Jeju Olle is a series of walking courses that together trail around Jeju and nearby islands. As of January 2013 there are 26 paths. The icon of a Jeju pony, “Ganse” in Korean, acts as a guide along with blue and orange ribbons that help travelers find their way. My name is Alissa Dolan and my husband Andrew and I are attempting to walk all of the paths during our time on Jeju Island. There aren’t words to express the refreshing beauty of the Olle trails, but you are welcome to join me as I try to describe each course.
Starting Point: Oedolgae Rock
Finishing Point: Wolpyeong Village, Awaenangmok
Distance: 13.8 km
Estimated Walking Time: 5 hours
Scenery: Primarily coastal; farmland
Main Sights: Soobong-ro pathway, Seogeondo island, Gangjeong stream
- There are a number of facilities on this course and many vendors along the way selling fruit, drinks, etc. (this was true when we walked the trail during summer).
- It is easy to get to and from Oedolgae, the starting point, it is well known and you can travel easily by taxi.
- After completing this course, you should walk along Course 8 (map, slideshow) for an estimated 20 minutes. You can get a Limousine bus or Seogwipo city bus from Yakcheonsa.
- There are some places where the course is very rocky. Here you may need to look for detours in spots, especially where water flows over the path.
We came to Jeju with little knowledge of its language and culture. As such, we found our lives in a state of constant confusion when we first arrived. As we began to adapt though, we learned to face new situations with a decided sense of the unexpected, surrendering control of our lives to daily adventures. Olle Course 7 is the first path we hiked on Jeju and it seemed to resemble our lives in Korea; each turn seemed to bring us somewhere entirely new and completely unexpected.
When we began the path, there was a fancy, well-maintained walkway crowded with dozens of Korean families and tourists. Having never walked on an Olle path, we assumed that all of the trail would be this crowded and well-maintained. We did not at first realize that there was a famous rock in this location. Oedolgae rock is certainly beautiful, but we were puzzled by the intensity of the Korean families’ fascination with this particular site.
The walkway ended quickly, leaving us on a narrow dirt path. It wound up hills and through gorgeous scenery of orange orchards. We adapted quickly to this new peaceful side of Olle. This gentle scenery inevitably ended as the path took a detour through the city, along a road, and then, oddly, passed by a sewage plant. We shrugged and allowed Olle to reveal this new side of Jeju as well.
More surprises were in store for us. As we walked along the coast, there were places where the course turned into a rocky shore, distinguishable only by the orange and blue arrows. In one such spot, we took off our shoes and waded through the surf rather than look for a detour.
And as always, Jeju surprised us by her beauty. There are many places along this course where streams run into the ocean and in some places form small waterfalls. There were also some secure though questionable-looking bridges to cross.
Then the path detoured around the construction area for the new naval base that is being built. There are still protestors out in the village and graffiti all over the walls, something that we have not seen since coming to Jeju. It displayed an edgier and more volatile part of Korean culture than we had previously experienced.
After the village, the course returns to the ocean. We began to wonder if we were approaching the end of the trail, but really didn’t have a strong sense of how far we had come.
Then Olle moved us back into small villages crowded with tiny farms. We passed countless orange trees and often seemed to be crossing through someone’s yard in an unusually intimate way. We were overjoyed when we arrived at the end point, as we had not expected to be able to walk this whole path in one day.
The strange combination of our ignorance and Korean planning, however, had another surprise for us. Olle Course 7 ends in the middle of nowhere. No buses, no taxis, no people. Just stone walls, oranges and narrow streets. We had no idea what to do, and wandered around the village for a while before finally encountering two farmers in a field. We asked them through charades where we could catch a bus.
And Jeju came through for us, as always. One of the farmers insisted on driving us for free all the way from where he lived back to Oedolgae. We were floored by his generosity, but he just smiled away our thanks.
We prepared more thoroughly for our subsequent trips and have clearer expectations for what a Jeju Olle is. This course, however, reminded us how often since coming to Korea we find ourselves in situations where we have no idea what the outcome will be and, through this, how many adventures are unexpectedly created.