Olle Course 10 Expedition – A Story by Thomas M. Holst

Tai-chi, Taiwanese Flag Ceremony and the Boom Box
November 30, 2010
Runaway Photo: Eggs in hell, Beppu, Japan
December 6, 2010

Olle Course 10 Expedition – A Story by Thomas M. Holst

#The New Contents!

The very first Guest of honor on #Runaway tales by Runawayers Category is Thomas M. Holst.

Tom is from Omaha, US, and spend last few years in China and Korea.

We met on my recent Jeju trip. Tom and his girlfriend Laura stayed at same guesthouse as me, the famous island guesthouse, and we bonded by Jeju tangerine Makkoli. It was not very good, but maybe because of that we had a really nice time.

He spend last few years in China and Korea. As I see, Tom is very funny, open-minded, willing to accept other cultures, and very creative.

Oh do you think he is familiar? Then maybe you’ve seen him from here! Yes, we went to fishing expedition together.

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The purpose of this Runaway Tale.. is that everyone has different view, different opinion with exactly the same thing. We went to same Olle course 10 but we had totally different experience. That is why he offer me to this guest article. I want to see other creative mind’s view of Jeju and Olle walking course. And I think this went great.

Alrighty then. Let us follow what he has to say about Jeju Olle course 10.

Here is my story about the Jeju Olle course 10. I did course 10 with my girlfriend, Laura.

Our first obstacle was finding Hwasun Beach, the beginning of course 10. The bus drivers in Jeju always ask “Where are you going?”, because the price of the bus fare depends on your destination. Laura told him “Hwasun Beach”. He looked a little confused and at this point I thought maybe he couldn’t understand or this isn’t the right bus or we should find someone else who can help us, but Laura simply said “Hwasun Beach” again and suddenly the bus driver repeated “Hwasun Beach” in a loud voice. The bus drivers in Jeju really amaze me. Some of them do just about anything to understand you and help you. I can’t remember if he said anything else in English other than beach, but people can communicate a lot with tone and hand gestures. At our stop he got our attention and directed us to go straight and turn right. We walked down the hill and there we were, Hwasun Beach. Like magic.

First part of Olle 10 course. Who would've guessed?

It wasn’t hard to find the start of the path. There was a clear sign and sidewalk. However, after about three minutes of walking we came across a swimming pool. A man started shouting at us when we approached the pool. The sidewalk for the Olle disappeared and now we were a little confused as to where to go next. A woman sitting nearby must have seen our confused faces and came to talk to us. And, oh my, talk to us she did. Usually I can understand a few words of what someone says to me, but for some reason the only word I understood from this woman was “Olle”. Her hand gestures were enough for me to draw a detailed map of the rest of the olle course (just kidding, but seriously she just kept talking).

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This was our first time on an Olle and actually the first time trekking like this. The path the woman pointed me towards was not so much of a path as it was a row of somewhat jagged rocks between the ocean and a cliff. Laura and I looked at each other with the same question “Is this really the right way?”. There was no other way that looked more promising so we just trekked on through.

Eventually we found a path and it felt more like an actual course and not just some fiendish woman’s plot to confuse two innocent foreign travelers. The path was made of small rocks that are one of the distinctive features of Jeju island. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with an urge to truly experience the nature of Jeju and took off my shoes. I would have never thought of doing this, but a few weeks ago I went hiking with a Korean friend who did this and blew my mind. It may sound crazy to walk along small rocks barefoot, but maybe you just forgot how to live life. It was painful, but it was also genuine.

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At one point we came upon a very unavoidably clear Olle sign that pointed us ‘up over there’. However, behind the sign and a little ways down there was a nice looking beach. It was at this point that I realized how easily one course on the Olle could take a full day. Well, we decided not to go to the beach and follow the less luxurious way up into who knew where. At one point we left the rock path and found ourselves on a paved road. This didn’t feel right. Isn’t this like… a road… for cars? We should be trekking through nature, what gives? We walked down this road, but soon turned on to a dirt road. There wasn’t any signal for us to turn (or to go straight for that matter), but it just felt right seeing as how a dirt road felt more ‘treky’. Well… actually… I noticed a sign at the entrance to this dirt road, but I guess I didn’t want to see it so I didn’t think about it. There were some twists and turns on this dirt road, but no markers to designate the correct way to go so we just did what felt right. We ended up walking down a road that had a guard at the end of it. He definitely wasn’t about to let us into the place he was guarding so we turned around and wandered around the maze of dirt roads. Who would have guessed a top secret military base would be just one wrong turn along the Olle?

The forbidden beach..

Laura was fed up with this getting lost on this garbage Olle course and wanted to go back to that awesome beach we saw. Who could refuse?

And that beach was awesome. We walked along and felt the soft soft sand under our feet. We let the thin layer of water come up and splash us ever so gently; the temperature of the water was perfect. Suddenly I thought of my hometown. Many people from my hometown can’t think of any reason to ever leave, but many other people can’t think of any reason NOT to leave. Surprisingly, I’m more like the first kind of people. Although I left my hometown (what feel like an eternity ago) I have never found anything so great or so inspiring that I could say “This is it. This is a reason why everyone should leave home and travel every so often.” The beach nearest my hometown is hours away by airplane. The first time I visited a beach I thought it was interesting, but not that great. But this beach was different. This was the best beach I’ve ever been to. I guess maybe it was “the forbidden beach” since the Olle marker told us to go around it. Maybe we were on private land, but anyways I really enjoyed watching the waves and just standing in the water. I imagined taking someone from my hometown to this beach and watching him/her transform into a world traveler.

View of the beach from up hill

Actually, we didn’t give up on the Olle course. We walked down the beach and easily found it again. We walked up for just a short time, and quickly got a great view of that lovely beach. Unfortunately, the last part of the beach was ruined by massive amounts of garbage. We noticed one solitary man cleaning up the garbage (maybe it’s thanks to him that we could enjoy the part of the beach we visited). At the top the scenery was fantastic. We were again confronted with the choice of following the Olle or exploring some place that looked interesting. Later on we looked back from another high point and saw a Buddhist temple in the place we would have explored. It would have been cool, but we had a good time anyway.

Could see submarine from here.

At this point we felt a little hungry. The Olle is a bit surprising. At times we felt like we were trespassing on private property and at times we thought maybe we accidentally wandered into the wrong place, like a small city. Lost or not we had our eyes open for raw fish in this small city. Laura’s friend told us that Jeju is famous for it’s wonderful raw fish. There were some old women with large bowls of seafood. I should mention that I am not a biologist. I can’t tell you anything about the seafood these women were selling other than it was very exotic. Usually I have the most trouble understanding the speaking manner of older Koreans, but these women were different. They spoke amazingly clearly and simply. We didn’t say anything so one of them doubted that we could understand, but she was so amazed when we told her that we understood. Later on we learned that there is a tradition of women divers on Jeju. These women probably caught/harvested this seafood by themselves.  Talk about women power! They don’t retire with age, they just get tougher. I guess one more thing I can say about the seafood is that it didn’t move. Think of this seafood like an oyster or clam; it just sits there and waits for someone to come eat it. The raw seafood was… special. It was basically a down to earth experience of Jeju island and probably the shortest my lunch has ever traveled to get to my belly. We had a little bit more lunch before starting on the trek again.

We saw a place where we could take a submarine or boat ride. Although it looked interesting we didn’t do it. I heard from someone else that the submarine ride isn’t so great. You can just see murky water.

Some farm land

One good thing about the Olle was that fact that we just blindly went forward. We didn’t know what to expect next. So… I guess if you’re reading this then you can try a different Olle course or maybe your experience of the Olle 10 will be completely different. At the top of the next mountain (over-sized hill for those who automatically think of “Rocky” when you hear “mountain”) there was a very deep crater. It was amazing and terrifying. It was very hard to capture the steepness of the crater with a camera. And as luck would have it the wind blew my hat off right at the wrong moment. Down down down into this huge crater. Well, it didn’t go too far down so I decided to try to get it back. Laura was really afraid. One wrong step and I’d be rolling to the bottom and trying to get back up for a few hours. It wasn’t too bad. At one point I slipped a little but overall it was all just suspense and no dramatic ending.

Horse farm, right next to the big crater

Oddly though the next part of the Olle was through a horse farm. Remember when I mentioned earlier about trespassing? I wondered who set up these Olle markers and where I would end up. Maybe it was a very elaborate trap designed by the woman at the guesthouse. Yeah, I could see it. We follow the markers into a secluded area with only one way in and out. Next thing you know I’m working in a factory producing the coloring agent used for pen caps. Walking for long distances gives you time to think of some amazing things.

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Finally we came to the last part of the Olle. It was a somewhat strange trek though farm fields. I felt like some gruff old farmer man would come up to us and say “You must be lost. So, get outta here!”. At this point the Olle revealed it’s secret motive. It made us visit war memorials. Now, I hate the Japanese just as much as any Korean (I hope everyone realizes from this statement that I don’t hate the Japanese), but visiting “another bad thing those dirty Japs did to us” made me start to feel like Korea was overcompensating. At some point the statement “We are our own country.” can make someone suspicious. Of course you’re your own country Korea, no one things that you aren’t. Why are you so worried about it? Do you have something to hide? The Olle markers really started to bother us as we basically made a big circle just to visit “the proof that if America didn’t use the nuclear bomb Japan would have continued the war for a long time”. Every time the arrow seemed to say “Now go look at that one, I promise you’ll care this time.”

Japanese-war-related manument with Olle ribbon

A War memorial

I should probably note that I think it IS important that visitors to Korea should learn a little bit about the history. If someone just comes to Jeju Island and visits a few places than this war memorial goose chase isn’t so terrible. But for me, I’ve been in Korea long enough to get my fill of anti-Japanese sentiment. I’ve seen the movies. I’ve gone hiking (yeah, hiking isn’t always as innocent as it seems). I’ve watched Olympic figure skating. And I guess the one thing I’m thankful for is that the anti-American sentiment isn’t as strong.

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Anyways, the ending to this story is getting a little deep. I’m probably stirring up someone’s emotions right now so I’ll stop at that. The purpose of this story isn’t to send a political message, but rather to just explain my experience of the Jeju Olle course 10. And that’s the end. The Olle lead us into a city and there was a tiny sign that said something like “Jeju Olle course 10 finish”. So, don’t feel bad if you don’t make it all the way to the end. And my story will end in a similarly un-fantastic way.

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-Thomas M. Holst

Thanks for this great story Tom! This totally jogged my memory of Jeju. Ah.. beautiful place.

Let’s do another movie night! Bring tangerin Makkoli! Or.. another fishing trip? 😉

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

5 Comments

  1. ciki says:

    and excellent post! LOVE IT!

  2. LeslieTravel says:

    Beautiful photos! Sounds like the Olle hike was besides the point. You had more fun getting lost along the way 😉

  3. Theodora says:

    Some of the most beautiful walks involve getting lost… This feels like a lot of insight into Korea, from an outsider’s perspective…

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