Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Day 6, part 2

Course 8 follows the coast line very closely. Any more and we'd have to swim. Actually that would be difficult with all the jagged rocks. Too soon, it curves inland to avoid a section that is closed permanently due to danger of death from above via falling rocks. We walked through 4 years ago, spectacular
cliffs and unimaginable rock formations, before it was deemed unsafe.
Too bad. Now it makes a not-so-interesting and 4 km longer detour to JungMun Beach. Then we walked 2 km more to our guesthouse.
This place has the best vibe yet. Maybe too much vibe but after the dullness of the last few it's fun. 12 guests participated in the BBQ party. It was nice socializing.
It's a round 3-story building which I think used to be a restaurant. It's owned and operated by two brothers in their 50's. their 80+ mother also works there. She told us that the elder son had a great high paying job but he quit ten years ago to follow his dream of running a guesthouse and taking guests surfing, biking, and hiking. She commented that its fortunate ghat they own the building since they dibt make much money running the place.

The sons are very sociable. The younger one cooks. To prepare, he put on a white chefs coat and it hid long hair up, samurai style. For the BBQ dinner he armed other guests with gloves and long tongs to keep turning the long thick slabs of meat over the big flames.

After dinner we moved inside to the second floor for makolli (rice wine) and snacks. As usual it was difficult for md to keep up in Korean. My wife and a couple other guests who spoke English helped me.

Another foreigner turned up, Yusef from Palestine. He lives in Japan with his Syrian wife and four children. He was in town for an Electrical Engineering conference sent by his company in Japan. We didn't get to talk long.

I fell asleep quickly at 11 but woke when 3 guys came in after midnight. After that I woke up a lot. Every time I did I saw one guy who didn't sleep, just sat and played with his laptop all night.

Jeju Olle Trail

This blog starts with Day 6. I've taken notes for the first 5 days but haven't typed them up yet. I'll try to get them done. In the meantime, I'll keep up to date on current days.

Day 6, part 1

We survived the night at The Worst Guesthouse in the World. That family should be embarrassed.
Anyhoo, we got out. As we were leaving, the 'host' invited to come back again. Well, he muttered it the first time and had to repeat it. It took a lot of effort to not laugh.
Numerically, course 10 is next but since we're scheduled to walk it on Sunday with Arirang TV for a documentary. So we jumped ahead to course 9.
It's the shortest (7.1 km) but most difficult course, from Hwasun Beach to Daepyeong Pogu via a twisting path through forest and up and over a big hill. We took a bus to Hwasun and started our walk in the hottest weather we've had yet.
All morning neither one of us was feeling inspired to walk. I think if one of us had seriously suggested just taking a beach day, we wouldn't have walked.
The first bit is flat and easy and was familiar. Even though this is our second time on it, the next 5 km is literally new to us. The first time we walked it, Jeju was in the midst of a hoof and mouth disease outbreak so any trails that passed through livestock farms had to be rerouted. Because of #9's location and numerous livestock farms, the temporary route was boring. We took only 2 photos that day. One was of a pile of lime we had to walks through to disinfect. The other could have been taken anywhere. Anywhere boring, that is. We didn't bother taking pictures of the other lime speed bumps.
Even as we turned up into woods we were looking for a short cut. "Surely there's a way to walk the coastline here" we both wondered out loud. We asked a guy at a kayak rental place if it were possible. He made an X with his hands and pointed to the map. Okay, we're doing this.
It was gorgeous. And miserable. The trail wasn't level or straight for more than three steps in succession. It was muddy. And muggy. And we still didn't feel like walking. At places the trail was dotted with cow patties for added fun.
We caught up to and passed a mother and 20-something daughter who was throwing a tantrum that would impress a three-year-old. She hated this but
I realized that I was enjoying the hike. Sweat was clouding my vision and my pack felt twice as heavy but we were on beautiful land. We doubled our speed to get out of earshot and back to quiet. More cow patties, very fresh. I'm starting to think the as-yet-unseen cows use this path more than humans.
The trail got very steep. Coming the other way was a group of students from Inje University in matching yellow sports shirts. We waited and waited for all fifty to pass. The mother and daughter caught up. I could feel her sulking. When the last student passed, she threw an insult at her mother. We quickly left them behind.
We saw some strange brown rocks ahead that looked out of place on this island of volcanic rock. They moved! Cows. A herd of 20 eating grass. On this steep densely wooded land I only expected to see goats. We navigated through the cow patty minefield without incident.
The trail went up up up. At times we walked on wooden walkways erected to protect from erosion. FYI, the cow use them too, apparently only for depositing cow patties. Another herd, on even steeper ground. Very healthy looking.

Eventually we reached the highest point, a spot that was a 180 meter drop straight to the sea. It looked cool and inviting.
The way down was muddier and more slippery. JH slipped. She wasn't hurt but suffered something even worse-- she got dirty. Ten minutes later, I slipped but my huge pack protected me from injury. I left the dirt on my arm.
Finally we made it down to the sea and to the end of course 9.
Plan: eat lunch at a place 'Redbrown' we remembered seeing before and call it a day. Haha, it's just a cafe, but they recommended a restaurant 500 meters away. No problem, we're done walking!
Lunch was fantastic! 강돼장비빔밥, which I will happily explain to anyone who asks.
After lunch, we walked past the bus stop across from the restaurant, 500 meters back to Redbrown for dessert, batbingsu because hey, we're done walking today.

After that we decided to walk the first 10 km of course 8 to our guesthouse instead of taking a bus. We are walkers, after all.

To be continued…

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Jeju Olle Trail

My wife and I are walking the Jeju Olle Trail. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeju_Olle_Trail
It's a series of courses that circumnavigate South Korea's biggest island, Jeju Island. We've walked all but one of the 26 courses before on 5 trips. This is our second time on a two-week trip. The first was winter, and we had a great time in spite of the ridiculous cold, blizzard, and rain.
This trip is in summer so hopefully there will be many chances to swim at the numerous beaches. However, it is rainy season so I'm guardedly hopeful.

For more info and maps: (select English)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A camino passenger

Way back on January 4th, the first day of our walk, we went to the Lisbon Oceanarium and bought a gift for the 18-month old daughter of a Swiss friend's brother.

Today, in Lausanne, Switzerland, we finally got to deliver it. It's a stuffed sea turtle that's been in my backpack for 45 days. It's funny that I carried an animal that has its home on its back in my home on my back. It's also the only item I carried that never got wet.

I carried it a long way and made a cute little girl very happy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Day 32, the end

We were supposed to be out of the albergue by 8. I don't think any of the 12 people there even stirred until 7:30. Most were gone within 20 minutes. Albergue guy hurried us out politely. Yena left early to go to the hospital for an undisclosed reason. I guess not took serious since she left under her own power. Mark treated us to a leisurely breakfast across the street.

It's hard to say good bye. I wish him well. I wonder if we'll ever meet again.

My hip began hurting me 4 nights ago but felt fine on the last walk into Santiago and the day off and the first two days to Fisterra. Yesterday though, it hurt on every step. I've never had pain there before. I hurt while I was sleeping last night and still hurts. I was limping for awhile. By afternoon it felt ok again. No idea.

Last night, I told JH that it hurt and I didn't think I could walk 31 to Muxia. I didn't really want to either. I think she really wanted to continue.

We finally got our long-awaited sunny day. In dazzling sunlight, we sauntered 3 km to the lighthouse, enjoying a seemingly endless view across the ocean.

We took our pictures at the 0.0 marker and put Gyueon's sleeping bag in the trash along with their worn out hiking sticks. We made our way down the lighthouse cliff until we were as close to the edge as we dared.

I pulled out Derek's shell, checked the wind, and whipped it sidearm to the water. It spun and floated perfectly to a gap in the rocks and dropped straight down into the crashing waves.

Bom caminho.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 31, Fisterra, 29 km

More fog, rain, rainbows.

The fog lifted and gave us a look at the Atlantic Ocean. Suddenly I realized why I'd thought about Derek on that rainy day more than two weeks ago (the song is still looping!)-- Derek loved water. The four places we scattered his ashes were water. Growing up, we spent whole summers at at Lake Massapoag. In Mexico, we spent more time in the pool and ocean than anywhere else. If there were such a thing as reincarnation, I'd hope he'd come back as a dolphin.

I suddenly knew what to do with the shell with his name on it.

Today's walk featured a 15km stretch of dirt roads. No buildings, no traffic, few people. Just our feet hitting the ground. JH and I like to walk hand in hand when the trail allows it. Today we walked that way for so long that when we finally let go, I psychically lost my balance.

For a long time afterwards, the three of us were spread out physically and lost in our own thoughts. Gyueon was out sight in front of me, JH far behind. Gyueon wasn't thinking anything more profound than, "I'm almost done! Freedom!"

Jeonghwa was thinking about tomorrow's walk to Muxia and how she wished the whole trip had been as nice as this. Even in the rain and long distance, it was comfortable. I was thinking of not continuing to Muxia. In my mind Fisterra, seemed the proper end, especially considering what I planned to do. Besides, for the first time, I was experiencing pain walking. I was worried that I couldn't continue.

The rest of the walk was great, next to the ocean. It was another perfect day.

Outside the albergue, I was accosted by a man asking for money so he could stay in the albergue. I listened to his plea-- he just needed €5 to complete his trip. He almost had me then I realized he had beer on his breath. Wait a sec. He has money for beer but not for the albergue? Bye. We went in and presented our credentials

An intimidating man asked, "Where did you come from today?"


"Where's your stamp?", he demanded.


This was the only time I'd ever forgotten to get stamped. I pleaded my case by spouting gibberish. I don't even know what I was saying but it was all wrong.

"You're telling me you walked 48 km today?!?!"

"Yes. No. I mean no. I mean what?"

JH said to me,"You didn't get stamped? I'm gonna kill you. Unbelievable."

She was acting, I'm sure of it.

The man said that we couldn't stay there, "this isn't a hotel. This is for peregrinos who walk here. You can't take a bus and stay here."

I couldn't understand why the guy was being so tough and aggressive and said, "I don't want trouble. We'll go somewhere else." I didn't care about getting another certificate. That's not why I did this. And I was really going to leave.

Then the drunk beggar came in, for obviously not the first time. Ah, that's the problem. Albergue guy is taking it out on us. Another Peregrino took care of the drunk, leading him out and to a different place.

Meanwhile albergue guy's partner calmed everyone down. "Maybe you took pictures of your walk today?", she asked.

We whipped out our camera and phones to offer proof. Good enough. Smiles and apologies all around. Good vibes. We got stamped. The woman mentioned that she designed the very first stamp we'd gotten way back in Lisbon. JH got her to sign it. We got certificates that I did suddenly care about.

We were in!

Upstairs, we were reunited with Yena. We saw Marks pack, heard that he'd gone to watch the sunset at the lighthouse.

After we returned from dinner, we were reunited with Mark. We presented him with a Ganse and he proudly put it on his pack.

This was probably the worst of all albergues. Dirty, crowded, and noisy but it was perfectly appropriate. I fell asleep instantly and slept like a baby for three hours then woke up to pee.

CREAK went the bed. RATTLE RATTLE I knocked over my water bottle. CREAK went the door. SLAM! I whispered apologies. Several creaks, bumps, and a whizz later I was back in bed, and I lay there awake until morning ready for tomorrow.