‘Olle’ is a word in the Jeju language which means ‘path which connects a house to the main street’ (it is the equivalent of the Korean word ‘gil’). Suh Myeong-sook launched the official Jeju Olle trail system in 2007 in order to encourage visitors to experience Jeju’s scenery and villages, step back from South Korea’s industrialized way of life, and to encourage urban folk and rural folk to interact in a mutually beneficial manner.
Due to time constraints, I could only go on a few of the ever increasing number of Olle routes, so on my last full day on Jeju island, I went on Jeju Olle Route #1.
I had slept the previous night in a minbak (guesthouse) in Seongsan village, and after I saw the sunrise at Seongsan Ilchulbong, I got on a bus to Siheung village.
From the village, Meolmial Oreum is visible.
‘Oreum’ is a word in Jeju language which means ‘inactive secondary volcano’, and refers to the hundreds of parasitic cones of Hallasan, the volcano which created Jeju island (you can see Hallasan in center of the map of Jeju island near the top of this post).
Eventually, the route climbs to the top of Meolmial Oreum.
There were lots of lovely butterflies at the top of Meolmial Oreum.
Some of the butterflies I saw were even more beautiful than the ones shown here, but I was unable to photograph them.
I was going along the trail much slower than I expected … but Olle trails are not supposed to be done in a rush. At least, that’s what I told myself as I let myself go through the trail in a lazy manner. Even so, it did not take long for me to get to the top of the second oreum on the route, Al Oreum.
The Mongols brought horses when they invaded Jeju island long ago, and ever since then Jeju has been famous for its horses and practice of Mongol-style horsemanship.
Jeju Olle Route #1 passes an area where horses graze.
After descending from Al Oreum, I stopped at one of the many little local businesses which have sprung up along the Olle routes, and enjoyed a glass of freshly squeezed carrot juice. The trail returns to the coast in Jongdal village, past a set of old salt fields.
It was a long walk in the sun back to Seongsan village. I wish I had brought more water.
As Suh Myeong-sook says, the Olle routes do not feature grand, mind-blowing sights – rather, the purpose is to slowly savor little things you notice along the way, such as the flowers above.
Finally, the trail passes by the famous Seongsan Ilchulbong. And then goes through a sandy, black beach which I wasn’t quite prepared for.
Route #1 ends on this beach with a spectacular view of Seongsan Ilchulbong – and a very sad story. One of the Jeju massacres (in which the South Korean government murdered almost 10% of the population of Jeju Island) had taken place on this very beach. The memorial plaque said something like “These villagers had grown up next to Seongsan Ilchulbong, one of the famous sights of Korea, and possibly saw it every day of their lives. How did they feel when they saw Seongsan Ilchulbong as they were dying?”