Today my co-teacher laughed at me, but in a good way. We were discussing what we’re going to do over the weekend. She guessed before I had a chance to open my mouth–“hiking, right?”
I’ve become such a hiker, in fact, that instead of asking me what I did over the weekend, my students now just say, “hiking?” and look at me (and my rock-star tiger calves) with awe.
Marc and I have fallen in love with hiking–specifically with hiking around the entirety of Jeju Island. The expression “fallen in love” though is an insult to the pure, intense emotional state we experience over this hobby. “Obsessed” makes it seem like our fevered excitement over putting on our packs and running out the door is nothing more than a weird pass-time. No–we are nothing less than BANANAS TO THE MAX EXTREME about getting all the way around the island on what is known as the Jeju Olle Trail.
The Olle consists of 26 shorter trails, ranging in length from 5km to 22.9km–most of the trails are between 14-18km. The length of the entire trail is around 440km (273 miles!). And we are going to hike the heck out of it.
Olle was founded in 2007 and its estimated that in 2008 alone, over 1 million people hiked at least a portion of it, which isn’t surprising, given that Seoul–Jeju is the busiest passenger flight-path in the world.
The name of the trails has its genesis in the word Ollegil (올레길) which roughly translates into the road that connects two houses. The word is distinctive to the Jeju dialect, and forms a bit of a pun in Korean standard, sounding similar to “Would you come?” Thus, the name is a welcoming invitation to hike around Jeju. (It’s also conveniently the same sound as a certain soccer anthem, which we make sure to sing at the start of each trail.)
Olle was founded by a former journalist, Suh Myung-Suk. She was inspired by her trek though the Camino de Santiago, that myriad of trails that terminates at the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela in Galasia, Spain.
The Olle organization encourages hikers to “walk slowly, and enjoy every step.” While we often ignore the first part (who wants to hike slowly?) we couldn’t avoid the second, even had we wanted to. It is Crayon-Pop-levels-of-fun-ice-cream.