Jeju Olle Ganse Pony Doll. Photo by Doug MacDonald

Jeju Olle Ganse Pony Doll. Photo by Doug MacDonald

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.

Basics

Starting Point: Jocheon Manse Dongsan Memorial
Finishing Point: Gimnyeong Westport Fishermen’s Welfare Center
Distance: 18.8 km
Estimated Walking Time: 6-8 hours
Scenery: Coastal, oreum (volcanic cones), farms, villages
Main Sights: Shinheung Beach, Hamdeok Beach, Seo-wu Bong, Gimnyeong Farm Road

Special Notes

  • To get to the starting point, take the East Coast Line bus from Jeju Intercity Bus Terminal. There is a stop at Jocheon Manse Dongsan (a memorial to Korean resistance during the Japanese occupation).
  • To get back to Jeju City, walk along Course 20 to Gimnyeong Beach, where there is a temple with an East Coast Line bus stop.

Our Journey

We learned the hard way how not to walk an Olle path.

When we left, we thought we had ample time to complete the course and we greatly enjoyed a leisurely walk for a couple of hours. The first part of this path is a walk along a long coastal strip during which we stopped frequently to take pictures of the ocean scenery and lighthouses.

Just before we arrived at Shinheung Beach we made friends with a small puppy, who we thought may be a Jeju Dog.  After playing with him for a few minutes, he decided to join us as we continued on our way. We tried to shoo him away, but ended up having to loop back and knock on the bewildered owner’s door to hand them back their errant dog.

We took a few minutes to enjoy Hamdeok Beach. We had been wanting to climb Seoubong, the oreum just to the east of it for some time and were happy to accomplish the task. We sat on top of the hill for a while, not worrying about the time.

Next we arrived at Neobunsoongyi Memorial Hall. We were surprised to learn of the massacre that had occurred on Jeju and read all of the information available there. We had lived on the island already for several months and knew nothing of it.

The second half of this course has an oddly post-apocalyptic feel. Not only did we not meet any other hikers, we saw only a few cars on this entire section of trail, through forest and fields. The abandoned soccer field with still-intact restrooms gave the area a feel of having just been occupied.

As it grew dark, we found ourselves back-tracking frequently. Having not estimated properly our distance, we thought we were almost finished. As it turned out, we spent over an hour hiking in the dark.  It was also the most poorly marked of the Olle trails we’ve hiked. Several times along Gimnyeong Farm Road, we realized that we had lost the course only because we were standing in the middle of a field of crops.

After struggling to find markers in Namheuldong (village) for some time, we finally made it out onto a road with ocean on both sides. We had walked the wrong way and I stubbornly insisted we track the whole way back in order to not miss any of the Olle. (Not that we could see anything anyway as it was very dark by this time.) Walking up to the Fishermen’s Welfare Center, we felt like we could have been the only people alive as the area was totally silent.

Since there was no sign of any traffic or people, we made our way up to the main road (1132). We then walked over to the only building we could see with lights, which turned out to be a yacht club.  They called us a (very expensive) taxi ride back towards civilization.

There were lots of little lessons along this path. Leave early. Don’t get easily distracted. Don’t stop to take too many pictures. Don’t befriend animals when in a hurry. NEVER walk an Olle path after dark. Also, just in case, pack a small flashlight.

Further Information

Map (Jocheon – Gimnyeong)
Olle 19 from the official Web site

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