My friend Karen ‘disappeared’ for a few days which is a very long time in today’s connected world. She didn’t reply to my calls and messages; not even a comment on my blog. This is very unlike her. Karen is always responsive.
Last week I got her brief message “In Korea”. Which Korea? I was getting worried. Has she gone further north than she should? On Monday another message “I’m back. Let’s catch up.” We caught up the first chance we could.
Glowing with health and looking extremely relaxed, Karen wasn’t stuck in DMZ as I feared. Instead she was having a wonderful time at JejuOlle, a Walking Festival with participants from all ages, diverse backgrounds and nationalities on a 64km trail of beaches, hills, forests, fields, villages and unspoilt countryside on Jeju Island.
Jeju is a volcanic island south of the Korean peninsula. It was once a place for exiled politicians and banished subjects under the Chosan Dynasty, as well as the origin of an uprising which led to clashes and atrocities in the late 1940s.
Come to think of it, I’ve been to Jeju to visit some historical sites. I knew it as Cheju at a time when the K-Pop stars should still be in pre-school and riots were not uncommon in Seoul, where maimed war victims could still be seen in the marketplaces and South Korea wasn’t as cool as it is today.
My memory of Jeju was a boring, forgotten place detached from the vibrant mainland. This must be the reason for its well preserved natural landscapes making it a World Heritage site and listed as one of the New7Wonders of Nature and a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Listening to Karen’s account of her fantastic experience, I regretted not going on this trip. It sounded like a perfect holiday – lots of open spaces, fresh air, cool weather, good food, nice company, entertainment along the way, and most importantly walking at your own pace.
Well, there’s always next year. Let me know if you are interested to join in November 2013. Till then, here’s a preview of the holiday.