Writing this, I am currently in Seogwipo, Jeju, South Korea and decided to join the free Jeju Olle Walking Tour Program. At first, I was hesitant because I realized that most of the participants would be Koreans and I have no idea where we were heading. But I still went on with the plan thinking it would be worth it because I have already stopped making itineraries since day one in South Korea and just spontaneously go to places I have thought while having breakfast.
At 8:00 am, I went downstairs of KKodak Kkodak Guesthouse to eat my jam and toast breakfast in time for the 8:20 gathering with other participants in our guesthouse. There were 8 of us and hopped on the van going to the meet-up point. Heading west, the sceneries were just wide roads, random museums, and tangerine farms and it went on like that for almost an hour.
Arriving at the meet-up point, there were at least 20 people already there chatting in Korean that I could not even guess what was the fuss was all about. The ajjummas (aunties) and ajjussis (uncles) were wearing their brightly colored jackets and hats along with hiking poles. My outfit of the day was barely known to be trekking because all along I thought it was just a walking tour. Plus, I haven’t seen any single foreigner so I guess I was the odd bird in the flock. I was comforting myself “It will be fine! Just go with the flow”.
Forty-five minutes past nine, all of us gathered and the harabeoji (grandfather) leader made a short speech then we started walking the Jeju Olle Trail 14-1. We were walking on a one-way cemented road leading to vegetable farms and horse cabins with some smell of horse shit in the air. You could really think that you are truly in a countryside but it was truly a break from the hustle and bustle cities. The chilly breeze blowing and the gentle sun rays warming your skin were the best elements for the trek.
After the endless roads, we approached a steep trek going to a summit of a little mountain. We reached the peak in only a few minutes and the scenery was splendid. Away, you could see the windmills standing outright like toys while surrounded by evergreen forests. Horses were also around freely running and walking without being any awkward to coexistence with humans trekking.
After trekking down, we entered a forest where some species of flora and fauna exists undisturbed protected by laws of the self-governing province of Jeju Island. The path was full of ups and downs, and a bit of rocky so people should wear comfortable and non-slip shoes to avoid unwanted accidents.
An hour since the start, we arrived at a picnic area in the middle of the forest. Proudly to say, I was one of the few trekkers who arrived first in the area as I don’t want to be left when my pace becomes slower. I saw the ladies bringing out foods and I also took mine out. They brought tangerine, apples, candies, and biscuits. Luckily, I also brought my tangerines given by a stranger while on a bus and sour candies to share. It was a fun picnic. They started talking to me also asking where I am from because they were really curious also. So, we chatted while waiting for others to arrive and eat their light snacks. The ladies kept offering me food and who am I to say no so I just kept munching whatever they gave me then I say my kamsamhamnida (thank you). There were two men in the group, Park and Jun Yung or Joe, and only them could speak English so they were like translators for the women to have a conversation with me. Also, both of the guys have been to Philippines, Manila and Cebu, so they were extra chatty in telling their tales. And in exchange, I never forgot to promote our Davao City to any foreigner I met.
A little stuffed, we continued the trek with me in the middle of the pack. The path was still full of trees and ferns then it suddenly ended to a Green Tea Farm called Osulloc. It is a famous farm in Jeju with attached cafe wherein you can sip a tea and relax. Then the men and women started to queue for a stamp on their Jeju Olle Passports at the side of the farm.
According to Korea Tourism site, there are 26 trails around Jeju and each of this leads to beautiful landscapes, beaches, villages, and forests. Koreans are known to be trek lovers so they have this passport wherein they stamp each page of the trails they have completed. I find it really amusing because they are really passionate in trekking.
The struggle started after the trek; isn’t it ironic. I forgot I was told earlier by the guesthouse owner prior the walk that the trip time was shortened and they could no longer pick us up back to Central Seogwipo. And I really find Jeju’s bus system hard to navigate and time between bus arrivals are long, from 30 minutes to an hour. The ladies with me from the guesthouse were also gone because they were in hurry to I don’t know where. Luckily, Joe who was also a solo traveler stays near my guesthouse who also happens to be at lost where to go because of the shortened trip which should be ending at 3:00 pm instead of 12:30. In the end, we agreed that we will just go back to the Central Seogwipo and he’ll help me on my way back. To thank him, I treated him to a meal near our guesthouse.
Overall, I think the trek can be done by beginners. Slopes were not that inclined and there were only a few of it. Most of the time, we were just walking in a plane on the 14-1 trail but will still make you sweat. And I assume that your Jeju trip would not be complete without any short trek whether it going to a falls or just to the nearest bus stop. Another was the authentic experience to trek with Koreans and know their passion towards exploration and will to climb mountains for their challenge and well-being. With that, it is something you can get a lot of wisdom too thus, it is really worth the sweat to attend a Jeju Olle Trek Program.