The End of Jeju

Part 6 of 6, written April 4th, 11 days after returning to Shanghai from Jeju. 

It is a truth universally acknowledge that Mary’s biggest problem with running a blog or even an email list is her inability to follow-through with projects: but here it comes, weeks late – the end of the Jeju Olle story.

So, our tale left off on March 19th, with three trails + Mount Hallasan ahead of me and Alena.

Monday, March 20th 

If ever there were a day to forget, ‘twould be this day. It rained allllll daaayyyy long as Alena and I left the worst hostel ever (actually, it was a fairly cute hostel, but with some serial snoring that made sleep difficult and a very sad breakfast of spam on top of a rice ball), ventured out into the rain, and walked Route 15.

Route 15, according to the Grand Old Guidebook, was around 19km long. We did not despair, but we did start to get a little confused when the trail-markers indicated that it was only 16km and change. And then the next ones returned to the 19km story. And then back again – is it 19 or 16? Which one was the “updated” one, and which ones were the old markers? Because in the rain, 3km was a huge difference.

Alas, our only way of knowing was to keep walking. This we did, me with an umbrella, and Alena without. Around lunch time, we stumbled into a restaurant and had a very local and warming soup called “monguk” – seaweed and salted pork, I think? We ate Korean-style, sitting on a heated floor and trying to soak in the warmth before heading back into the rain.

Alena, the rain-soaked trekker at the end of Route 15/beginning of Route 16. 

At the end of the trail, our hostel owner picked us up and drove us 2 minutes up the road to Hakuna Matata guesthouse.

This proceeded to be the best guesthouse ever: Alena and I had the whole second floor to ourselves, with a kitchen, showers, heated floors, and the works. We washed ourselves, our clothes, laid everything out on the heated floors to dry, and then asked our guesthouse owner to order KFC for us. Because there was no way we were going back out into the rain in search for dinner.

Later a man showed up, similarly drowned on his Olle trek, and Alena and I were gracious enough to share our “apartment” with him. In the morning, he listened to “Call Me Maybe”, which we could only assume was some kind of pump-up jam.

end of day: 26, 713 steps
casualties: the feeling of being dry; to a lesser extent, faith in the Great Yet Slightly Flawed Guidebook

Tuesday, March 21st

In the morning, we had the cutest breakfast, made by the Hakuna Matata Guesthouse Man.
behold! adorable breakfast: tea, with a set up of fruit, kimchi, and a popular fish thing. a mushroom congee and a kimchi-ish soup thing followed.

After breakfast, Alena and I found that our rain covers – which we’d left outside on a coat hanger to dry–had blown away. I shimmied between the guesthouse and the building over to retrieve Alena’s, and then we set off to tackle Route 16. Early on 16, we came across Call Me Maybe man, who we’d shared the guesthouse with and had breakfast with. Call Me Maybe Man expressed his plan to walk both 16 and 17, and make it into Jeju city on that day.

This kick-started the competitive streak Alena and I have.

“Should we do it?”

“I bet we can.”

“This is a bad idea.”

“Yeah… but let’s play it by ear.”

We tried to pretend we weren’t that competitive, but we kinda were. In the “moderate winds” of the day, we trekked along the coast, ate lunch at a local place with another delicious set menu and free coffee. We kept going until we realized we were halfway through Route 17 and no longer knew where Call Me Maybe Man was.

Had he broken off the trail? He had mentioned needing to go to the Jeju airport by that evening. Regardless, after visiting a pair of lighthouses in the shape of ponies, Alena and I decided to throw in the towel: we walked up to the highway, hopped onto a bus, and rode back into Jeju city.

This was a good decision – Thursday was due to rain, which meant we probably wouldn’t want to hike Hallasan. So we planned to hike Hallasan on Wednesday, then Thursday take the bus back to mid-17, and finish the trail with a triumphant return to Jeju city (again).

end of day: 44,259
casualties: Call Me Maybe Man – wherever you went


Wednesday, March 19th

Hallasan day.
This was… a day.The Hallasan hike should take, in total, about 9 hours. Alena and I returned to the hostel in 7, due to a combination of us unintentionally walking really fast for the first 1/4 and shouldering our way through like a million bus-fulls of hiking groups including but not limited to hordes of schoolchildren for the middle quarters. Then, when we got to about the final 1/4 of the trek, we realized that one needed crampons to get to the summit, because all the rain from earlier in the week had frozen into sheets of ice.Suddenly, everyone’s awful crampons-creaking-on-iceless-rocks of the past hour or so made sense. Defeated, Alena and I turned around and hiked back down, pausing only to view the world’s ugliest lake, and also to take pictures with the summit in the background.
potentially the world’s ugliest “lake”

Back in the hostel that evening, Alena and I finally met the Real Jim. He was younger than we had imagined, British, extremely tall, and we joked about which of us would make it out to the end of Routes 12-14 and open up a guesthouse so future Olle Walkers wouldn’t be sucked into the Moseulpo Vortex. He also congratulated us on mostly finishing (with 1/2 of 17 left to go!), and gifted us beer and beef jerky.

He was so nice and pleasant that we felt kinda bad for all the shade we’d rained upon Mythical Jim during our adventures.

end of day: 33,400 steps
casualties: our Hallasan dreams, but it’s okay. we’re totally over it. an indulgent trip to Starbucks helped soothe the disappointment.

Thursday, March 21st — THE LAST DAY

Alena and I woke up late, had a leisurely breakfast at Skywalker Hostel, then took a bus back out to the midway at 17.

The second half 17 included some incredibly interesting and unfortunate sculptures.

there is, reportedly, a rational explanation for this sculpture. it involves a game that relates to pretending to be a horse, or something, but… yeah.

​At the end of 17, Alena and I treated ourselves to coffee + a cheese muffin and beer, respectively. We also came to the horrifying revelation that one could only get the Olle medal if one walked all the Olle trails, not just the main 1-21.

This is yet another in the long list of examples of reasons why I really, really need to read the fine print.

After working through this new disappointment by discussing semi-joking plans to return to Jeju, finish Hallasan for REAL, and then explore the rest of the Olle trails and side trails (and 21, which we assume will no longer be closed due to bird flu at some point in the future), we returned to our hostel.

We went for Jeju black pork Korean bbq for dinner, and also finally realized that abalone is not actually a kind of fish, but instead is the shell-type shellfish we had seen women divers hauling out of the ocean. Though we knew women divers were famous for collecting abalone and other seafoods, we somehow just thought abalone were fish, and the shells were the “other seafoods.”

more black pork and abalone 

And this, my friends, brings us to the end of our 20-day-long Jeju Olle adventure. Though perhaps not the end of our Olle adventure in general…

end of day: 18, 416 steps
casualties: so many things

total step count:
693,080 steps (give or take some bad addition)

total km count: hard to say, since trails (see trail 15) weren’t always accurately marked, but somewhere around the vicinity of 330km (not including our aborted Hallasan climb :P)

honorable mentions:
– First and foremost, I am so thankful for such an amazing, fun, whimsical and thoughtful 20-day long experience with a very good friend and fantastic travel partner — thank you, Alena, for letting me invite myself along on your travel plans and for being an ideal travel buddy.
– Also very thankful to Jim, the Actual Human Jim, and not the Mythical Jim. Actual Human Jim was super responsive on FB whenever we had mid-walk questions, and kidding aside, checking the weather/wind reports was an important part of our mornings.
– Route 7, for being generally gorgeous
– Route 12, for the same reasons
– ganse ganse ganse

day one vs day twenty-one

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A 60-year-old cat lady disguised as a 25-year-old digital nomad.

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