dusanbong (Malmi Oreum) base - Dusanbong (Malmi Oreum) peak - Al Oreum peak - Olle reference point - Olle reference point, Family Mart - Jongdal Elementary School - Coastal road Jongdal to Siheung - Seongsan flood gate - Coastal area approaching Seongsan Sunrise Peak - Seongsan Sunrise Peak, past ticket office - Seongsan Sunrise Peak (peak) - Gwangchigi Beach, Olle Course No. 1 finish / Olle Course No. 2 start
Spent PC room 18,000 Pocari Sweat 2,000 Pocari Sweat 3,000 Family Mart 6,500 Family Mart 8,700 Seongsan Sunrise Peak admission fee 2,000 Total -- 40,200 Consumed 6.340 liters Pocari Sweat, small coffee, 4 hard-boiled eggs, 1 piece of bread, 1 big can of fish (gongchi), 2 apples, 1 Vitamin C tablet, endless amounts of water
Thoughts from Day 7 Slow and steady wins the race. I think Marge Simpson said that. One week is officially complete, and I’ll admit I’m moving a bit slower than expected. Luckily, I have budgeted more than 50 days from the original plan. I may need those extra few weeks. So far, three Olle courses are finished (20 left), with 10 oreum along the way. Much more hiking to come.
▲ An Olle marker near Seongsan Sunrise Peak and Ilchulsa, a local Buddhist temple. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
How hot is it? I don’t care about the temperature. I did, however, manage to take down at least 10 liters of fluids, more than six of Pocari Sweat, during Day 7. To me, that’s hot enough.
Olle Course No. 1 is in the books. Most things I fully enjoyed, a few I did not. Overall, a decent experience. For one, the blue marks are placed in spots so no backtracking occurred. The first and oldest course deserves due props. Scenery, check. Facilities, check. English signs, check. Oreums, check. Ah, but the unending piles of garbage (read further below).
Double oreum dose. Olle Course No. 1 starts with Dusanbong, also labeled as Malmi Oreum, and Al Oreum, back-to-back. To get in and out of Dusanbong, a hiker has to go through a tight cattle guard entrance/exit, since the oreum is covered with grazing bovines. Basic path to the top and out. Nothing too special. Same for Al Oreum. According to the sign, “Al” means egg in Korean; as the oreum looks like an egg, it’s named appropriately.
Three kings of Jongdal. Today was Chuseok and as expected many locals were dressed to the Korean nines. I was not. When I made it past Jongdal on Course No. 1, I definitely received some unfriendly stares, glares and grimaces from a trio of middle-aged Korean men as I walked through Jongdal proper. It happens occasionally, some of the locals in the villages and elsewhere act like kings and demand to be treated as such. Sorry, boys. I neither owe you taxes (or anything else) nor will serve you. Looking good, though. Jeju has at least 18,000 gods. It has countless more kings. Every man a king in his castle. This day, I’m Steve, an Olle “trekker.”
Seongsan Sunrise Peak ponderings. What is the pinnacle of oreums? Is this it? It may be. But, I don’t know until I finish getting to the top of as many as I can. There were thousands of people here at the close of the day. This area has been written, photographed and filmed to death. It may deservedly be so. I have nothing to add to what has already been said about the place, except the inclusion of the worldwide donut chain at the base west of the ticket gate tweaks my heart a bit.
▲ View at the top of Seongsan Sunrise Peak, after a long climb up a staircase. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
First sign of internationalism. Here it was. I’ll admit. This is the first time on the island in three years I have seen so many foreign people in one place coming from so many different locations randomly gathered for their own purpose (no festival, convention, event, etc.). This was not a group tour bus load or several. I thought, wow, Sunrise, you’ve earned international status. I was so close to laughing out loud. There were about 10 shirtless, young European men, each with a chica descending when I was making my way up. I reveled in the fact of looking at the reactions of the older Koreans. I wanted to tell them, “It’s OK. People are different from around the world.”
Problem: The garbage trail. I need to write this quick and clean, not bitter or mean. And, I find no fault with Olle, rather the users of it and the areas where the trails wind through. I feel there is a solution. The Olle trails are littered with garbage. And not like, each-take-a-plastic-bag-and-pick-something-up approach. Rather, the litter scale is in metric tonnage. Personally, as a Westerner, when I see urban development, nature and garbage co-existing, I think of all the seedy places I’ve experienced, the fringes of the cities with vacant lots, homeless, tramps, addicts, toothless wonders, and unsavory characters out of a Steinbeck novel. That’s not a good feeling. When I (constantly) see garbage on an Olle trail (mainly plastic bottles, convenience store plastic wrappers, washed up sea waste) that hurts more than picking out a sand grain between the dead blistered skin line and fresh red growth on the bottom of a foot.
Solution: The garbage trail. It would take a lot of time, effort and money to sweep all the Olle trails clean. Probably thousands of people doing thousands of hours of work. Once the Olle trails are complete, cleanliness will be of prime importance, more so than maintenance. Maybe that should be the focus now before any more expansion?
Gwangchigi Beach and the moon. In the shadows of Seongsan Sunrise Peak toward the end of Olle Course No. 1 sits possibly the longest stretch of sand on Jeju. It’s not really a beach as large rock masses are visible at low tide, and according to the nearby sign, “it is named after its appearance that looks like wilderness.” I chose the wrong spot to lie down to the full moonrise over Sunrise Peak. Even with netting, golf ball-sized creepy, crawling creatures were making sure they noticed me. Two hours later I relocated to a nearby stone monument to sleep the night away. Date Sept. 12, 2011
▲ Full moon from the beach near Seongsan Sunrise Peak. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
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