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Jeju Olle Trail, Route 1 (cont.) and Route 2 – Jeju Island, South Korea

Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak)

Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak)

I was having doubts but this day made it abundantly clear that July is not the time to walk the Jeju Olle Trail.  The fact that I seem to be the only person on the trail is another hint.  Once again, magic intervened and made what could have been a miserable day pretty wonderful.

I was out of the hotel by 8 am and went to the nearest coffee shop but found it closed.  That’s when destiny kicked in.  I walked half a mile towards the volcanic tuff cone Seongsan Ilchulbong (Sunrise Peak).  This was formed 100,000 years ago.  Before I got there, I stopped in a coffee shop and a nice man, Mr. Joe, served me.  He spoke almost no English but he played guitar and sang Korean lullabies while I sipped my iced coffee.  I asked him questions about the Olle Trail and the language barrier was too great to get answers.  He did tell me to climb Sunrise Peak and insisted on me leaving my heavy pack at his place while I did so.  So off I went.

When I arrived it was swarming with tourists–like ants marching up an anthill.  There were soooo many people.  And a Starbucks.  And a Dunkin Donuts.  I don’t care how great the views are, I can’t enjoy myself when there are so many people, so I skipped it and went to the Buddhist temple at the base of the park.  There was nobody there.

I returned to Mr. Joe’s and retrieved my pack.  I asked him some final questions about the trail, using my Jeju Olle book to point and question.  Not much clarification.  But lots of smiles.

Continuing on, I passed some very pretty beaches unfortunately littered with tremendous garbage. The sun was blazing.  Finally I reached the marker and stamp for Route #2.  It took me two days, but I finished Route 1! I walked further down paths that were overgrown with grass.  I completely freaked myself out worrying about snakes.  It seemed like the places I was walking through were “snakey” places, but I had only my imagination to rely on.  I don’t want to research and learn about any snake realities.

Several times I got to a crossroads and there were many signs, but all in Korean.  I wonder if some of those signs led to the guesthouses that seem impossible to find without any signage in English.  At about 2 pm, drenched in sweat and irritated by the sun, I thought I better look for shelter.  And that’s when I realized my Jeju Olle book was missing.  And in a moment I knew I had left it at Mr. Joe’s place.  It is the only reference book I have–essentially my Bible–and I would be even more lost (hard to imagine) without it so I knew I had to return.  As I looked across the water, I could see exactly where I had come from and knew my book was right there, but alas I am not a crow and the march continued on back to my starting point.

When I arrived Mr. Joe seemed happy to see me and sad for my long walk.  He made me an iced coffee and insisted I sit.  Then he proceeded to start up his computer, get out a saxophone that he is learning to play, turn on a computer program that produced sheet music and there in his 10 songs for which he had music was the song “Laura”.  How weird is that?  He said he was learning and had never played “Laura” before, but he gave it a shot.  And then I felt that my crazy walk had all been worth it.  Cool moment.

How great is this?

Three people came in for coffee and the woman of the group spoke English as well as Korean.  She translated for Mr. Joe and I and before long he was inviting me to stay with his family in his guesthouse on the west side of the island for as many days as I would like to stay.   A very nice offer.  I intend to go there tomorrow.

Mr. Joe helped me get a cab back to Jeju City where I have stayed for the last two days pondering whether or not to stay in Jeju for the six weeks that I intended.  I am clear that I can not complete the trail at this time of year.  Spring or Fall would be ideal.  From the little I have seen it is very beautiful.  It is however, no Camino de Santiago.  It lacks the spirit, the camaraderie, the infrastructure, the history.  So, now I know.  No harm done.  A clear decision about what to do next has not congealed in my mind and so I have decided to wait longer and see how I feel in a few days. No rush.

Jeju has been my biggest travel challenge to date.  I am learning new things every hour.  While it’s tough and I am completely out of my comfort zone, growth is occurring and that’s always a good thing.  The adventure continues.

This is a map of Jeju Island. This is where Jeju City is:

Jeju City

Jeju City

This is where Mr. Joe’s coffee shop is:

Sunrise Peak

Sunrise Peak and Mr. Joe’s Coffee Place

And this is where I’m going tomorrow (Mr. Joe’s guesthouse).  God knows how I’ll get there!

Mr. Joe's Guesthouse

Mr. Joe’s Guesthouse

 Photo Gallery


  1. I’m loving following you on this new journey of yours. And I am so impressed. I don’t know if I’m brave enough to go that far out of my comfort zone. Can’t wait to see where this adventure takes you next 🙂

    • Thanks Serena. I am not sure if it’s bravery or foolishness! Are you still planning on walking the Camino in the Fall?

      • Yes, just bought our tickets! We leave October 2nd!

        • Awesome! Excited for you! If you have any questions, just let me know. Be happy to help.

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