Way back in July I met a South African chick who made it her summer mission to cycle all round Korea. I caught up with Thato Mokobane when she visited Pohang and again later at Korea Burn. Working in Seoul as a university lecturer, Thato also DJs on the side and we share 2 loves: scuba diving and cycling. I gave her a list of questions to answer at the end of her journey and I was very excited to get her replies last week.
1. How old are you? 29, guess I wanted to get this trip under my belt before my dreaded 30th.
2. Why are you doing this trip? I haven’t quite figured that out yet. All I know is that I love cycling, I love travel and I’ve been eager to explore Korea… Get to really know the country I live in.
3. What do your kids and school think about you doing it? I teach University students, so they think I’m pretty badass. My co-workers and superiors were a little concerned about the risks of doing a trip like this on my own, but for the most part they have been very supportive.
4. How many kms have you done so far? How many days have you been on the road? I’ve been on the road for just over 7 weeks. As for the km I’ve done, I’d have to guesstimate somewhere in the region of 7000km, but I can’t be completely sure.
5. How long do you expect the journey to take? Are you on schedule so far? I’ve been on schedule for the most part, sometimes a little ahead and other times a little behind, but so far so good. I had planned for a two month time frame and have managed to stick to it so far. I can’t believe I have just under a week left.
6. What’s been your longest day so far? My longest day was a few weeks ago, when I rode 150km from Seoul to Chungju Dam. That was definitely a personal record.
7. Have you had any dramas along the way? Small things mostly, running out of water, getting lost and having to ride in the rain. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had guardian angels who have assisted me along the way whenever something went wrong, so it’s been quite a pleasant trip.
8. What’s been your favourite part so far? Without a doubt, Korea burn was my favorite festival to visit during this trip. I got to meet up and party with friends for a couple of days on the west coast. It gets pretty lonely on the road alone, so getting to spend a weekend with friend after a month of cycling alone in a country where few people speak English, was definitely a highlight. I also discovered a recently added bike path that goes from Chungju to Daecheon. For a biking enthusiast like myself, the discovery of a new long distance bike path is like Christmas, Easter and My birthday all rolled into one.
9. Give us an idea of your daily food intake. I wish I could say I mostly ate Korean food, but unfortunately that would be a lie. When you’re cycling close to 100km a day, time becomes a scarce commodity, and stopping to eat at a restaurant a luxury I could not always afford. So I mostly ate convenience store food while on the road. And then when I finally reached my destination, most of the time I was too tired to go looking for a good place to eat, so I most nights I dined on either McDonalds or Lotteria… Which is why I haven’t lost much weight during my trip.
10. Do you use music? What’s your perfect playlist? In Seoul, I fancy myself a bit of a DJ, so music is a big component of my daily ride. I have about 10 mixes that I put together myself, all house music. Deep house for the chilled out ride, hard house for when I need to light a fire under my ass, and electro for the long ride.
11. Are you going to keep cycling back home? I hope to keep cycling around the world, and I would love to do Africa at some point. However the landscape and infrastructure is completely different to Korea and a lot of research and planning would be needed for that type of ride.
12. Has the trip changed your view of Korea and Korean people? If anything, it’s cemented my love for Korea. As soon as you get out of the main cities, the Koreans you meet are the friendliest most helpful people you’ll ever meet. The love and pride they have for their country was the biggest thing I noticed on this trip. Everywhere I went, I was met with words of cheer and encouragement for what I was doing, and countless stories and suggestions of things I had to include and see along the way. Not to mention the discounts and freebies I collected from cycling enthusiasts.
Check out her adventures on Facebook.
I’m so stoked that I met you Thato- you’re a great inspiration. I hope your adventures continue once you head back to South Africa!