written Sunday, March 19th. Part 5 of 6.
Announcement, friends: Alena and I have but three trails left (+ a volcano) in our Jeju Olle adventure! So here’s the cliff notes*, since per usual, I kinda forgot about writing things:
*the cliff notes are still kinda long!
Tuesday, March 14th
After Route 9, we went on to Route 10, because Route 9 had zero places to stay, and Route 10 had a hot springs hostel (!!! yes, more on that in a moment.) Before we got to the hostel, though, we were in desperate need for lunch and literally. Every. Single. Place. was closed.
Well – that’s not as impressive as it sounds because there were only three places in the town we checked: two cafes and a noodle place. One of the cafes, though closed, still had a guy hanging out there and he was kind enough to let us use the bathroom and brewed some pity coffee for us. We ended up going to a convenience store and eating chips for lunch; it was very sad.
But then – we made it to the hot springs hostel! The hot springs hostel came with two tickets to the hot springs that it was right next door. This was a great deal for the price of the hostel versus the price of going to the hot springs and getting a ticket, and it also turned out to be necessary because the hostel itself didn’t have any shower facilities.
The hot springs next door were “natural carbonic acid hot springs” which we read was good for opening up the blood vessels or whatever and also for thyroid dysfunctions (?? how?) and a whole host of other issues. Mostly, they were hot and really lovely, and eased all the aches out of us. They were also Japanese onsen-style hot springs, which meant that the only thing you’re allowed to wear is a towel to cover your hair. The towel over the hair was actually mandatory – Alena and I were both told off when we didn’t have ours on. That night we ate dinner at the hot springs, which was really, really good for hot springs cafeteria food, and I ate in my PJs because I am an adult and I can do what I want.
end of day: 28, 986 steps
casualties: lunch. but at least we got pity coffee.
Wednesday, March 15th
In the morning, we returned to the hot springs for a short soak and also to shower. And then we set off to finish Route 10. At about 11:30 in the morning on our walk, we encountered three food trucks in a completely empty parking lot. Why are Jeju parking lots home to so many food trucks? We don’t know – these were not the first food trucks we’d seen, but they were the first food trucks we’d seen that were both open and offering food around a meal time.
And so we sat down for what turned out to be one of the most amazing pork burgers we have ever eaten.
Thursday, March 16th
On Thursday morning, the Korean owner of Spring Flower hostel told us there were no places to stay at the end of Route 11, so we’d probably want to take the bus back to Moseulpo. Sure, we thought, and took the bus directions down, but we didn’t worry much because The Great Guidebook had two hostel suggestions at the end of Route 11.
11 took us through the Gotjawal forest, which is both a tropical and temperate forest and always between 10 and 20 degrees celsius. We encountered the World’s Creepiest Tree and generally appreciated the change of scenery.
When we made it out of the woods (cue the Taylor Swift song, which I did try to sing, much to Alena’s displeasure) we sat at the end of Route 11 and considered our two hostel options. I called the first one to see if they existed. Since again, I don’t speak any Korean, my standard operating procedure when calling a hostel to see if it exists is to say, “Guesthouse?” but with a slight Korean accent (because guesthouse has been borrowed into Korean and is pronounced guestehousee), and then to promptly ask, “English? Open?”
The answers vary. This time, I was hung up on after the woman on the line said a few things, and then I got a text message in Korean from her. I put it into Google Translate: “Guesthouse. Come in.”
So Alena and I went to the guest house, got barked at by the dog, and then the woman came strolling down the path into the house after us. “Oh,” she said. She made an X with her arms. “Full.”
Confused, I put her text message back into Google Translate. Somehow, what came out this time was: “Sorry guesthouse is closed.”
Alena and I returned to the first guesthouse option, which was in a converted elementary school. We didn’t like this option because it seemed more like the scene of a horror film than a hostel, but the door was open, it had wi-fi, and a sign said check-in was at 3PM – or in about twenty minutes.
We waited twenty minutes. Then we waited ten more. Then I called the number of the hostel. “Guesthouse?” I asked. “English? Open? Check-in?”
I got a string of Korean in return. And then: “I’m sorry.” The man on the phone hung up. I then received a text message: Im sorry.
So Alena and I bundled ourselves off and took the bus back to Moseulpo, returning sadly to Spring Flower hostel.
casualties: the sense of achievement we feel in always moving forward 😦
Friday, March 17th
Unfortunately, nobody mentioned that most people eat dinner before chicken and beer parties, and that the chicken is mostly a snack that goes along with the beer (and makkoli and soju, which are Korean alcohols). Alena and I had the pleasure of being the only ones to eat a dinner-portioned amount of chicken while everyone else politely ignored the bones piling up on our plates and slid more and more chicken our way.
Partway through the meal, someone asked if where I was from.
“You look Filipino. Or Malaysian.”
I looked at Alena. “Must be the tan,” I suggested.
“Must be the tan,” she agreed.
Then someone asked how old I was.
“I think elementary school,” someone said.
“Noooo, too far,” someone else replied. “High school, at least.”
I looked at Alena again. “Must be the tan,” I suggested.
Alena looked at my pink christmas-y PJs, which I was wearing to dinner for the fourth night in a row. “Sure,” she said.
end of day: 31, 481 steps
casualties: my dignity. (again).
Saturday, March 18th
On Saturday, Alena and I hopped onto a bus again, to take it out to the start of Route 13. Hopeful that we’d find a hostel at the end of it, we went with our bags this time – but wary of what we might find at the end, we also went with directions for buses back to Moseulpo.
In the morning, when getting onto the bus, the little old Korean grandmother in front of us got into such a long argument with the bus driver that me, Alena, and the Korean lady in line behind us all exchanged worried looks on the stairs of the bus. Eventually, the old Korean grandmother took her seat, the rest of us finished boarding the bus, and then we got moving.
“I don’t know if they were actually yelling at each other,” Alena said. “Maybe they were having a totally cordial conversation. But I think it’s never a good idea to argue with the person who drives the death vehicle.”
“Yeah, the bus.”
“That’s a little extreme,” I said.
And then our bus driver proceeded to speed through at least four red lights on the highway, slowing down at a fifth, but only because he needed to make a right turn.
“Okay,” I agreed. “Death vehicles.”
On Route 13, Alena and I encountered a self-service cafe for Olle walkers with instant coffee and notes left by a bunch of hikers. The All-Knowing Guidebook said this cafe was to be found on Route 12, and we thought we had missed it, so we were delighted to find it had been moved to 13.
At the end of Route 13, we had lunch at a small Korean place. Then we began the hunt for Page U, which was the most promising hostel recommended by the Magnanimous Guidebook. We even called the place (while halfway there) to see if it was open: “Guesthouse? Open?” I asked. The man on the phone made what I thought to be some pretty positive and encouraging noises.
So on to Page U we went.
But when we got there, the man came out to tell us, “Sorry. We are full. But come in.”
Inside, he gave us a pity orange. He also helped us to find another hostel not too far away. When the female owner came out, she pointed at us in surprise; we had seen each other at lunch in town earlier. And better yet, she was a cat lady with four cats and also a daughter who had been admitted to Mount Holyoke College early decision. In other words, her daughter’s English was bomb, and she was really, really nice about helping us search for and book a hostel at the end of Route 14.
And so it was that Alena and I managed to escape the Moseulpo Vortex.
end of day: 28, 411 steps
casualties: the Moseulpo Vortex. take that! forward movement once more!
Sunday, March 19th
That’s today! Woooo I have finally caught us all up!
This morning began with the hostel owner giving us a bottle of tangerine-ade that she made herself, because tangerines are a specialty of Jeju. Heading off on our merry way, Alena tried the tangerine-ade.
“Oh my god,” she said. “It’s terrible.”
I took a sip. “Holy shit.” It was truly awful – too sweet, weirdly syrupy thick, and with some terribad aftertaste I don’t even want to remember. I even felt a little bad using it to water some weeds on the side of the road.
And then we encountered a bunch of ponies out on the balcony of a cafe. Why were they there? Apparently calling your cafe “The Horse” is enough of a reason to keep some Ganse ponies on your balcony.
I lost my shit a little.
Along Route 14, we encountered a man who had both a Ganse pony and a medal for finishing the first half of the Olle trails (the trails used to be split into two, but now they have been combined).
After passing the Medalist, Alena and I encountered a very large group of middle-aged Korean women hikers. The Lady Powerwalkers, as they shall now be known, were fast as fuck and Alena and I got wee bit competitive. (This eventually resulted in us finishing the 19km course in 5 hours, as opposed to the 6-7 hours suggested, but that’s neither here nor there.)
We passed the Lady Powerwalkers, but in the Cacti Land, we stopped for a snack. The Lady Powerwalkers passed us there, and then disappeared from sight.
Eventually, Alena and I saw them turn off the Olle trail and head inland. We carried on along the path, which followed the coast on a narrow, rocky walkway.
Then a man ran up to us, speaking Korean. I employed my third Korean phrase: “I do not understand.”
“Ten,” he said. He pointed at me, then Alena, then himself. “One, two, three,” he said, then counted all the way up to ten. “Ten!” he pointed at himself again. “Ten!”
Alena and I looked at each other; we had just spent a portion of our hike discussing all the ways in which some Chinese people try to cheat foreigners who can’t speak Chinese at touristy sights all over China. The Olle trail is free, we both thought. We’re not paying you anything even if this is your land, we thought.
The man lost patience with us, turned around, and began running (actual running, on rocks, what?) in the direction he came from. Following at a much more normal pace, I asked, “Wait, wasn’t that the Lady Powerwalkers’ guide?”
He had been the only man in the group.
“Oh yeah,” Alena said. “I think it was.”
We thought of the group of brightly-clad Lady Powerwalkers we’d seen heading off the Olle trail and back inland – and realized the guide must have been looking for his Lost Ten.
But hey, the rest of Route 14th was absolutely gorgeous, and we had Chinese food for lunch and dinner.
casualties: the curse of the water bottle. I have now kept my Starbucks bottle, unbroken and only lost for a little while, for longer than my other three bottles put together. all hail.