I didn’t know so much work went into maintaining the Jeju Olle routes until now.
Really, I didn’t.
Previously I was a walker who enjoyed the routes purely from the walking side. I would arrive at a route starting point in the morning and wander along almost care-free for the day. I would follow the ribbons and arrows through the gorgeous Jeju countryside feeling the stress of the working week drain away.
Good memories were created. It was always so simple.
However, to enable me to have such days, groups of volunteers work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep everything functioning so people like you and me can just turn up and walk.
One of these groups comes together under the ‘Clean Olle’ banner. It is a group assembled once a month with trash grabbers and trash bags in hands to keep a selected route tidy.
On Mar. 9 2013, 32 volunteers arrived in Jeoji on the west side of the island for a 10 o’clock start at Route 14.
From Jeoji to Hyeopjae the type of trash changed markedly throughout the day. It started at the entrances to farmers fields with piles of bottles, rope, and bits lying about which had to be dealt with carefully. In the forest near benches and natural rest stops, orange peel, sweet wrappers, cigarette butts, and bottled water were discarded.
Prior to lunch we had coped quite well as a group. However, after a hearty bowl of sea urchin and cactus noodle guk-su, the situation changed in Weolreong.
The coastal area was carpeted in trash. We tried our best, but simply put, there was too much for us with the type of equipment we had. Therefore we tried to focus on specific, small, areas. We found slippers, so much glass, and polystyrene. Then when you looked up and moved on a little bit you realized how much there still was to clean.
One of the other foreigners who joined the event for the day and was certainly looking at this issue more closely was an American high school teacher, Jessica Carrier. Now working at an international school on the island she is, as part of a master’s program, researching the trash found on Olle routes.
“I’m going to be putting together this information with the other information I’ve collected from the other trails to look at what areas seem to be affected by unavoidable causes versus what areas seem to be affected by simple litter or trash that is left behind from tourists,” she explained.
“I want to map it out on Google Earth… to analyze the data and see if there are any commonalities between the type of trash being found and where on the trails is it being found,” she said.
What also strikes about the day is the work other volunteers do to help the volunteers collecting the trash. At certain points along the route one dedicated volunteer would arrive with their car to take away full bags and provide new ones. The leaders of Olle routes 5 and 7-1 were on hand to add ribbons to trees making sure the trail as adequately marked.
Leading everyone was Oh Soon-deok, an early graduate from Jeju Olle’s academy. She said the clean up days began in February 2010 after a group of graduates came up with the idea.
“At first we started with 10 liter bags, then 20 liter bags, and now just before Route 14 we used 50 liter bags and sacks,” she explained.
She also said all types of people come out for the day- from students, to teachers, to housewives, and people from the mainland. Even Olle founder, Suh Myung-sook, chips in. This, however, is the first time foreigners have participated.
“I recommend everyone to experience this event and feel it,” Oh explained. “The reason we’re doing this is to not only clean the Olle route, but we want to do something with meaning and valuable. Then we can have a good feeling… you can hardly wait for the next ‘Clean Olle’,” said Oh.
* This story has been updated and edited. It originally appeared on the Jeju-based Internet news web site Jnuri (http://www.jnuri.net/news/articleView.html?idxno=11667) | By Jim Saunders