▲ Jeju Olle founder Suh Myungsook and Kersten Stender from Bibbulmun Track, Australia, mark their new friendship. Photo by Eric Hevesy. For more by the photographer visit here.
The 5th World Trails Conference was held at the ICC Jeju, Jan 15 to 17, as representatives of 45 trail organizations from 18 countries — including the Appalachian Trail (US), Hadrian’s Wall Path (UK), Great Baikal Trail (Russia) and more — were welcomed.
▲ Walkers mark the 5th World Trails Conference at Jocheon-ri on Jan 16. Photo by Eric Hevesy. For more by the photographer visit here.
On Friday, Jan 16, to mark the newfound “Friendship” between Jeju Olle Trail 19 and 85km of the Bibbulmun Track, Western Australia, between Denmark and Albany, a ceremony was held at the start of Olle 19 in Jocheon-ri, northeast Jeju. Kersten Stender, Bibbulmun Track trails coordinator, thanked Jeju Olle for its efforts in linking global trails.
“Jeju Olle has been very good in reaching out and connecting all of us, which hasn’t really happened much before... So this is a very different way of looking at the world, and it is good for them [Jeju Olle] and good for everyone else, too.”
Despite some big differences — the Australian track is 1,000km in length and across a variety of terrain — the linked sections were chosen for their coastal similarities, and the values which bond all trails, said Stender.
“The spirit of hiking, the spirit of peace within oneself, and of course health, economic opportunities, and friendship,” adding that cross-promotion will benefit both parties: “It is an ongoing relationship, a way of building friendships and relationships — we are all one.”
Olle founder Suh Myungsook echoed Stender’s words
“I am so happy. Even globally the Bibbulmun Trek is a trail many walkers from around the world go to. We selected Course 19 because of the similar sea scenery; while it is the same, it is also different,” she said.
She then confirmed that Jeju Olle will be reciprocating with a ceremony Down Under.
“They came over here so of course we will be going over there! Probably in spring or autumn as summer is too hot.”
▲ Kersten Stenden of Bibbulmun Track shows off one of her woggles. Photo by Eric Hevesy. For more by the photographer visit here.
When Suh does make the trip, rather than the “ganse,” Jeju Olle’s pony symbol which guides walkers, Stender explained she will be guided by the woggle, Bibbulmun’s snake-like spirit.
“The woggle is a dreamtime creature of the Aboriginal people which created the landforms, the rivers, and the hills in Western Australia. These days it guides the walkers along the trail. We are very connected to our Aboriginal culture of our land and the woggle guides the way [following] the old Aboriginal travel routes,” she said.
Following the ceremony, attendees walked to Hamdeok Seoubong Beach. Among the group was Dave McGlade, National Trail officer with the Hadrian's Wall Path. McGlade, who earlier presented at the conference itself, manages the UK path for “conservation, amenity and the pleasure of people,” and was impressed by Jeju’s passion for walking.
“What has struck me in the few days I have been here is the energy here at Jeju Olle, and I suppose within Asia at large. I think there is an energy and a drive to be almost evangelical about their mission and I think we have lost a little bit of that in the UK, to be honest,” he said.
▲ Walkers walked along a fresh Jeju coast line along Olle 19. Photo by Eric Hevesy. For more by the photographer visit here.
The volunteers are a large part of that passion and Paul Moon, a retiree from Hamdeok-ri village, exuded this as he took the walkers through his community.
“Jeju Olle heals me, Jeju Olle gives me happiness and peace. Jeju Olle has a very beautiful landscape, but visitors do not know about how Jeju people think, how they lived in the past, and I am very happy to introduce their thinking and ways of life, and history and culture,” he said.
He added that Jeju Olle is of particular use for domestic issues.
“Whenever I have a problem with my wife I walk the Olle trail. After the walk my mind is very peaceful, kind of healed."
▲ Paul Moon says he finds great joy in explaining Jeju's history to visitors. Photo by Eric Hevesy. For more by the photographer visit here.
The 5th World Trails Conference
The Jocheon ceremony was part of three days of conference events, which has been held annually since 2010. At the opening ceremony on Thursday, Jan 15, Olle founder Suh lauded walking trails’ value in encouraging sustainable living and development, as well as a healthy personal life, through “identifying our duties and fellowship with each other.”
In his keynote address, Robert Searns, chair emeritus of the Board of American Trails, urged trail organizations to actively promote the physical, mental, spiritual and economic benefits of trails, stressing that more cooperation is needed to build their “natural resource value.” Four workshops were also held on the opening day, including McGlade’s lessons on trail resuscitation and restoration at Hadrians Wall Path (UK).
This year’s special guest speaker was author, travel writer and photographer Shinya Fujiwara, who spoke on Saturday, Jan 17, at the ICC Jeju about the value of images and words in making “the journey” central to life.
On a sad note, Jeju's fifth conference will be its last for the foreseeable future. Next year, the 6th World Trails Conference will be organized by Tottori Walking Resort Promotion Council in Tottori Prefecture, Japan. Thereafter it will be held in turn by other trail foundations across the globe.
The 5th World Trails Conference
Hosts: Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology and Jeju Institute for Regional Program Evaluation
Organizers: Jeju Olle Foundation, Jeju Special Self-Governing Provincial Tourism Association and World Trails Network Committee
Supporters: Korea Tourism Organization
Sponsors: Starbucks Korea
Contact Mijoung Park at +82 10-3799-7585 or email@example.com
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