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Into the heart of Jeju's western interior, all experiences are fair game[Jeju's Trails] Day 21 of a 1,200 km journey recording Jeju's hiking trails, oreum (volcanic cones) and Olle courses
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승인 2011.09.30  10:49:27
페이스북 트위터

▲ Photos by Steve Oberhauser

For a complete list of Steve's Hike Jeju articles please click here and as always you can send your feedback to Steve and The Weekly on our Facebook page. —Ed.

The Journey
These are the top 16 sites in sequential order for Day 21: Dangsanbong, peak - Dangsanbong, point 2 - Chagwido overlook, Olle reference point - Jeolbuam - Pilgrim’s Chapel - Yongsu Reservoir - Special Forces Brigade Trail, start - Special Forces Brigade Trail, finish - Olle reference point - Brackeny Path - bee farm, Olle reference point - Nakcheon chair collection - Olle reference point - Winding path - Jeoji Oreum, point 1 - Jeoji Oreum, peak

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PC room -- 18,700
mart -- 9,200
Total -- 27,900 won

1.5 liters lemon Gatorade, 8 bananas, 1 can mackerel, 1 meat on a stick, 1 bag potato chips, 1 Vitamin C tablet, endless amounts of water

Thoughts from Day 21
Sprinkers of youth. Ah, yes. Spraying water is one of the little things to get excited about on the Olle trails. Out of Yongsu Port (north of Chagwido), hot concrete paths make for a rough start to Course No. 13. Thankfully, there are a few farms watering crops during the hottest part of the day. A few sprinklers are programmed a bit too powerful and water carries over the rock walls. Common on many trails. Memories. Everything sacred originates in youth.

Most popular drink on the Olle trails? A logical answer would probably be water. Next? A-ee-suh kaw-pea is the second, hands down. That’s iced coffee, in those little aluminum cans because it’s the second most seen type of container refuse on the trail, discarded in a throw-away society, behind plastic water bottles. I notice Koreans drink very little water, the same goes for at any meal or school lunches. During the early days on the trail, I saw a Korean man run into a Family Mart and come out with an iced coffee, while I went for my umpteenth liter of fluids. I wanted to ask the man if he was bored and tired. Did he need a jump-start on the trail?

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Jeolbuam starts the trail. At the finish of Course No. 12 and the start of No. 13 sits the Jeolbuam site. (Course No. 12’s final evaluation? It is saved at the end by the last few kilometers of Chagwido’s surroundings. The first 15 or so kilometers are slogged through.) There’s an incredibly long story about Jeolbuam in the English version Olle Trail book. According to the sign, it is a rock dedicated to a wife, named Ko at the end of the Yi Dynasty. After a great storm, her husband Kang Sacheol went missing for a long period of time. So, “out of desolation and anguish she hanged herself from a tree branch over the waters, having first attired herself in her finest clothes. As life left her body, her husband’s body drifted up from the depths just beneath the rock.” An official designated the spot and to this day, locals hold a yearly commemorating ceremony. Jeolbuam means “a chaste wife.”

Awake! It was only a matter of time. Jehovah’s Witnesses are known around the world for tenacity to solicit their message. I was hit about two kilometers from the start of Course No. 13 in a small village by a well dressed, middle-aged Korean woman in blinding, cruel heat. Oddly, I was given the Awake! magazine from May 2007.

Getting morbid. This ties in to my last point below. So, how many people have died, for whatever purpose, on the Olle trails? It’s common a few people die on Mt. Halla, and the island waters around beaches every year. What are the statistics of death or major accidents or diseases, and more importantly, crime, on the trails?

Brackeny Path. Sometimes, I get so giddy when after one or two kilometer runs of a vacuous trail void, an Olle English trail sign pops up. Keep them coming, Olle team! This one has to be the simplest one out there: (edited for clarity) “Along both sides of the path is a lot of bracken. Bracken is loved by Koreans for food.”

Chapel, Mind Tank and reservoir. Three things are strangely juxtaposed, crossing road 1132 out of Chagwido’s harbor and surrounding area. First up is a very tiny, but incredibly imaginative building, titled Pilgrim’s Chapel. There’s music softly piping, a small garden with flowing water, and everything’s very well manicured with attention to detail concerning the craftsmanship. I peeked inside the door, and inside the refrigerator (there’s water). Second, yeah, there were maybe four guys close to their KBS van occupying an area called Mind Tank. If I remember correctly, in these tiny little multi-colored cylinders a door opens and there is just enough room for a bed to sleep in. A little creepy. Not even creatively creepy. Just creepy. Remiss, I passed on a picture. Third, up a slope of rock stairs the vast Yongsu Reservoir awaits. So vast, I saw a fisherman at the opposite end. Created in 1957, it’s used for rice paddy water. Also, according to the sign, there are “pine trees, reed beds and bulrush to which migratory birds flock during winter.”

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Confession. This may sound effeminate or plain strange. But, walking past Nakcheon, an urge came back. I have a cacoethes for wood chairs. Amish rockers, grain, inlays, dovetails, grooves, bun feet, E.A. Clore dining room oak seats, sandpaper, the Keno Brothers. I could listen for hours to Leigh and Leslie talk about antique (or not) wooden chairs and hang on every word, at the edge of my seat. Welcome to the chair village of Nakcheon. This made my day. I wanted to hide and sleep here, move around to different chairs as the night wore on. Too early, though. I’m wiser for the wood time. Although not old, the chairs in Nakcheon rank up there with McSorley’s wood stools in New York, the original Schlitz bars in Milwaukee, and the various and great assortments in U.S. National Park lodges. Read more about one of Jeju’s stranger attractions here, “Village of humble roots.”

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Jeoji Oreum. There are probably 10 hidden jewels along the Olle courses that I have discovered. This one goes to the top of the list. Par excellence. So good, even a haughty and swanky Seoulite would drop an overpriced wine glass for this. I am guessing the observation platform is relatively new, based on its condition. This is the one spot on the western side of the island, with a view unmatched. Better than the top (Baenokdam) of Mt. Halla on a clear day. My weak camera skills cannot document, but a professional could. I reached here at sunset with a 35-year-old Suwon corrections officer, who had five days’ vacation. This has been the only conversation on the trail that I’ve had with another trekker lasting longer than a minute. We tagged for about three kilometers. From the sign: “This oreum has one of the most beautiful forests in Jeju. It measures 390 meters in height, and 1,540 meters in width.” The Olle trail wraps around its split-layered, multi-level tracks. Gorgeous Jeoji.

▲ Topography of Jeoji Oreum. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ View from Jeoji Oreum. Photo by Steve Oberhauser

I’ve never slept next to a grave. Until now. Darkness hit Jeoji Oreum to the point, the only safe way back was going down, the original way we came up. I left the hobbling government official to fend for himself after we agreed upon the village he was going to enter from a distance. I did not want to descend any further in darkness and found the only reasonable place to sleep, next to the largest concreted grave area, out of the night wind and thick grass. Nothing strange happened, except a few fireflies in the night, heavy stars radiating in little light pollution.

Sept. 27, 2011

▲ The author. Photo by Steve Oberhauser
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Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Photo by Steve Oberhauser
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