Category Archives: Cycling

101 List and 4 Rivers update

Just over a year ago, I wrote my “101” list:  the 101 things I’d like to do in the next 3 years. So far, I’ve been able to scratch 33 tasks from my list and this weekend I’ll complete #34. This is a biggy for me: completing the 4 Rivers Trail.

I completed the Geumgang on the first day of November, setting myself a new PB:  189km  in just over 12 hours.

I started in Gunsan, ended in Daejeon and I found the signage to be a bit crap in places so I’d suggest doing it the other way around (like the book advises). It was a one-day affair for me: mostly flat and easy but long.

I bussed into Gunsan from Pohang late on a Friday night, slept very soundly in  a motel behind the station (the bed was doubly inviting thanks to the electric blanket). I paid 50,000 won for the room, but I knew that the next day would be a long one so I allowed myself this little extravagance. After all, it had a bath tub and I scored 2 new toothbrushes for my bike cleaning kit! I was going to wake up at 6AM but it was so dark and snugly that I slept in until 8.

Riding along an estuary during autumn is pretty spectacular, with all the ducks practicing their winter flight formations. I saw hundreds of birds that morning. I met a Korean rider along the way who was finishing his last river. After we reached his final stamp booth, we posed for some photos and commemorated the occasion with a quick CU coffee and some Oreos.

He asked me if I wasn’t afraid of cycling alone. Lots of people have asked me this and yeah, if I were in another country, I wouldn’t cycle solo. I feel so safe in Korea. I feel extremely comfortable riding as a solo female in the dark, in the middle of nowhere and being lost. I have always found the Koreans I’ve met on my travels to be trustworthy, honest and helpful, despite my basic Hangul-skillz.

Soon after leaving the cyclist behind (at Iksanseongdangpogu Certification Center) I got horribly lost. I was following mile markers along the river when the path just stopped. I guess I crossed the river too early… I made a low-sugar decision to go by road until I found the next stamp booth… this lead to a stressful ride on a narrow road full of traffic and roadworks. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching the day fall away around you as you try to find your bearings. I was pretty relieved when I finally made it to Gongju-si. If I had more time I would have stopped for a look round, since there’s loads of cool history here.

As light gave way to dark I put my head down and the rest of my ride was pretty uneventful if misty. I had to cycle past  a slew of restaurants on the way to Daecheong Dam: torture to a cold, tired, hungry cyclist and at the same time, the promise of rest and warm, soothing Korean food makes you peddle just that little bit faster. I swear there’s nothing better than any jigae, rice and beer after a long ride.

Tomorrow’s ride will be on a tight budget: it’s the weekend before pay day. I’m pretty psyched to know that I am so close to achieving my goal. Cycling Korea has been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

What’s next? SNOWBOARDING SEASON!!!

P.S: My MP3 speaker is great- it lasted the whole way!

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Cycling from Pohang to Gyeongju (40km/ 2 hours)

On Hangeul Day, a public holiday in Korea, I finally made time to cycle from Pohang to Gyeongju. The bus journey between the 2 cities takes 30-40 minutes and the straightest line (on highway 7) makes it just over 30km. But I’m not looking for straight lines. I’m looking for curves that will swoop around beautiful stretches of farm land, small villages, rivers and streams.

The first time I did the ride I had the good fortune to be stopped by a farmer who was having a barbeque with his family and friends. I met his family, horses, dogs and cows and sampled some really tender beef! It was a random but great encounter, just another example of the extreme generosity and kindness you will come across in this country.

The route back was slightly less auspicious as I left Gyeongju a bit late and got horribly lost on the small country roads. It took me 4 hours to get home, double the time it should have taken! It was a beautiful night ride though, the night after the lunar eclipse: huge moon, clear skies… you could even see some stars. The silence of the sleepy countryside was intermittently interrupted by the sound of a stream or river nearby. It would have been true bliss had I not been so lost.

I was determined to try the route again since it’s a nice easy ride that’s easy on the eye. I made a pig’s ear of  the route on the way there so I’m only going to post my return route (Gyeongju-Pohang).

Most of the route will be on quiet concrete country roads/ nice bike paths, maybe 55%, about 5% on road, 15% gravel and 15% side walk/ shitty bike paths. I did the ride on my road bike, which handled the gravel sections fine but beware of uneven surfaces just before leaving Pohang and when you’re cycling in Gyeongju (next to the main road – there are some truly awful bits that can give you a snakebite if you’re not on the look-out). Obviously it’s common sense to take a spare tube, patching kit and a pump with you.

Some cool restaurants  near the Express Bus Terminal in Gyeongju include:

– Hawa Dhaba 하와다바 (Indian food) – google 하와다바 HawaDhaba 경상북도 경주시황오동 108-2

– Kong Story  꽁스토리 (Falafels)- opposite the Express Bus Terminal. OMG so good.

– NeCoZzang 네코짱 (Japanese Ramen)- also very near the Express Bus Terminal.

Here’s my route on Strava: http://www.strava.com/activities/209040367/embed/dbbd52f4072d70d513c188145f42f5158175d1b1

My Pohang start/ end point is Posco bridge, since it’s a well-known landmark. My Gyeongju start/ end point is very near the Express Bus Terminal. Where you can see loops it signifies going off-route so just go straight (none of the detours are huge though, should they occur). If you are starting from Pohang, you will need to cross the road when you see the huge retail park between Pohang and Gyeongju, otherwise you’ll be cycling against highway  traffic coming around a corner. Do-able but not safe at all.

Tunes!

I bumped into one of my high school co-workers last night while she was taking her new MTB for a tame Pohang spin. Nice bike but what really caught my eye was the cool speaker/ light combo she had attached to her handle bar.

She bought one off gmarket for 19,000 won but so far, on the global version I’ve only been able to find ones around the 40,000 won mark.

Check it out. Or stick to one headphone on medium volume 😉

You can also buy a mobile phone bracket online but the price range varies quite a lot with cheap models retailing for just under 9,000 won. This number looks like a sensible price middle ground. Personally, I’m a bit wary of having my phone on my handle bars- I feel it’s slighty safer in your rear pocket in case of an accident. Let me know how it works out for you if you get one!

Cycling Jeju

My friend Pieter and I are trying to complete all the routes in our KTO cross country passport before winter kicks in and before we leave Korea next year. We have a few small river routes to complete but we just added Jeju to our list of DONE. Once we’ve completed all our rides we’ll qualify for the “Grand Slam” certificate and medal. Put that way it sounds a bit lame. We’re not doing it for the medals 😉  Using the cycle passport is hands down the best, most organized way to see Korea during your time here. It has only enriched the Korean experience for me and I feel I have gained a deeper understanding and love for the country as a result.

Getting to Jeju

You can fly or take a ferry. If you fly you should box up your bike (get one from your local bike shop). Since we were planning this ride for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) flights and ferry spaces were thin on the ground and expensive. Enter “Enjoy Korea” and their super affordable Chuseok 4 day weekender. Stacey Kim is American- Korean and she runs Enjoy Korea with the perfect blend of professionalism and partying. She is the missing link between Western and Korean culture and she makes tour planning seem effortless. I’ve used all 4 of the main Tour Groups for foreigners in Korea (Adventure Korea, Waegook Travel, WiNK and Enjoy Korea) and Stacey wins hands down.

You can take a ferry from Busan or Mokpo but the Busan ferry takes 12 hours (overnight) whereas Mokpo can take from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours (depending on the company you use).Our journey started from Mokpo and took around 4 hours. Load your bike into the cargo hold before joining the queue to board the ferry. If you’re not piggy-backing onto a pre-existing package tour it’s worth thinking about your way back since buses and trains tend to be booked out on public holidays like Chuseok.

The Cycle route

Once you’re on the island the cycling route is pretty straightforward. The terrain is mostly flat and most of the roads have a separate lane for cyclists. It was only in Jeju City  lacked a decent cycle lane/ sidewalk option for road bikes. I definitely felt uncomfortable and I’d say I’m a fairly experienced cyclist. We cycled anti-clockwise but usually most people go clockwise due to the winds (we didn’t know this). We were cycling into headwind most of the time but luckily it wasn’t strong.

The route is 234km long and has 9 stops for stamps. Heads up: there are no red stamp booths like the rest of the 4 Rivers Trail. This is still a work in progress for the KTO at the time of writing so you have to take photos in front of the stops as proof instead. You can easily circumnavigate Jeju in 2 days and see some extra sights along the way. We started both days at 07:30 and finished at 18:30 with a few stops and 1 hour lunch breaks.

We added two stops to our route: Jusangjeollidae (lava column-shaped cliffs) and the Haenyeo Museum (traditional Korean female freedivers). If you have time you can also add Cheonjiyeon and Jeongbang waterfalls to your list. Jusangjeollidae and the waterfalls are all in the Seogwipo area. The Haenyeo Museum is located in Gujwa, between Seongsan (the lava crater) and Gimnyeong.

The best

Gimnyeon. Make time to stop and swim here. I’ve seen many beaches in my life but  this ranks as one of my top 3 with its white sands and azure waters.

Jusangjeollidae: not on the map but it should be.

Seongsan:  Try to start day 2 here because the sunrise is definitely worth it.

The worst

Sarabong, Yong Du Am and Turtle Lighthouse

– Sarabong is great for sunset apparently but it’s not good for much else. It’s awkward to find and I didn’t enjoy riding there.If you want a beach sunset, go to Hyeopjae beach instead.

– Yong Du Am. Korean for Tourist Trap. Cue 100 buses and 10000 tourists vying to take photos of a rock. Local government needs to make the cycle route to this destination safer.

– Turtle Lighthouse. Ahhh, Turtle Lighthouse the bain of my life. The mysterious landmark that not even Tourist Information in Seogwipo could tell us the location of. So mysterious that not even the people in the surrounding area knew its name. Not located by googling No sign boards.  So you’re thinking “How hard can it be? It’s a lighthouse for  fuck’s sake!!” but actually there are many faux lighthouses and harbours along this part of the coast. From Jeju City,  with the sea on your right, keep to the coastal road, ride past a UFO shaped cafe and a harbour with entrance lights shaped like llamas/ dragons/ horse (one red and 1 white llama shaped building). Apparently they are called the Iho Hang Breakwaters. Anyway, it’s soon after that – keep your eyes out because you won’t be right next to the coast, but you can see it from the main road so just turn off and go through some tiny village roads until you hit the small harbour. The dark turtle is sandwiched between the base of the white building and tower. It would have been cute if it hadn’t been such a pain in the ass to find. After 2 hours of internet searching, I found that “Cheon nyeon hak” was filmed here and on this version of the Jeju map (which is not the same as the one in most Jeju Tourist Info centres) it shows the location as “Turtle Lighthouse (filming spot Cheonnyeon Hak)”- B2.

Roadworks

At the time of writing there was some major roadworks between Jocheon and the Jeju Folklore Museum. We rode a closed, half-built, empty, beautiful 4 lane highway as far as we could but then had to go back onto the 1132 which was also down to 1 lane being shared between cyclists and cars. Be very careful in this section, especially the part because it’s very messy. There is a very cool temple in this area called the Buddha Sharira Stupa for World Peace and Unification (평화통일불사리탑) and you can see the 1132 and the new road under construction (and where it stops).

Notes

– If you have time, try to cycle on the coastal “shore” road instead of the 1132. The 1132 is very efficient but mostly pretty dull and ugly.

– All tourist attractions have a minimal entry fee so take cash with you.

– Make sure you don’t over-pack and definitely take time sink your teeth into some juicy Jeju tangerines along the way.

– Signage for the Haenyeo Museum is pretty sparse so when you see the sign get ready to turn!

– There are plenty accommodation options. We paid 50,000 won to stay at a minbak opposite the beach with a great view of Seongsan.

– Great cheesy pizza and calzone to be found in Sinyang-ri.

– You have to eat black pig while you’re in Jeju. Unless you’re a vegetarian, in which case you must visit The Loving Hut in Jeju City or Jungmun area.

Other things to do in Jeju other than cycle

– Scuba dive: you can dive the lava tubes around Seonsan. Big Blue is one of the dive shops operated by English speakers, based in Seogwipo.

– SUP, windsurf and kiteboard. Zooty Club near Seongsan.

– Drink and play like a kid going down slides, climbing up poles, drinking buckets containing generous shots. A night you’ll remember because of the craziness at Monkey Beach in Seogwipo.

Loveland: strange if you’ve never been to a sex museum, mediocre if you’ve been to the one in Gyeongju.

– Jeju Museum of Art: located next to Loveland, 1000 won entry, highly recommended. I saw a great exhibition of works by Park Woo-sung, Victor Cho and Wee Young-il.

 

 

Biking adventures of a Random Black Girl

20140703_123256Way 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!

 

Recycled inner tube jewellery

My 101 list is always in the back of my mind and over the last week I managed to tick another task off my list.

A few years ago I attended a Bicycle Festival in East London, where I played around with creating bracelets from old bicycle inner tubes.

I decided (quite late) that I wanted to give it a go at Korea Burn this year. So with 3 days to spare I bought 70,000 won’s worth of jewellery paraphernalia from a shop downtown, and collected as many old inner tubes from my local bike shops as possible. They’re all quite stingy with their old tubes, since Koreans already know a lot about recycling and using things to their maximum potential. (That said, they definitely produce waaaaay more plastic than is necessary).

I made a pair of feather-skull earrings and started on a bracelet but it was quite hard using cutting boards on the beach instead of a table so after a while I gave up and got back to tanning, swimming and partying. I initially used fabric paint on the tubes but it’s better to use nail varnish!

I just finished my fish bracelet.

If you’d like some inspiration, check out my Pinterest page.

You can buy beads and accessories on beadsbank.com .

 

Seoul to Busan Day 5 (Namji to Busan)

We were on the home stretch with 95km and only two hills remaining. After this, the route is flat all the way to the Nakdonggang Certification Centre. We started from Namji (p.40) and rode in the misty morning for a while. We really lucked out with the weather- our only hot day was Day 4. Day 5 was cloudy and cool all day- perfect cycling weather. We finished our day around 15:00!

My favourite part of the morning ride was Yudeung-ri, in Changwon-si (p.45). The village houses and walls have all been decorated with bike and farm themed murals- I found it a very welcoming sight! After Yudeung-ri you will have a steep hill to wake you up and another smaller but noticeable hill just before you enter the outskirts of Yangsan.

Note: there is one section where all the signs tell you to cross over a bridge (the Susandaegyo if I remember correctly) and I remember we were confused by it in 2013 too. Last year we ended up following a Korean over the bridge and had to do a huge hill. This time, we rode along the river, ignoring at least 5 official 4 River signs saying TURN BACK, MAKE A U-TURN!!!! and guess what? We were fine. Yeah, we still had to do a hill but it was MUCH smaller than the alternate route.

After this it’s sweet cruising at a great pace until you enter the outskirts of Busan. The bike path will be MUCH busier here so beware of pedestrians, dogs, kids on bicycles and rollerblades.

Once you get to the Nakdonggang Hagutduk CC you have a few things to do. First, celebrate, high five and hug each other! It feels so good to finish. Take lots of photos, pose with the Koreans who will no doubt ask you to and THEN make your way to the Certification Center Building. You need to fill in a form with your details and present your passport at the desk for processing. They gave us silver route completion stickers for the Hangang, Namhangang, Saejae and Nakdonggang (even though we left out Andong! Apparently they give you the sticker even if you have one stamp missing), as well as the golden Cross Country Road sticker. I got my completion medal 2 weeks after completing the journey, which is pretty impressive.

Once you’ve done your admin and had a beer or lunch, head to Sinpyeong Subway Station (Line 1- orange). This will take you all the way to Nopo Station which is also the bus terminal for many cities, including Pohang. I’ll refer you to Marie Eksteen’s great blog for further transport details.

I hope you have found my blog entries useful when you plan your journey. Get on it! You will not regret this trip of a lifetime 🙂

Day 5 summary: 95km total, 7 hours total time including lunch.
Fact of the day: I burnt over 13,000 calories on this trip!

TOTAL trip mileage: 705 (starting from Waterpia Jimjjilbang in Incheon to Nakdonggang CC).

If you’d like to see someone else’s photos of our trip, go to Andrew’s flickr albums:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/119431543@N07/sets/72157645142176773/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/119431543@N07/sets/72157645087705961/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/119431543@N07/sets/72157645047340816/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/119431543@N07/sets/72157645090125232/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/119431543@N07/sets/72157645100754264/

You may also find his strava route useful (although the phone lost reception on Day 4 in the hills): http://www.strava.com/activities/149321638

Happy cycling!

Seoul to Busan Day 4 (Waegwan to Namji)

We slept in for an extra hour and got back on the road at 9AM on Day 4. It’s usually best to start your days early so I’d been pushing for 6AM wake ups and 8AM departures, but boys are slow to get ready sometimes so we usually left between 8:15 and 8:30. I’d love to have a Seoul-Busan trip where I’m on the road by 7AM and done with my day, chilling with a beer and meat by 6PM. Next year maybe.

Before we left Waegwan we stopped to take some photos of the great mural artworks near the train station.

waegwanwaegwan1

We met a Scottish guy and a Canadian girl and made a new group which worked out quite well. They were on Roadmaster bikes, which look cheap but they were actually quite light and handled far better than my heavy “NEXT Dominate” Korean steel bike from last year. Turned out that the Scot, Michael, had spent many years in Andrew’s neck of the woods in Texas. Again, small world, and it seems to revolve around Texas! Cheryl had finished her teaching contract and this would be her last epic trip before leaving Korea.

Day 4 had some hills and some possibility for getting lost/ taking a detour or two.

After Gangjeonggoryeongbo CC we crossed the bridge and stayed on that side far longer than the map suggests- we should have crossed back over at Samunjingyo (page 29). The road that we were on was quite patchy at times so I’d suggest sticking to the KTO route.  We crossed over later around Seongsandaegyo which brought us to Dalseongbo CC. I am 99% sure that we did the orange “Alternate route” on page 35 – the MTB route.

mtb
MTB trail- this is a good section of the trail- lots of up and downs.

It was gravelly in some parts with fine sand in others, not ideal but still do-able while clipped in on a road bike with thin, smooth tyres. Last year we did the on-road hill route which was challenging but rewarding on the downhill sections. The MTB trail is harder in my opinion because it requires a lot more concentration if you’re not on a suitable bike. Make sure that you keep a good distance between yourself and the riders ahead of you if you’re clipped in.

You’re still going to do a hill regardless of the path you choose, so it comes down to what’s more important to you: time or comfort. Next time I’ll probably choose the on-road uphill section because it saves loads of time. The MTB trail turned out to be one of my favourite parts but only because I like risk and adrenaline. It did waste time and energy. WARNING: there were a few cars on this off-road section so be careful when you turn corners at speed. Also, I saw a Korean lose control of his MTB and go straight into a ditch. It was pretty funny (he was OK).

Our route took us past a temple(Seongbulsa?) which you approach from the valley. The entrance to the temple is guarded by two giant statues and you’ll cycle/ push up the hill accompanied by monk chants flowing down the mountain, splling over into the valley below. Stunning. Probably off-course but stunning.

We had lunch in Hapcheon-gun (where we found this classy calendar) and decided that we’d take another detour to avoid the steep hill predicted on p.36 and followed the 1021 (the dotted line from p.38-40) that goes past Changnyeong through loads of onion farms (all being harvested at the time). So many amazing photo opportunities!

lunch2lunch

** We took the 1008, 79 and then 1021- just use 1008 and 1021- check google maps- you can see how we wasted time around the onion farm area…it was beautiful though.

We decided to call it a day at Namji (p.40) and stayed here (naver 남지청학모텔)- I’d pay 15,000 won to share a round bed any day! Remember that the drinks in the fridge are free , “service”, unlike in the West.

Day 4 summary: 131km total distance (incl. some detours) and 10.5 hours riding time.

Fact of the day: Cheongdeokgyo bridge (청덕교)- just after Hapcheon-gun- is quite cutesy with lots of little pinwheels  dotted on top of the bridge rail.

Seoul to Busan Day 3 (Suanbo CC to Chilgokbo CC)

Day 3 was the best and worst day. Pieter decided to call time on the trip due to fatigue and strain. It’s a tough ride if you don’t have TITS (time in the saddle). Last year Jake pulled out early on day 4 because he didn’t prep. I’m always amazed how many miles people manage to churn out with no prep but their bodies always pay the price.

Part of the Saejae Bicycle Path is Ihwaryeong, which is 548m high. Nothing like a never ending hill to start your day (p.34-35). It’s  made tolerable by the thousands of butterflies that sit on the road and fly around you. After the Ihwaryeong Rest Area CC you will have a fabulous downhill. I clocked 54km/hr (with brakes on) while Andrew got 70km/hr (no brakes). You will be sharing the road with vehicles and motorbikes so brakes are boring but advisable.

After the hill flattens out you’ll get to Mungyeong Buljeong Station CC. WARNING: after you get your stamp you will cross over a highway with a blind spot. Andrew almost got hit by a car as they couldn’t see each other. Luckily no one was going fast and Andrew was quick to unclip and stop. They need to put a traffic mirror there for sure. We later met a Texan who actually came off his bike on the downhill and broke his toe. More on him later.

After we said goodbye to Pieter we carried on towards Sangpunggyo CC. We had to go up and down a bad ass hill first though (p.14/15 in Nakdonggang Vol. 2) but not before we scored some free cucumbers to snack on. Thanks Korea! After the nasty hill you get into Sangju where you have 2 choices. You can avoid the Bicycle Museum, or go up another hill to see some great bikes. Guess what WE chose… I highly recommend taking time to visit the museum. Last year we skipped the museum and took the road leading through the village instead. Both ways lead you back onto the river path. Last year, on day 3, my tyre burst and the rest of the day was shot to hell. This year was perfect. It felt so good to ride past all the spots where I had to change my inner tubes last year – I kept on getting punctures every hour after trying to patch up my tyre. It sucked my spirit big time and we limped into Gumi very late at night as a result.

This year we stopped for lunch at a cool place run by two artistic hippies next to Donamseowon Confucian Academy (p.16). They offer accommodation and food and it must have been good because we ended up staying for about 2- 3 hours. We met the broken toe guy, and it turns out that he graduated from the same university as Andrew, in the same year, on the same day! What are the odds??! We enjoyed makgeoli, pajeon and incredible hospitality here- highly recommended for a rest stop. The owners used to live on Jeju island and gave us each a handful of Jeju chocolates as a goodbye present.

We left, high on makgeoli and good company, and put our heads down to get to Gumi, which would bring us back in line with my original plan. We got to Gumi at 19:30 still feeling strong and decided to make a final push for Chilgok since the trail was so flat. Andrew and I took turns leading and drafting and we were cycling at a constant 25-28km/hr pace. We smashed it and pulled into Chilgokbo CC at 9PM. We had a bit of trouble finding accom so we put that on ice to re-fuel since we were approaching another 170km day. The naver map for Waegwan is a bit out of date, but we ate here (diagonally across from 마고촌) and it was packed with Koreans enjoying the same top quality barbeque as we were. GO AND STUFF YOUR FACE! DO IT!

We eventually found 왜관온천웰스파 (Waegwan Oncheon Well Spa) jimjjilbang past the railway station (and some great wall graffiti) and settled in just before midnight. There are wall sockets in the main area so you can charge your phone while you sleep.

Day 3 summary: 170km door to door (162 before entering Waegwan) 13 hours total time.

Fact of the day:  The world is a very small place sometimes.

 

 

 

Seoul to Busan Day 2 (Yangsu-ri to Suanbo Oncheon CC)

Day 2 was straight forward navigation wise.

Memorable moments include:

– being on the side of the road around Gangcheon (Changnamgogae) (p.25), stationary and half clipped in waiting for Pieter to pee, seeing a huge truck hurtling toward us Final Destination style, me jumping into the ditch with my bike, only to find that the driver was merely avoiding a speed bump, not asleep or out of control. That was a scary moment for me.

– stopping for lunch around Binae/ Jocheon (p.27) where the pajeon, mandu, rice cakes, acorn jelly salad and makgeoli tasted amazing and the owner showed us his chicks.

– Chungju (p.30). When you come into Chungju the bike path is at the very beginning of town so keep your eyes open otherwise you’ll miss Chungju Dam CC. “Miss” like a hole in the head because it is the worst hill on the whole 5 day route in my opinion. It’s really really really steep. Super awesome downhills on the way back to Chungju proper though! Chungju Dam marks the end of the Hangang trail- they sure make you work for your completion stickers. Once you’re back in town, the bike trail follows the river all the way to Chungju Tangeumdae CC, which marks the start of the Saejae Bicycle Path. IF YOU SCREW UP ON NAVIGATION HERE YOU WILL END UP GOING THROUGH A HIGHWAY TUNNEL FILLED WITH SPEEDING CARS, TRUCKS, DEAFENING FAN AND CAR HORN SOUNDS! Don’t get lost like we did last year (and some others did this year!!). Stay safe and keep on the proper Saejae Bike Path. There were a few crappy sections of the bike path including where they were rebuilding a small bridge, which meant we had to cycle over a very uneven dirt track next to it. Be careful if you’re on a road bike with thin tyres. For the most part it is a very beautiful route.

Before you get to Suanbo (p.35) there will be a hill but it’s not a killer. We pulled into Suanbo around 20:30, well after sunset. This town, best known for its hot springs, is completely lit up at night and a welcome sight after a long day’s riding. We could have finished sooner but wanted to end the day by soaking our muscles at the jimjjilbang. You can pay from 70, 000 won upwards for a private room at 수안보온천랜드 (Suanbo Oncheon Land) OR you can pay 10,000 won like we did to stay in the jimjjilbang. It was very quiet here but it could have been darker- none of this matters when you’ve been cycling all day. We had amazing dolsot bibimbap (돌솥 비빔밥) from across the road for 10,000 won.

Day 2 summary: 171km, 12.5 hours door to door.

Fact of the day: there are many salmosa (mamushi) snakes in Korea. I counted 5 dead ones and 3 live ones slithering across the road in front of us.

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