Ramblelust

Two Savages in Southeast Asia

Olle’s Well That Ends Well

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Slow, drifting mountains,
Rising through the low sea mist
Neath quiet starlight

We woke up to a sad breakfast of cold, leftover soup and some tasty gyouza. We were ready to be rid of the pension we were staying in, with its strange uneven floor and lack of a trashcan. We packed our bags and stepped carefully past the box outside our door that we’d used as a trashcan; in the heat that was beginning, it already smelled like the fish head we’d chucked in there.

We got a response from our friend in Jeju-si, indicating he’d like to meet up, so we settled into a cafe to await details. Some hours passed, and we watched the tide come in, tourists swarming over it armed with cameras and floaties. We read more of our books, played some games, pretended that we were getting prepared to re-enter real life, and sipped tasty drinks. Eventually we got tired of waiting and hopped on a bus to Jeju-si.

The bus luckily dropped us off in an area we knew, so we ran our few errands. This involved a stop at the market for some Udo peanut Makali, a stop at the Olle stamp box to get our official start 18 stamp, and a leisurely stroll through the sweltering heat to get to the ferry terminal.

We boarded the ferry to Mokpo, and we were somewhat amused by our accommodations. In economy, we had a room that we shared with about 2 dozen other people with rattan floors where some were sleeping, others playing cards. We wandered the ship for a bit and found karaoke rooms, a large arcade, a 7-11 (can’t escape ‘em!), and some charming views. As the sun set, we watched scattered volcanic islands slip by, wreathed in a mist rising off the sea.

The ship eventually pulled into Mokpo, where we saw a single glittering tower amid a fairly low and drab-looking town. Naturally, we decided to head that way. It didn’t take long to get there, and we discovered it was a hotel, so we checked in for the night, then wandered out for what was probably the best bibimbap we’ve had on our trip.

Back in our hotel room, we realized that the hotel was having an identity crisis between being a family-friendly tourist hotel, a seedy sex hotel, and an online gaming parlor. A large gaming-optimized computer featured prominently in the room layout. The toiletries bag contained condoms and massage lotion. And yet the place was clean and bright, with great reviews on TripAdvisor. Anyway, time to play some games and head to sleep.

Sun and Surf

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Holy crap, it’s still sweltering out! After a day of post-jjimjilbang resting (we’ve been catching up on rest a lot lately, it seems!) we decide to tackle Olle Route 10 – but we only get as far as the Yongmeori Beach and cliffs at the base of Sanbang-san, some 3-4km out of town. By the time we do, a thick sweaty haze has descended upon Jeju. Damn! We were hoping it would let up, maybe rain a bit against all odds, but the weather is determined to hold out on us.

No problem; the coast around Yongmeori is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for the lava flow marks clearly visible on the cliff faces. For a small fee (I think we paid KRW 2000 each), you can clamber down a rocky passage to a shelf just above sea level that goes out along the cliffs. Beautiful! There’s also a Buddhist temple, yet another signal fire tower, and a replica of a Dutch ship complete with silly Dutch sailor mannequins nearby. We check these things out, then hop a taxi back into town to catch the 1132 for Hyeopjae Beach. Why there? We heard it’s supposed to be one of the better beaches on Jeju-do, and a dunk in the water sounds like the perfect antidote to sweltering heat.

Two hours later, we’re by Hyeopjae, have eaten lunch, have checked into a minbak (sort of a guesthouse-like deal, except this one is quite spartan) and are headed over to the beach with our snorkelling equipment. The water is beautiful: cool, clear, definitely the refreshing liquid medium we seek. The snorkelling’s not bad, but nothing to rave about – we manage to get out from the swimming enclosure and spot a few fish amongst the submerged coastal igneous rockforms before we’re kicked out by a frantically waving lifeguard. Yes, it’s that sort of beach, touristy enough to have lifeguards. What’s the big deal? We happen to be rather near the jet-ski launching area, which comes with enough mortal peril that the lifeguards don’t want it happening on their watch.

Fair enough; we hop out, walk down the beach a bit, and check out some of the smallish coves. The sand in the shallows is swarming with hermit crabs, so we watch them for a while. When that gets boring, we slowly make our way down the coast…and are shouted out of the way again; we’re in yet another jet-ski lane! Oh well. We had a chance to cool off, and it’s late enough anyways that we decide to head for some ingredients.

Our minbak has a kitchen, which gives us a rare opportunity to cook something! Unfortunately, as with many of the kitchens we’ve come across, the equipment is a bit lacking, so we stick with the basics: a fish-tofu-vegetable stew with noodles. This makes more than enough for dinner and breakfast combined. Yum! We have a spot of difficulty getting to and from the supermarket: it’s about 4km away, but fortunately the person who helped us find the minbak earlier offers to drive us over there. (To all the kind Jeju residents who have driven us to supermarkets: thank you! It means a lot at the end of a long day.) On the way back, we try to catch the bus, but can’t communicate our destination to the bus driver – so he doesn’t let us on! Furious, we storm off down the road, ready to hike our way back if need be. Halfway there, we give up our tirade and instead wait a while for the next bus, which is more reasonable: we’re soon back in the minbak, trying to summon the energy to cook our meal.

The heat has kind of sapped our hiking momentum: we were hoping to hike trail 14-1 into the Gotjawal forest, but we’re on the fence about that right now. After all, isn’t the point of hiking Jeju Olle that it’s supposed to be a pleasantly awesome way to see the history and landscape of Jeju? If we’re losing water by the bucketful and going half-delirious from borderline heat exhaustion, that defeats the purpose. Maybe we’ll make it back someday in the spring or fall to complete the circuit. For now, it’s food, maekli, and sleep!

Son of a Beach

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Action speaks in all
Cultures, the same, pulse-pounding…
But, sci fi? Not so.

Our eyes flickered open, and we found ourselves in the fomentation room of the jjimjilbang, with little additional idea what that meant. It was about 7:00, and the baths downstairs were already packed with people getting ready to head out for their days. The women’s rang with conversation as people cheerily greeted each other and gossiped, though from what Evan says the men’s side was not the same. We sped through saunas, hot tubs, and cold baths, heading as soon as we could to breakfast.

Breakfast was a sad affair at Paris Baguette, where we had some admittedly delicious pastries and spent a good deal of time writing our blog posts for you people to enjoy. All the pastries here are slightly too sweet, and even things that are supposed to be salty are sweet.. I got a garlic toast, which tasted as much of sugar as garlic, and Evan a red bean and cream cheese amazingness roll. While it gave us the energy we needed, we are getting tired of pastry.

The next stop, as soon as it opened, was the World Eros Museum, also located in the World Cup Stadium (a strange place for both a jjimjilbang and an erotic art museum). Something about the museum seemed very tongue in cheek (in a totally innocent way), and they had displays of erotic art from all the Asian cultures. Some of the art featured men with oversized penises who were tripping on them. Some featured condoms, in one case sewn into a dress. It was less erotic than incredibly amusing, and we considered our 7,000 won well spent.

Next up was a stop in the movie theatre, also located in the World Cup Stadium (this thing is huge, and not used anymore for football). We’d seen a bunch of fliers for a film called Snowpiercer, which starred an actor from the weird Korean movie we recently watched (Old Boy). It was a “sci-fi” movie with the awful premise that, when the world freezes over, the last vestiges of humanity ride a train in a circle around the earth forever. And the train never stops. And the poor people ride in the back, the rich in the front, and on occasion there are revolts. ?????? We couldn’t really puzzle this one out, but it made an alright action movie, so we didn’t mind.

With our funds dwindling dangerously low, we took a bus back to Seogwipo to top up from a cash machine at a CVS. While there, we stopped for lunch and then grabbed another bus to head towards the head of Olle trail 10, which we plan to hike tomorrow. Unfortunately, when we got off the bus, we realized that Evan had left his wallet onboard. We failed to catch up to the bus running, and grabbed a taxi instead, urging the driver to “Follow that bus!” We did manage to catch it, and retrieve the wallet, but the experience reminded us to keep a close watch on our things.

The first guest house we stopped in had no spaces left, but the owner mercifully spoke heaps of English and found us a space at his friend’s pension. We showered gratefully and then spent the evening wandering around town for dinner and snacks and such. Tomorrow we’ve got to wake up early again, so to bed early, too.

From Outdoor Sauna to Indoor Sauna

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Back on the Olle! This time, we’re finishing Trail 6 before completing Trail 7. However, we’re no longer hiking the same way we did before: we might take a rest day tomorrow, and our plan is not to find a guesthouse at the end but rather to visit the jjimjilbang (bathhouse) at the World Cup Stadium. This should be a great way to relax after a long day hiking…

So we start out a bit later, waking up in time for the first round of restaurants to open at 0700. Breakfast is another abalone porridge plus some hairtail fish soup – nice, warm, and hearty way to start a hike! Then it’s over, down, and back up around the waterfall at the west end of Seogwipo’s downtown core. This heads into an arduous hike up a nearby oreum, right up to the very top, before descending to meet the 1132 at Oedolgae Rock. At the top of the oreum, there’s a pavilion encircled by a stone walking path; this path is intended to be walked barefoot (or in socks) as a form of foot massage! (Also: it’s nice that all the trail starting/ending points are accessible by bus; they’re all at most a 5-10 minute walk from the nearest bus stop.)

The next section after that is pretty heavily touristed: there’s a boardwalk for easy strolls, and we start to fear that we’ll be fighting our way through groups of amateur photographers the whole way. Fortunately, the crowds taper off towards the end of the boardwalk pathway, where there’s a gallery and cafe. The gallery has a small exhibit on Korean calligraphy, and the cafe provides a nice refuge from the heat. That’s the tradeoff with a later start: you might get the chance for a hot breakfast, but you’ll be contending with the midday heat by about 0900. Doesn’t leave much time to hike in sensible weather. Still, we’re not in a rush, so we can always duck indoors if it gets to be a bit much…

Then the boardwalk ends, and the real trail begins: rocky seashore paths joined by dirt track that winds around the coastline. We happen upon a restaurant with tables set up right in one of the mountain flow streams, and sit down hoping to get some food – but the owner doesn’t know English, and won’t summon the patience to help us struggle through ordering in Korean, so we head on dejectedly. There’s an older couple from Wisconsin who reach the same conclusion, and we chat for a bit before heading on. Just up the road, we find a great place to get seafood pancake: 8000 KRW for a massive, thick, and very tasty pile of vegetable and cuttlefish in batter. Yum!

More road walking for a bit, then another section of seaside trail; we’re now several kilometres off the 1132, about as far from it as the trail ever gets. Still, there’s several groups of hikers out braving the weather, which is made slightly more tolerable when we happen upon another mountain flow stream. This one is definitely fresh water, about 10-15 degrees cooler than the air, and set up as a local swimming hole. So refreshing: we just have to take a dunk in the water!

Properly cooled off, we hike up the stairs to find an Olle rest park, complete with:

  • boot cleaning devices;
  • a cold-water machine;
  • a rest pavilion;
  • a postbox;
  • a place to hang locks, wooden pendants, and other love/memory accessories;
  • a cafe…

Anyways, it’s definitely a welcome sight all the way out here! We refill our bottles, then dig in for the last 6km of the trail: it’s beautiful, but against all odds the heat is getting worse. We stagger into Awaenangmok at the end tired out, borderline overheating, and hungry enough for a sizeable snack at the village general store. At least there’s no more walking, for the bus stop is right outside the store!

It’s a short 10 minute wait for the bus, then a 10 minute ride up to the 1132 to meet the other bus line out to the World Cup Stadium – but, being the masochistic perverse crazy loons we are, we opt to hike the last 2km over to the stadium. On our way, we spot the mountain we would have hiked if we’d taken Trail 7-1: looks much bigger than any of the oreums we’ve hiked up so far, but it’s still not Hallasan.

We grab a 2-person bibimbap to share in the food court at e-mart, then head for the bathhouse to relax! This is a great experience, highly recommended as a way to soothe weary legs after a day’s hike. First you pay the admission (9000 KRW each for an overnight sleep), then they hand you your bathhouse accessories: a full set of pajamas (blue for men, pink for women; yay gender-normative colors!) and a locker key. The sauna and baths are gender-segregated, so Valkyrie and I part ways. Getting my pack into the locker is a bit of a challenge, but I finally succeed after taking most of the contents out and packing it cleverly around the frame. You enter the bathing area naked – no swimming suits here! – and rinse down in the shower before taking your pick of bathing options. There’s a warm pool and two hot pools; a cold pool; an area with waterjets that’s sadly out of order; seated and standing showers; and, finally, two saunas, one at 60 Celsius and the other around 80 Celsius. The cooler sauna is wood-scented!

Afterwards, we head upstairs into something marked as the “fomentation room”. What does that mean? We’re not sure, but it does have a snack bar, restaurant, arcade, dry heated rooms, massage chairs, and a sleeping area. We grab some mandoo (dumplings) at the snack bar before taking a seat at the restaurant for a nighttime maekli toast. (Bonus: they have the Udo peanut stuff, which we love but haven’t been able to find since leaving Seongsan!)

With that finished, we finally feel ready for bed. There’s a stack of blockish pillows and sleeping mats, so we grab ours and sprawl out in the sleeping area, feeling completely relaxed in our well-bathed state. Yay!

Lava and Leave Em

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A cool breath from home
Wrapped in darkness, a secret
A place to keep dreams

We squinted at our laptops when we woke up this morning, deciding finally that there was no way we were going to convince ourselves to hike out and meet that guy from Couchsurfing. Instead we took another cool shower (feels so good in this weather…) and dressed for the day. We ate the rolls we purchased yesterday, the rice in them now nasty from spending the night in a refrigerator. We only managed to get through 3 of the 4 remaining, laying the last one out for the animals to eat.

The next stop was the bus station, where we got tickets to the Manjanggul Lava Caves. They are all the way on the other side of the island, but the bus ride took just 90 minutes, and we watched helplessly out the window as we so rapidly rewound our progress over the past 10 days. The bus even called out the heads of trails as we passed the stops for them… all in all, not very uplifting.

We took a taxi from the bus station to the caves themselves, which cost an awesomely low $3. Taxis here are actually a reasonable form of transportation, unlike back in SF…

The first order of business, as usual, was eating, so we had bibimbap in the restaurant at the park. One remarkable thing about Korea is that prices are hardly ever jacked up to the unreasonable levels that we see in out-of-the-way places in America.. for example, this restaurant meal, at the only place around for kilometers, cost us less than $15 total.

We walked through the information center to bone up on some science before exploring the caves. Apparently the caves were only discovered around 8 years ago, and were first explored by… some elementary school kids and their teacher? We wondered idly what proportion of those kids will grow up to be geologists. Anyway, lava caves are formed by a process in which:

  1. the lava flows out of the volcano
  2. the lava cools on the top and sides (exposed to the air)
  3. the hot lava in the middle keeps flowing and gets out
  4. more lava comes in and melts out the bedrock underneath, deepening the cave

I’d never been in a lava cave before, despite my rather extended stint as a spelunker in college (we don’t have many lava caves around Indiana, at least not that I’m aware of). We both eagerly descended into the mouth of it.

It was so cool inside. It felt like we were back home, like things made sense again and we were able to think clearly. A nice breeze went through, and the air was hovering around 17C. Lovely. We saw the world’s largest lava column, lava stalactites, stalagmites, toes, islands, and all kinds of other formations. Stalactites and stalagmites form the same as in regular caves, but toes are formed when lava pushes through holes in the floor and turns into little toe-shaped structures. Islands are when lava stalagmites are worn away partially, so that they are thick on top and thin on the bottom. More kinds of formations occur, like when there are holes in the walls that lava leaks slowly through, etc. Lava caves are totally different from limestone ones.

We reluctantly left the cave, then went back on the bus to spend the afternoon brainlessly reading our computers and eating ice flake. It was the best ice flake, with rice cakes, corn flakes, nuts, fruits, and more all atop it, but the fact remains that we were pretty damn lazy. We got some groceries with the intent to cook, but realized too late that our hostel’s “kitchen” has only a microwave. So we microwaved what we could, ate what we could raw, finished watching “Old Boy”, and fell asleep a bit hungry…

Under Da Sea

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First full relaxation day in Seogwipo, and we are exhausted. We lumber out of bed at something like 0900 in no state to move anywhere. Miraculously, our muscles aren’t overly sore; it’s more of a pervasive general fatigue that reaches into every part of our bodies, making even the idea of physical activity anathema. So we lie about for a bit, reading and playing games and generally working up the strength to go get the food we know we need.

Finally we succeed in getting out the door (good thing we’re on the second floor, and not the fifth or something) and to breakfast. With some food in our stomachs, we can at last contemplate doing something, and we settle on Seogwipo Submarine as a suitably lazy form of entertainment. Besides, “ride in a submarine” is on Valkyrie’s bucket list, and when else are we going to have this kind of opportunity? It’s settled; we amble down (yes, actually walking somewhere!) to the port, fork over 55 000 KRW each (about 50 USD), and are soon on our submarine adventure!

There’s a quick ferry ride out to the submarine, punctuated by K-pop and all manner of incomprehensible announcements in Korean. We shrug and peer out the windows, watching the port grow smaller as we head out for the submarine dock. Jeju’s southern coast around Seogwipo has a series of tall barrier islands, presumably the eroded remains of offshore oreums; these are host to beautiful soft coral blooms, and the one we’re aiming for even has a shipwreck down at 40m! The Seogwipo Submarine experience is definitely touristy, but likely worth it if a) you can put that aside and b) you’ve never been in a submarine before.

Having completed our PADI Open Water Diver course earlier in this trip, it’s also cool to see what there is below 18m: less light, different types of fish… the light really does taper off quickly, although it’s not as dark as we expected it would be when the submarine bottoms out at 42m depth. The shipwreck is actually pretty recent, about 10 years old – a mackerel fishing boat that hit some bad weather and sank, though fortunately the crew all made it out alive. One of the staff is a proper polyglot; he chats us up in decent English before trying out his Chinese on the family next to us. (They give up on this, though, and ask him to speak English, which tarnishes the polyglot image somewhat. Still, credit for effort!)

Did I mention we’re still exhausted? After the submarine ride, we make it as far as the convenience store just up the road before hailing a taxi for the uphill slog back to the guesthouse. We feel absolutely no shame about this, having just completed eight half-marathons in ten days with 15kg packs in sauna-like weather. No wonder we’re dead tired!

The rest of the day is definitely uneventful: we grab lunch at the 15 bowls place again, though we get their bibimbap instead; we spend a while lolling about in a trendy cafe just opposite the museum; we get some more food while walking back through the market; we nap and read some more before stepping out for dinner, then nap and read even more. Exercise-induced fatigue is no joke: as top coaches and athletes know well, overtraining can leave you much weaker for as long as a week while you recover. We’re definitely feeling that sort of thing now.

Given our condition, we resolve to take an extra rest day here. Actually, taking a realistic look at our itinerary, we haven’t got time to complete the circuit of Jeju in this weather – not unless we want to collapse Pheidippides-style at the end! Maybe we’ll use the excellent bus system to get around to some of the more popular trails, then spend a bit of extra time taking the ferry/train combo back to Seoul. It’s always good to have flexible plans…

Death March

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A rat in the pot
The sun in the sky, and us
Just walking on by

We awoke in the dawntime darkness at Mr. Paul’s, slightly cold from the air conditioner. It’s hard to calibrate those things when blankets range in thickness so widely.

Evan went to answer nature’s morning call, but came back to me as I was packing the bags, his face twisted into confusion. “We can’t use the toilet,” he said. “There’s a rat in it.”

“A what??”

“A rat. Just sitting there. In the toilet.”

“Oh.”

“I’m gonna go piss across the street.”

“Ok.”

So we pulled our cold breakfast of apples, milk, peanut butter, and bread out from the refrigerator and sleepily ate it. We liberally watered Mr. Paul’s garden across the street and set out.

It was already blistering hot for the day, though mercifully we had a bit of a sea breeze as we finished off trail 5. We were in a bit of an exhaustion haze, after managing to convince ourselves to keep going yesterday, it was both easier and harder today as we were closer to our destination but even more tired. We took few pictures, stopped for breaks when we felt we couldn’t continue without them, and generally tried to keep moving as much as possible to avoid falling asleep on the trail.

Trail 5 passed by, and it was on to trail 6. An oreum loomed by the seaside, and the path went up it, but in the rain that was starting and our states of mind we thought it was more appropriate to skip it for now. We saw another couple do the same.

We had promised our friend Jim, who volunteers with the Jeju Olle Trail people, that we would swing by the Olle office on our way, to say hello to the folks who made the trail possible. It seemed like an interminable distance to get there, but we eventually did, with the rain threatening to rip apart the sky and the heat still unbearable.

We sat inside for a few minutes, chatting with the PR rep for the trail. Apparently she had heard that we were coming for our Olle completion certificates, which we aren’t at all close to… so we had to explain that there was some kind of miscommunication, and that we were just stopping by to see the heart of the operation. She said it was no problem, gave us her card, and sent us on our way with directions to a restaurant in Seogwipo.

Trail 6 must usually be breathtaking, although we didn’t notice it at the time. We wound past waterfalls and quaint seaside trails, fortunately not the sort that brought us over unset rocky paths. We eventually arrived in Seogwipo and became horribly lost, since apparently the trail has changed its route through there since our map book was printed. We got a few pointers that eventually led us to where the restaurant was supposed to be, then asked a man in the area where it was when a quick search didn’t turn it up. He frowned as he looked at the name scrawled on our paper, crossing it out and replacing it with some other restaurant’s name. We weren’t sure what happened, but he gave us directions to this new place instead. We didn’t find it, either, and, tired and hungry, we sat down at the first place we could find to pile in all the food we could. We were actually so ravenous that we couldn’t wait until the small plates came out; we instead pulled Snickers bars from our bags and ate them while we waited.

Lunch over, we trudged up yet another hill to a lodging recommended by our guidebook. They happily had a room available on the first floor (only one flight of stairs! score!!) for two nights, so we showered and took a nap in the air con for an hour.

We managed to pull ourselves out of bed long enough to go for dinner at another place recommended by our guidebook. This place is owned by a Seogwipo artist’s wife (according to the book), and they are known for a 15-plate fixed menu. We ordered this, and we were delighted to watch the table fill up with pickles, sesame coated noodles, fried fish, tofu soup, scrambled eggs, small salads, and much more. We ate it all, and our Filipina waitress laughed and told us that they prefer to have foreign diners since Koreans always leave little bits on every plate (this is a politeness thing rather than an appetite thing), and when Westerners come there are no leftovers to throw out.

Happily full again, we returned home, where we stayed awake for maybe almost an hour reading our books before it’s time to doze off again. We are exhausted…

Trail 4

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At 22.9km, Trail 4 is the longest of all the Jeju Olle trails. It starts with a long walk along the coastal road until you hit the Marine Corps Trail, a sort of dirt track with traction matting underneath. About halfway through, you cut inland towards a mid-sized oreum before heading back down to a cold spring and a Buddhist temple. Then you finish off with a seemingly interminable 9km walk into Namwon.

For summertime hiking, the oreum placement is unfortunate. Even at a good clip, it’s about 3 hours into the hike, so you’re stuck climbing it in peak heat. We had a cloudy day, but it still felt like a steam bath. Our shirts were soaked through with sweat, and both of us were practically chugging water in an effort to replace what we lost through perspiration. (We also went through salted seaweed packets like there was no tomorrow; salt intake is an important part of hydration!)

Big disappointment on the cold spring, which was all dried up due to the lackluster rainy season. We’d been hoping to cool off with a nice swim, even had these fantastic pictures of a flowing stream nestled in an idyllic forest glade. Nope. When we got there, the spring was a series of stone enclosures quarter-filled with murky brown water. Oh well; we took a quick rest in a pavilion by the temple as a consolation prize before continuing on.

To compound the perversity of Trail 4, we decided that given the cloudy weather we could push on a bit further after the end. 3km in, we stumbled upon an awesome guesthouse: Mr. Paul and Hand Drip Coffee (yes, this was the name, as evinced by their business card!) Mr. Paul is the super-friendly owner; he drove us over to the nearest supermarket so we could cook up a delicious stirfry of squash, mushrooms, and tofu. We even got some kimchee and maekli to round out the meal; this last, we drank Korean-style out of metal bowls. Not only that, but they have a laundry machine – which means we can start tomorrow with clean (if somewhat damp) clothing!

Festivate

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LEDs light the
Night, floating in air and sea
While a crowd listens

A tiny bit refreshed, though strangely not as much as we’d hoped, we started the day with a boring but solid breakfast of instant rice porridge kits and hard-boiled eggs, along with a trio of juice boxes. We set out just before six, reminding our brains as we found the path that blue arrows were the currency of the day.

The Olle route led us over a pair of oreums pretty early on, and we topped them with ease. Today was overcast, much cooler than the other days we’ve hiked, and we were grateful for some respite from the punishing heat. It’s hardly a wonder we haven’t met more hikers…

Atop one of the oreums, we sat for a while and dreamed and talked. Far beyond us, we saw the shadow of Hallasan and some menacing clouds rolling in. In the distance, on the coast, we saw a preposterous array of buildings that could only be a beach resort hotel.

The halfway point of trail 3 is located at the Kim Young Gap photography gallery. This building, and its grounds, were converted from an abandoned elementary school, which conversion was apparently directed by the artist himself. His studio is still preserved inside, although he passed away in 2005. Jeju is very proud of him, and all his works strive to capture the spirit of Jeju and its winds, crops, skies, and seas.

Only mildly refreshed, we continued the trail, following it along the seashore, through a ranch, and into a forest. Eventually, we emerged into town and made the trail’s final stretch, a crossing of a white sand beach that only exists at low tide. At high tide, it’s all covered in water (as we found out later), but when we crossed it was being used as the site of a kids’ soccer tournament.

We met a cyclist during our last stretch who called to us, in very good English, asking us how we were and laughing when we responded that we were tired. We actually bumped into him again at our post-lunch cafe stop (lunch was kimchee and pork hot pot, which was just called kimchee hot pot… somehow, pork is implied by and comes for free with kimchee?). We chatted with him for a while, glad to have someone else to talk to. He mentioned the White Sands Festival, which was being celebrated this weekend, and suggested that we show up for the concert at 8:30 or the fireworks at 10:30. We were excited, but it dawned on us that we might have a pretty tough time getting a hotel in a place holding a festival.

There is a Jeju Olle office in town here, and we called the number. The woman on the phone seemed to know a bit of English, but not a ton, and she asked me to wait a moment while she got someone who could speak to us better. Just then, a woman on a cell phone came racing into the cafe, and it took her around a minute to realize that I was the one she was on the phone with. Evan and I managed to convey what we wanted to her and the “translator” at the cafe, and they found us a room at a guesthouse about 3km out of town.

The owner came and picked us up, giving us a free ride to her place. Our room is on the second floor, overlooking the sea just across the street, and we have a kitchen with a stove and microwave, as well as a fridge, TV, and HOT WATER. Holy crap, sometimes it’s nice to have hot water. Even when it’s hot, nothing soothes aching muscles like a warm shower.

Later we headed back into town to acquire groceries for breakfast, snacks for the hike tomorrow (I’m afraid we have 48km to go in 2 days…), dinner, and to see the show. Dinner was, as is now usual, by the sea, and we had sea urchin porridge (I think). Google translate on our phones now offers offline language packages, so we downloaded the Korean one which lets us translate English to Korean (and vice versa) at any time. So handy, except the translation quality for sentences is really low, but single words are alright.

Our bellies full and warm, we stepped into town, bought some snacks, and settled in to see what the White Sands Festival was all about.

We sat on great stone steps overlooking a portable stage, with row upon row of folding lawn chairs stretching from us to it. The sky and sea were alight with LED balloons, changing colors randomly, that had been released by their owners into the night. A man off to the side, peddling light-up things, kept flinging various blinking gadgets into the air, frequently hitting annoyed festival-goers. On the stage, a karaoke concert featuring people apparently from the area was taking place, interrupted on occasion by the emcee trying to give away prizes (he drew four absent people’s numbers for every successful giveaway) or, in one memorable instance, what appeared to be the middle-aged women’s dancing club performing to “Sex Bomb.”

We passed a perfect, warm, contented few hours there, and now we’ve returned home before the fireworks. We’re just not the party animals we used to be, possibly because we keep waking up at 5aam…

Yeogiyo

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What a day! From our sunrise hike up Sunrise Peak to a maekli (rice wine) toast in a small fishing town at sunset, today had a magical quality that you only experience once you get off the beaten track. Of course, it was not without its sacrifices: sunrise is officially at 0547, but in our opinion the really cool part is the preceding half-hour where everything slowly gains definition. With a half-hour hike to the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong (as it’s known locally), and allowing extra time, that meant leaving the hostel at 0500, which meant waking up at 0430. On the other end, our sunrise hike meant a slightly later departure from town than we’ve been managing other mornings, causing us to hit the last oreum at 0930 in pretty much peak daytime heat. Ouch. (Still worth the view, though.)

Ilchulbong itself is a volcanic tuff cone that slowly became connected to the mainland as sediment piled up in its wake. The sloping sides of the volcano have since eroded away, leaving this improbable-looking cylindrical thing jutting out above the town. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which for the villagers nearby means their days of carefree playing about the inactive crater at top are over. Trail 2 spends most of its time winding around the nearby bay, giving us a deep sense of futility: by the time we get to the midpoint of this section, we’re maybe 3km actual distance from where Trail 1 starts.

The last oreum offers a stellar view of Seongsan Ilchulbong and town, its bay, and the village of Onpyeong where Trail 2 ends up. It looks small, and we worry that we might not find a place to stay, though those fears are eventually proven misplaced. Before that, though, we still have 7km of trail to cover, taking us past overgrown graveyards, through field after field after bloody field, to the Wedding Pond which has some backstory about this king who threw three princesses into a box – with the malfunctioning rainy season, the pond has all but dried up – and finally into Onpyeong itself. We stop for lunch and manage to order something off the menu by reading it in Korean: it’s a bibimbap dish, some vegetables mixed in rice that looks to be dyed with squid ink. The side dishes are the best we’ve had so far: egg-ham pancakes, delicately seasoned sliced fish cakes, and the usual assortment of pickles both spicy and not. The culinary acumen of the staff here is driven home by the rhythmic chopping motion coming from the open-style kitchen – there’s a man slicing onions at breakneck speed, so fast you can barely see the knife. YUM.

Now we deal with the sleeping issue. We manage to find a sign for a guesthouse, and in an Olle first get a room without having to ask around! Only one problem: we ate through our snacks today, there’s no convenience store or breakfast joint, and Trail 3 goes nowhere near the next town. Solution: hop the circumferential 1132 bus to Shinsan, the next town over, to grab some breakfast and snackfoods at the store there. We spend some time down by the water, where we run into our second drink truck (think coffee, not beer) for the day; the other one was at the start of Trail 2, just after crossing the causeway out of Seongsan. Back to Onpyeong for dinner, where we lap up some delicious abalone porridge and raw fresh catch seafood. We’ve never had raw octopus this tasty – when you get it back home, it’s always leathery tough. I use the standard “Yeogiyo” (literally meaning “Here”) to pay up, which elicits a storm of laughter from the next table as though it were the most hilarious thing possible to see a white person trying to learn some of the local language…oh well. We shrug it off and have our romantic maekli toast down by the water, sipping it discreetly out of a squeeze water bottle (no idea if public drinking is illegal here, but we haven’t seen anyone do it.)

So yeah, amazing day. We’re off to catch some sleep; we’ll need it, since there’s a couple of longer trails coming up. Trail 3 is 20.7km with a pair of oreums at 7km or so, and Trail 4 is 23km with an oreum midway through. From there, Trails 5 and 6 take us into Seogwipo mostly following the southern coast, so we’re hoping to cover them both in a day before taking a rest day in town. That’s three hiking days to Seogwipo. Yay! Maybe we’ll even stay in the public bathhouse there, since that’s supposed to be a truly unique experience.