▲ Hikers along the Jeju Olle Course #1 are joined by a Jeju horse. Photo courtesy Jeju Olle
With more than a dozen Olles to choose from it can be daunting to decide which one to try next. Sometimes the easiest thing is to just go back to the beginning.
Route 1 was opened in September 2007 and it’s not difficult to see why this site was chosen for the first Olle course. It starts at Sihueng Elementary School and travels in a spiral-like pattern up two small oreums, through fields, and next to Sunrise Peak before ending at Gwangchigi Beach.
Group hike One of the easiest and enjoyable ways to experience an Olle is to join one of the many organized walking groups. The most recent one was held Aug. 22, and over 300 people showed up despite the heat and humidity.
As all routes can be walked in either direction, this weekend the group started at the “end” of Route 1, as described in the course information, and walked to the start. When traveling the “wrong” way on a route, watch for the orange arrows instead of the blue ones. There are also ribbons marking the trail.
The start of the course was a blur of movement and hikers. The Jeju Olle had set up a small table to sell souvenirs; these are a great way to support the continuing improvements of each route. Hikers were provided with water and snacks before being led in stretches by one of the many volunteers.
The importance of making the Olles more known to those outside of Jeju was underscored this weekend by the appearance of the first foreign female executive in Korea. Dr. Linda Myers, the vice president of global talent management for SK Holding came out after an invitation from Ivy Lee, the manager of communications for Jeju Olle. Myers’ presence brought out plenty of professional spectators, including a camera crew from KBS Seoul. “To be able to get beautiful views, and be with friends, I can't think of any better exercise,” Myers said.
Jeju Olle tries to do at least one walk in reverse each season and this is probably the best one to start at the end. Walkers are treated to a stunning view of Sunrise Peak for the first kilometer of their hike, they are often joined by horses lazing in the sun, or munching on the ground vegetation.
After following along the scenic coast, with views of Udo Island, for about five kilometers the route starts to turn inland. Once inland, walkers can enjoy a view of former salt fields now used as farming fields before going past Jongdal Elementary School. At this point the route starts to head uphill.
Two oreums Route 1 is blessed with two oreums, Al Oreum, and Malmi Oreum, and both provide stunning views of Sunrise Peak, Udo Island, and most of the East Coast of Jeju. Hiking up oreums after walking the majority of the route can be trying, but the view is rewarding. At both summits walkers are joined by more of Jeju's famous horses. They make a great addition to any photographic memory hikers would take. From the oreums hikers can also see the start of the route, Sihueng Elementary School. This is great motivation when walking the route in reverse.
For the last kilometer walkers can enjoy the lush green and black colors of Jeju's small farms, as well as getting to hike through a field with some local cattle. Many locals can be seen going about their normal daily work, as one can imagine they have been doing on Jeju for centuries.
While there are constant reminders of modernity around — motor-bikes, plastic coverings on gardens, and powered digging equipment — seeing a woman clearing her own field can take a walker back to a simpler time.
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