The Mongol Olle

The Mongolian Olle Trail — September 2017

After visiting the Wenzhou Hotel, and being entirely too excited about hiring a driver in Chinese, Alena and I were picked up on the morning we’d arranged. In the end, the driver we’d found at the Wenzhou Hotel spoke no Chinese, a little bit of English, and a fair bit of Russian. (Thus began my endless reliance on Alena/Alyona/Alyonka, the Universal Translator.)

Our first stop with our driver was the giant Ghengis Khan Equestrian Statue. There’s not much going on with the Ghengis Khan statue, beyond an underwhelming museum in the basement and also the fact that it is blindingly bright in the relentless Mongolian sunshine. It’s also 130 feet tall.

Continue reading The Mongol Olle

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.

Continue reading The End of Jeju

The Moseulpo Vortex (among other things)

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 

Alena and I walked Route 9 and half of Route 10. Route 9 was an actual day of actual hiking, with lots of steeper inclines and declines, and man – hiking is actually kinda hard in shower sandals. It made my ankles ache. At the top of the mountain, there were a bunch of tunnel-like caves that had been built by the Japanese during WWII.

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.

Continue reading The Moseulpo Vortex (among other things)

5, 6, 7, Ganse is (in) Heaven

written Thursday, March 9th
part 3 of 6

Strap yourselves in, pengyous, this is a bit of a long one! But it is a tale that includes questions of alternate, parallel universes and continued shenanigans.

Ganse – the small Jeju pony that marks the beginning, middle, and end of the Jeju Olle trails. The wooden heads of the beginning/middle/end the ganses also include the stamp pads and stamps that we use to track our progress.

Smaller blue ganse outlines also mark the trail, their heads helpfully pointing in the direction we’re meant to walk in. Occasionally, they include extra information on different parts of a trail (like explaining why Al Oreum is called Al Oreum, which is because al means egg in Korean, and people thought that the oreum looked like an egg.)

Alena and I have developed a habit of calling out “Ganseeeeeee!” each time we see a Ganse. It’s exciting, because Ganses are a lot rarer than the small blue/orange trail-marker tags that mark the trail, and generally seeing a Ganse means that we’ve made some significant progress on our walk.

Continue reading 5, 6, 7, Ganse is (in) Heaven

Olly Olly Oxen Three (and Four)

written Monday, March 6th

part 2 of 6

I swear that’s the last time I’ll make this joke…

Sunday, March 5th 

Day 3 of mine and Alena’s Jeju Olle walking adventure started with breakfast at our lodgings, also known as the Most Adorable Guesthouse in the World but with a Slightly OCD Owner. (The Slightly OCD Owner had told us, when we checked in, that we couldn’t go to sleep with make-up on because it might rub off on the pillows. Alena and I gestured at our faces and the clothes we’d been wearing for two days straight and were like “What makeup??”)

After breakfast, we took a – GASP – bus ride. Alena and I went off-trail, and rode a bus down to Manjangul Cave, which is a 7km long lava tube (4.35 miles). It was vast, cold, dark, and incredibly, incredibly cool. The sides were lined with these ridges that looked man-made, but was the result of different levels of lava flow in the formation of the tube. We learned that in addition to your standard lava stalactites (icicle-type lava rock things hanging down) and stalagmites (the opposite of stalactites, what happen when stalactites drip down and build up a sand castle or whatever) there are such things as “lava rafts,” “lava mounds,” “lava columns,” “lava balconies,” and “lava toes.”

Continue reading Olly Olly Oxen Three (and Four)

The Beginning of Jeju Olle

In March, my friend Alena and I walked routes 1-20 of the Jeju Olle trails of South Korea. During our walk, I wrote period email updates for some friends and family…

(part 1 of 6, written Saturday, March 24th) 

part 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Olly Olly Oxen Free!

Just kidding, that’s a terrible joke.
But I’m currently on Jeju Island in South Korea, walking the Olle Trail with my college friend and former China coworker, Alena!

Thursday, March 2

On Thursday I flew from Shanghai to Jeju, and met up with Alena at Ganse Lounge (ganse means slow or lazy in the Jeju dialect of Korean, which is how you are supposed to walk the trail. We are… sort of doing that) which is the official start of route 18.

Thursday we stayed in Jeju City and picked up some supplies (a water bottle for me, some granola bars and snacks for the walk.) Alena and I are traveling with very similar gear: we both have a 20L blue backpack which we each purchased separately from Decathlon stores in different cities in China; we both have the same puffy jacket from Uni Qlo, also purchased separately from separate cities in China; and we have the same little white case for our tiny first aid kits, origins unknown.

Continue reading The Beginning of Jeju Olle