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Newest course offers ordinary sea paths and exotic forest terrain[Jeju's Trails] Day 26 of a 1,200 km journey recording Jeju's hiking trails, oreum (volcanic cones) and Olle courses
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승인 2011.10.05  11:15:31
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn
▲ 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 15 sites in sequential order for Day 26: Samyang Black Sand Beach - Manse Hill, Olle Course No. 18 finish / Olle Course No. 19 start - Olle reference point - lighthouse path, Olle reference point - Hamdeok village - Hamdeok Beach, point 2 - Seoubong, opposite base - Bukchon, harbor bridge - Bukchon Lave Tube Cave - farm fields, Olle reference point - abandoned soccer field - Olle reference point - Olle reference point - Gimnyeong Fisherman’s Community Center, Olle Course No. 19 finish - Hamdeok Beach, point 1

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PC room -- 13,000
Samyang sauna -- 8,000
fruit stand -- 5,000
PC room -- 2,200
Family Mart -- 2,000
Family Mart -- 5,000
Total -- 35,200 won

1.5 liters Pocari Sweat, 2 sandwiches, 13 hard-boiled eggs, 12 oranges, 3 bags potato chips, 6 small cold coffees, endless amounts of water

Thoughts from Day 26
Note. The first five points are about Course No. 19. The last five points are what can be improved as Olle looks to the future.

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser
▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Course No. 19. I ended the last numbered Olle course with a flashlight in the darkness and in the distance fishermen gathered around playing a game -- possibly for fun, most likely for money -- at the Gimnyeong community center for sea workers. An old woman confirmed the sign, which I did not understand, was indeed the end of the day’s journey. For one thing, there is absolutely no English provided by Olle on this trail. Hopefully soon, signs will appear. Seoubong has another new path and the steepest small portion of any Olle trail for a few meters with a knotted rope to help any struggling hikers. From the start at Manse Hill the course stays north of road 1132, then after the Neobeunsungyi April Third Uprising Historical Site, it stays south until the very last brief stretch. The north part is ordinary and expected. The south part is exotic and welcomed. So, this course can be delineated north and south. The south wins.

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Trails south of 1132. There’s a lot of pine in these woods and woods they are. A great way to differentiate this course from any other is the continued lengthy run of forest trails for kilometers. I had absolutely no idea where I was or where the markings were taking me, but they lasted. The only thing I had to fight was the oncoming darkness. Wilderness is never immune to human encroachment. I found and picked up a Hite beer can that was a few years old (but in good condition). The slogan on the can reads: “The Beer Rich with the Spirit of Pure Spring Water in Green Mountains.” It seems not many people wander back in, ummm, them necka tha woods. All the better for future, prospective Olle trekkers.

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

Bukchon Lave Tube Cave. Turn a corner and there is a heavily fenced-off area with an English sign talking about this place, another cave. It was discovered Nov. 25, 1998. The measurements are 100 meters in length, three to 10 meters in width, and one to two meters in height. According to the sign, the cave contains “various lava speleothems and micro-topographic features such as lava helictites, lava toes, stalagmites and stalactites.” The entrance is visible through the fence. It looks inviting, though the barbed-wire around the fence’s top perimeter does not.

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

Abandoned soccer field. There’s a story behind this place. When this was a soccer field and manicured, this would have been the best place to see or play on the island because it is completely remote. There is no noise or light pollution and all around is heavy, densely covered forest. What happened?

▲ Photo by Steve Oberhauser

And then there was one.
Chujado is last. It is possible this will be the best island Olle course (out of three) and will be in the top 3 overall for the rankings. Let’s see. After walking about 50 kilometers today, Chujado, I believe, will be slow moving.

Improvement idea 1: Trash. I’ll start by thanking all the people that have made Olle possible in the last four-plus years and counting. It was a privilege to walk every centimeter the trails traverse. I have seen and experienced many courses I enjoy better and many that are worse. Here are some ideas how these network of trails can improve for the future. The first idea has already been written about. Trash. It’s everywhere. And, again, as noted before, not Olle’s fault, rather the people using the trails and the inhabitants of the areas the courses go through. If tourism is the future of Jeju, trash and tourism do not mix. There has to be a way to regularly clear the routes. Perhaps the island needs to think about a high-powered, energy-efficient, power-producing incinerator and paying people per kilogram for hauling trash (not theirs) there. I do not know the solution, but international travelers will probably not recommend the Olle courses to others based on the trash factor alone. I’ve heard muffled complaints from Koreans as well. Start now, acknowledge the fact, and produce a viable solution.

Improvement idea 2: Safety.
I never felt troubled as a solo, male hiker. If I heard a woman I knew was interested in hiking the Olle trails alone for any reason, I would 100 percent not recommend it. If any major criminal incident happens, that may be a sore spot for years to come. There’s really no solution to this potential problem. I went for kilometers at a time without seeing a single person and walked many, many kilometers in remote areas. Traveling with a partner is the only safe way for a woman to walk Olle.

Improvement idea 3: Overall maintenance. Four ideas are here. First up, the bathrooms. They range from sparkling clean and tidy, to doubling-over-down-on-your-knees awful. Some type of cleanliness standard needs to be addressed for all bathrooms on the trails. Second, the course markers. These are the most unique markings I have seen on any course I’ve encountered in my life. Perhaps a few more markers are needed and when the trail twists and turns, all of those locations need to be marked perfectly. As for the orange (backward) signage, that may need to be completely overhauled. [See "Lesson Learned" in this previous Jeju Hike article for more.] Third, detours. A lot of money would need to be procured to get what is damaged back in workable shape. Most notably some of the routes running along the sea. Fourth, the signage needs to continue. What is presented is a good start. It can always get better. People are always curious. Too much signage is not a bad thing.

Improvement idea 4: Image and sponsorship. How is Olle branded? Are these the most beautiful trails in the world? That’s a subjective question. Will Olle succumb to sponsorship in the future for survival? Challenging decisions lay ahead.

Improvement idea 5: Community grassroots action.
Having Olle markets at strategic locations is the best idea I have seen; the remote trail offices run a close second. Local people are going to directly profit from Olle. I gave almost all my expenses to places along the trail and the money spent was a direct result because I was hiking. Those people are benefiting firsthand. The community is going to have to pitch in and do some serious volunteer work to improve Olle, much as scores of volunteers improve other trails around the world. Many Jeju people will be rewarded for their work if they take an initiative to improve Olle.

Oct. 3, 2011
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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Photo by Steve Oberhauser

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