Sunday, August 28, 2011

Forget dogmeat.. eat a stupid horsie!

Over at Roboseyo's website, some cultural imperialists are arguing it is wrong to eat dog meat. These folks are mainly vegetarians (LAME!) and vegans (LAMEST!), who I will not judge, for judgment is wrong (THEY ARE LAME AND DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEIR TEETH ARE FOR!). Then there are the idiots who claim that dogs are different from other meat because they fetch our newspapers and can lick their own balls (these anthropomorphists, I believe, are jealous of that and thus over idealize dogs).

But forget dogs... you can eat an animal that is a pet, a source of travel and in Black Velvet.

Yup, on Jeju you can eat stoopid horsies!

We got in the restaurant accidentally, because it said "Galbijjim" (Imagine that in Korean, if you can). But we sat down and I noticed there were "course" meals that included all kinds of weird things that are NEVER together in a normal Korean restaurant: sashimi, galbijjim, some soups, etc). The galbijjim landed and was very gamey... I then looked over my shoulder and saw 말고기 (horse flesh) which is a way a live horse is never described..

Suddenly it all came together and I realized all the pictures of the noble horses running on the beach, nuzzling their puppies (or whatever little horses are called), and rearing up on their back legs?

That was to get my appetite going!

Yvonne ate it up like it was morphine-based candy!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yvonne wAntZ dinARZ..

So, as we walk around the streets of of Jeju-si she asks if we can eat in the local restaurant.

Yeah, that's her food!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Jeju Day Three

After our rainy walk on Udo, we set off on the first "proper" section of the Olle Trail. We grabbed a cab from the hotel, which took us back to where we had been dropped off on our first day (a story that the Blogger ate, which I will repost shortly.) There, a few feet from the bus-stop, was the entrance to the first Olle Trail. On the other side of the road from it, there is an information booth that also sells small things like energy-bars and water.
That lovely picture is the beginning of the trail, and off to the right you can see the first 오름 (or "parasitic volcano' or 'small inactive volcano'). We walked for a bit, and then headed up it for a total of about 2.9 kilometers in. The views were ok, but not as good as from the 오름 we would soon go up. It was through pretty land, pastureland really, with lots of greenery, and occasional rain and cows. Also, of course, cowshit. Tons and tons of cowshit.

After a walk through the valley of the shadow of cowshit, we headed up the second 오름 the top of which had a brilliant view of Udo and a massive geographical feature that we weren't yet familiar with 일출봉, or "First Sunrise Peak." We'll get back to that.

Here is Yvonne trekking up the second 오름

And here she is triumphant, unaware of the evil that is to follow.

The first evil was that I, in shorts, managed to slip on the way down a relatively easy dirt trail. This smeared mud on my left calf to such an extent that the next day I had a differential sunburn. I tried hard not to contemplate what the cowshit % of the dirt was, and soldiered on.

Then the trail wandered down to a small store and then a flatish area with the traditional stone walls of Jeju (which I will post below this, because they are everywhere and kind of cool) and various plots of land. We wandered through this for some time, our packs growing heavier at each step.

Finally, we broke out of this (think of hedgerows in Europe) and came to a small village, in which we promptly became extremely lost, but unaware of the fact. We did notice that we were no longer seeing any of the painted blue arrows, or blue ribbons that indicated the trail, but we were confidently following a Korean family that had been on the Olle with us. One thing about the trail, if you're a "spaceout" hiker like I am, you can miss changes in the trail direction.

The evil town in which lostness ensued!

Anyway, we eventually got to a ferry port which was quite clearly NOT on the trail. By comparing a Jeju map to the Olle map, I figured out that we were on the "Shore Road" somewhere, and that by heading down it we would either rejoin the Olle, or figure out where on it we were.

Yvonne violently disagreed with this conclusion (an annoying thing she did at every opportunity) and it took some convincing to get her on the tread again. We walked a while and, sure enough, we eventually saw the reassuring blue ribbons and paint that marked the trail. Part of the reason we had got lost is that ALL road features on Jeju are marked in blue paint (e.g. gas lines, manholes) so it is easy to see false positives for trail markers. I'm not sure why the Olle folks didn't choose a different color?

Anyway, we were now on the "esplanade,' which just means footpunding regular old road. We walked past a bunch of squid hanging up to dry, and stopped for a beer and coke at a lovely roadside cafe directly after an equally lovely statue of a Haenyo (female diver for which Jeju is famous.

Then we plodded on, with so-so views of the ocean to our left.

An hour or so later, I was amazed to discover we had done a big loop... we were back at the hotel in which we had stayed the first night. Even more amusing, the guy who ran it heard our voices as we passed, and leaned out a 2nd story window and said hello to us (this story will make a bit more sense when I repost the first day). We trod on, until it became clear that we we going to end up about 300 meters from our hotel, before we finished the last 3-4 kilometers of our day.

The temptation was too much, and we headed for the hotel. ^^

We had meat for dinner, as we did basically every night that Yvonne and I were together. It's her all time favorite Korean food, though it sometimes wears me out.

The next day, Yvonne was to meet up with our friend Joy (Of the "Foreigner Joy" website) and the big geographical thing we had seen earlier turned out to be right behind the hotel. So, we decided that our next day would be hiking up that, retracing out lost section of the first trail, and then continuing on to finish the last bit of it.

At this point, I had begun to develop some awesome blisters, and a semi day off seemed quite appealing.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Olle Trail 1.1

On day two we headed over to Udo island to walk a 15 kilometer "easy" course around that island. We grabbed a cab, which was a bit ridiculous, because the hotel was close enough to the port that we didn't even get the meter turned over for the cabbie. I felt bad enough that I tipped him to the next chun-won, which was still a pathetic 3 chun-won.

The ticket office was jammed, and we got our tickets and hopped onto the ferry, which took us to one of the two ports on Udo.

We went a lot of cool places, which I will talk about when I get home and can post pictures.. Mainly, as Udo is known as "mini-Jeju," it gave us some hint of what to come, including some brilliant basaltic volcanic stuff, more of which we saw as we headed up the Olle Trail. That picture, by the way, is Yvonne tramping up the butt of the cow (Koreans believe that Udo is an island in the form of a cow lying down, but you know, with cows, they can lie down a lot of ways).

But at a certain point we not only lost the trail (which was actually the second time we'd done so) but it began to rain in horrible shitty buckets. We cranked our way past the lighthouse and to the rather nice beach on the backside of the island. Unfortunately it was really pouring by now, and Jeju is quite windy, so the rain comes in sideways like bullets. While we were stopping so that I could take a picture of Yvonne in full raingear, a car with a young/middle-aged couple stopped to make sure that we were ok. More of that lovely Jeju attitude.

We trudged on until we came to three young girls on bicycles who had stopped by the side of the road to figure out where they were going to go next. They stopped us in the middle of the road and showed us their map, and where we should go. As it turned out, even on our lost walk we had pretty much followed the Olle trail (not unlikely given that it's a small island that you just kind of walk counter-clockwise on). We dried out in a bus stop with a halmoni, and caught a bus that sort of drove us back the way we had come, and brought us back to the port.

We returned to Songsan and our new hotel pretty unimpressed by what we had seen of the Olle trail. It had basically been on a main road except for some rather random and short excursions into horse-fields and meadows that then immediately dumped us back on the road.

Underwhelmed, we contemplated out plans. We decided we would do Olle Trail 1 the next day, and see if it was a bit better.

For dinner we had some of the fattiest pork we've had in Korea....

An unispiring day, and we were kind of beat down by all the pavement we had walked on, and all the camping equipment in our backpacks - and we hadn't seen a single site worth camping in.


Oh well, we had seen some cool basalt formations in the sea, some cool beaches, and at least gotten a start.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Day One - getting there

WARNING: This post may contain incidents of extremely friendly and supportive behavior from total strangers!

Yvonne and I headed to the airport (Gimpo not Incheon, so much closer to home) on Friday morning, and boarded a Jeju Air plane to Jeju city. The flight was relatively boring, except for that bit where the waitresses-in-the-sky put on bunny ears and ran two games of rock/paper/scissors for everyone in the cabin. We had no idea what the gifts were, but by the second game Yvonne played vigorously but unsuccessfully, being knocked out in round number one.

Then it was out to hot and sweaty Jeju. We grabbed a local bus to the intercity bus terminal, and there grabbed a bus down to Siheung-ri, the bus stop from which we had been told we could find our hotel. The trip down was uneventful, except for the fact that there are two really similar busstop names and I freaked out for a moment when, 20 minutes into the ride that name came over the intercom. I raced out my map, and figured out by highway signs that there was no way we were close to our stop. So I could resume my typical near-coma state.

At this point, we began to get the notion that Jeju was very different from Seoul; in fact, much friendlier.

It became clear we were not going to make it to our hotel at the time we had agreed on. My lovely wife called the hotel and got the guy who knows absolutely no English. They confused each other for a while, during which time two young ladies got on the bus, one of whom sat next to me. I asked Yvonne for the phone and called the hotel. In my (what is more than 'broken?') Korean, I told him we were on the way, but used the wrong numbering system in talking about time. After I hung up, the woman complimented me on my Korean (in Korean, which is one of the few bits of business in Korean that I can now easily hear - it's all that follows that is gibberish to me^^). We then chatted for a bit before she opened her purse, pulled out a just-dead starfish, and offered it to me as a gift.

This was touching but bizarre. Without going into nasty detail, "starfish" is a word that some expatriates use to describe Korean women in a derogatory way when they are in, shall we say, compromising positions?

Still, she had sat down, started a conversation, and was just about to help us on the phone when the hotel guy rounded up someone with some English, who sorted things out with Yvonne.

When we finally did get to our busstop, and it turned out that all the Olle Trail busstops are announced as such in Korean, English, and Heathen Chinee, we hopped out into the middle of what looked like nowhere.

We wandered, tentatively, this way and that, but it was really in the middle of nowhere and there were no taxis (which is how the hotel had told us to get there).

So, before calling a taxi company, we talked to some people on the scene. One woman had no idea, but when we talked to two ajjumah getting into a car, they sprang into action. They called the hotel to find out where it was. We had communicated to them that the hotel said we should take a taxi, and when the first ajjumah put down the phone from talking to the hotel, she started rapidly talking to her friend in what was clearly disbelief that the hotel had guided us here.

So, she pointed to where the hotel was, and then put us both in her car and drove us there!

This meant crossing a highway, driving down a gravel road, cruising through a couple of of walled neighborhoods, and then dropping us off at the hotel, which, as a bonus had been renamed!

I simply can't imagine this happening in Seoul. Jeju is unbelievably friendly.

When we got to the hotel, the hotel guy was super sympathetic/apologetic that we had got lost, and helped us into the room. One look at Udo (the island offshore) and I began to change my plan. Udo has an "optional" Olle Trail, and I decided that would be a good way to start. So Yvonne went down to ask the hotel guy if we could get a second night.

Alas, the hotel was booked.

10 minutes later, he came up and knocked on our door.

He had begun calling other hotels in the area, and had found us lodging for the next night that was even closer to the ferry port that his hotel.

Again, an act of massive and gratuitous friendliness.

We walked into town and had some BBQ pig, then headed back to the hotel for some sleep, with the real fun beginning the next morning.

Hotel Guy