South Korea 2014

September - October 2014
A 34-day adventure by Looking for 42 Read more
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  • 34days
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  • 662kilometers
  • Day 1


    September 24, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    My adventures in Korea started with a tipsy 45km bicycle ride from the airport to my hostel. I thought I was buying a bottle of lemonade but actually I drank an icy cold bottle of rice wine. A sign of things to come with many nights spent in Seoul eating Korean BBQ and fried chicken while drinking beer with new friends staying a G's Guesthouse in Itaewon.

    Seoul was a fun city to explore. The mix of old and new Korea is evident here. Well, the old is really a recreation due to Seoul being flattened in the war with the north. But the traditional aesthetic still exists and sits quietly beside the new.
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  • Day 2


    September 25, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Gwanak-san (Mt Gwanak) is a typically north Asian mountain with big rocky outcrops that have been walked for centuries. The trail up the mountain is typical of the pali-pali (hurry hurry) culture of South Korea. There's no messing around with making the climb easy.

    I'm hiking with Mark, an American living in South Korea who has helped me with information for my bike trip. He tells me tips and tricks as we walk.

    The views from the hike are spectaular. Seoul is a vast sprawling white concrete jungle that drifts around dark green mountains. Up here on the mountain leaves are just starting to take on their autumn redness and squirrels run along the branches.

    Ropes are bolted into the near vertical rock face. We need these to make the final ascent to the summit. Unlike the locals who barely touch the rope, I find myself clinging tightly. The views from the 624m summit are worth the effort. As is the spectacle of watching Koreans in their brightly coloured hiking outfits taking selfies.
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  • Day 7

    Seoul to Ipobo

    September 30, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Today I begin my cycle tour from Seoul to Busan. I'm green and have no idea what to expect. I anxiously follow the Four Rivers Bicycle Path out of the city. Locals exercise in the many outdoor gyms, cycle erratically along the path or simply relax under the shade of the many bridges that criss cross the river.

    After about 30km the landscape starts to become more agricultural. Rice paddies and vegetable gardens become a common sight, taking up every patch of land between the houses.

    I spend my first night of the tour camped at a free camp in a place I think is called Ipobo. Google Maps doesn't work here so I'm not quite sure whether Ipobo is a town or locality. Two Russian cycle tourers give me some tips in broken English before continuing. Me, I set up camp, take a shower and watch the locals cooking on their little coal BBQs. Insects hum me to sleep.
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  • Day 8

    Ipobo to Ganhyon

    October 1, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    The cycle path I'm following is busy with lycra-clad cyclists of all levels of experience. Many are riding on flat tyres, seemingly oblivious to this fact.

    My first stop is Yeoju where there's a lovely park to explore. I take my time before continuing towards Wonju. A scary highway tunnel is my punishment for getting lost. I'll never do that again in South Korea; being almost flattened is no fun.

    Once off the highway the ride becomes scenic and calm. I get lost again but find some wifi and message Mark who is familiar with the area and directs me back to the cycle path I should have followed from Yeoju. In no time I am again in bucolic Korean countryside passing fields of rice and vegetables.

    I stop to camp in a pagoda between the rice fields. Elderly locals start arriving to check me out. Sign language gets us a long way in our conversation. Where am I going? Wow your bike is heavy, leading to them making muscle poses and thumbs up signs. One man gets bold and plucks at my arm hairs laughing and says "King Kong". We both laugh. They leave me after the sun goes down with some chestnuts, lollies and yoghurts.
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  • Day 9

    Ganyon to Saengok

    October 2, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Leaving the pagoda I enter the town proper. I do a few laps as I try to find my way out of town that does not require me to climb a steep hill. Failing I resign myself to the inevitable. A valley opens out behind me. Breathtaking views will be my reward for many more climbs today.

    The rice harvest is in full swing. I watch farmers work. The harvest also means festival time. Here, there'sa scarecrow competition and display. A whole town of scarecrows lives along the road acting out daily life.

    The cycleway enters a deep valley protected by jagged mountain peaks. I follow until road #19, which Mark recommended I follow.

    Everything looks foreign to me so I struggle to find food and lodgings. I don't know what to look for and can't read Korean script. Tired and worn out I pitch camp by the road in what looks like a closed camping ground. It’s a pretty place with a creek running nearby and mountains rising on all sides. It’s a fantastic place to end the day.
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  • Day 10

    Saengok to unknown town

    October 3, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    My campsite was part-way up a big long climb and it takes me two hours to travel the firsr 10km. Switch backs await further along my route: the first I've ever ridden. They look just like in the magazine photos of alpine places. I take it two switches at a time, stopping to catch my breath and enjoy the views.

    Kim chee can’t be your national dish if you don’t grow a lot of cabbage. And I mean a lot. There is cabbage growing everywhere and the smell of brassiacas ready for harvest is very strong.

    I'm rolling down a mountain at around 2.30pm when I spot a cute building with a sign "pension". ₩60,000 ($AU60) later I am relaxing on the balcony a small studio apartment looking at a mountain view.
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  • Day 11


    October 4, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

    A gentle 5km descent takes me out of the mountains and onto the coast. There's a beautiful lake that shimmers in the morning sunlight.

    Yangyang is celebrating its annual mushroom festival. It's a huge event with prizes for best mushrooms in different classes. There is a massive military display and I dress up as a soldier for a photo.

    Leaving the festival I head to the beach. This is where the playful side of Korean culture comes out. Grandparents rent quad bikes to take children riding on the beach. Horse drawn carriages are lit up like Christmas trees and play K-pop loudly. And locals shoot off fireworks.

    There's a pretty seaside temple nearby. It's peaceful despite the crowds. Most people are taking selfies but a few faithful still manage to pray. This is Korea at it's most contradictory finest.
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  • Day 12

    Yangyang to Gangneung

    October 5, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Two Korean couples invite me to their meal tent for breakfast. We eat rice, seaweed, kim chee and beef. The couples are from Seoul and camp twice a month.

    There's a cycle route that leads to Busan. Crossing a high bridge I watch fishermen. Large fish flap on the path and more are being reeled in from far below. Bringing the fish up is a two-man job with one turning the reel and the other pulling up the line by hand.

    In Hajodae I walk out to the skywalk. Down below waves are crashing over a walkway on the rocks. Voices squeal as Koreans taking selfies try to stay dry. Not all succeed.

    At the 38th Parallel the beach is packed with Koreans learning to surf. But what strikes me most are the barbed wire and lookout towers. A reminder that South Korea is still at war with its northern brother.
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  • Day 13


    October 6, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    I take great delight in two rest days in Gangneung. My body and mind are exhausted from the riding and impressions. For the first day I watch movies in my dorm. By the second I'm ready to explore the town. It's a creative place with lots of art from seaside sculptures to statues of children playing hide and seek in a park.Read more

  • Day 14

    Gangneung to Donghae

    October 7, 2014 in South Korea ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    I left the hostel in Gangneung with no real idea about how far I would get. I decided to just ride and enjoy the seaside towns that I passed. I took the cycleway to the sea where I watched the sun turn the water to gold. A random cyclist on a really cool MTB stopped to say hello and took a photo of us together. It made me smile and was a good start to the day.

    The rice harvest looks like it is backbreaking work. While it looks like machinery is used to cut the rice, women and men still bundle it up and carry it off the fields by hand. I am impressed by the farmers’ work ethic and strength.

    Once on the coast road I wound my way ever southwards. Navigation was a challenge because I didn’t really want to follow the highway but I also didn’t want to spend all day checking my location on Google maps or Naver. So at first I just followed the signs to the Unification Park where I got to explore a captured North Korean submarine and a massive South Korean warship. A group of young sailors were also touring the warship; one in particular was friendly and keen to practice his English. Nineteen out of the twenty-seven rooms on the ship were open to the public, making the ship a worthwhile stop on the road south.

    I stopped on the side of the road to watch as waves crashed all around. There were warning signs about the potential for waves to break over the road and I imagine at times it could get quite dangerous here if the seas were high.

    Every cove seemed to have it’s own fishing harbour. Small boats proudly flew Korean flags and the salty air was filled with the sight and smell of fresh fish being dried.

    It was mid-afternoon when I reached Donghae and saw the signs to the caves near the centre of the city. I didn’t expect much so was surprised when I was handed a helmet and instructed in it’s proper adjustment. It turns out that you actually do need a helmet in these caves. Unlike so many I’ve visited in the past, there are places where you actually have to get down and almost crawl under low ceilings and dodge your way past real stalamites (or are they stalagtites?).

    I didn’t make it much further after leaving the caves. I rode for about 10km but was still in the city itself so stopped next to a cycleway in a riverside park where I waited until after sunset to pitch my tent.

    Despite the heavy industry humming away across the river, the sunset was superb and I found myself able to relax.
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