Jeju island or Jejudo is the largest island in South Korea located in the Southwest of the Korean peninsula. Every year in October, visitors from mainland Korea and elsewhere will gather on this scenic island to walk the well-signed Olle trails around the coast of Jeju Island.
There are 21 routes to choose from, with varying degrees of difficulty and distance. The trails range from 10 – 18 km. in length and go through hills, farm land, villages, waterfalls, cliffs and all the nature wonders of Jeju. You can find out more information on Jeju Olle here.
I found myself there alone in October of 2011 to walk the Olle trails. I started off on Route 1-1 which is a 15.9 km. walk around U-do Island, a tiny island on the Northeast coast of Jeju, easily accessible by a 30 minute ferry ride from Jeju. The lacquer blue arrows and ribbons led my way from the port, along the coastal road, through hills and farm land surrounded by black stone walls.
After walking for a while, I ran into a group of old ladies who were stopping for lunch from their farm chores. Although we did not speak the same language, they offered to share their lunch with me. I think they told me that I needed to eat a lot because the Olle walk was still a long way to go.
The U-do trail revealed impressive sites and a unexpected friendship. There was a Korean girl walking the trail in front of me – her name was Insun. After we became friends, I learned that she was my age and was also walking the Olle trail alone. So we decided to travel together. She didn’t speak English very well and I didn’t speak Korean but we managed to communicate through a translation app on her cell phone.
The next day, we continued our journey on Route 6 which is 14 km. long. We started off at the end of the route at the scenic Oedolgae Rock along the coast. The ocean was in a beautiful shade of blue/green and the weather was cool, perfect for a long walk. The path led us to a magnificent view of Hallasan – a shield volcano on Jeju Island, downtown Seogwipo and Jeongbang Pokpo waterfall.
We did not complete the route but only managed to reach the check point to get the trail stamp on my passport. The logo of the Olle walk is a cute stick-man’s version of a pony.
At night, after soaking in the hot spring to relax our tired legs, we sat under the stars, drinking local soju and talking about our lives at home and our inspirations for walking the Olle trails alone, through this translation app. It is such a mystery how friendship can just blossom unexpectedly.
If you find yourself on Jeju Island, please do not forget to try Gamgyul, which is a type of round orange similar to the Mandarin orange or tangerine but far more delicious. Even Gamgyul’s juice I found in the local convenient store was very very yummy! You can also see the orchards during the Olle walk. Black pig, in the style of Korean BBQ, is also the local delicacy.