Bicycling South Korea-Four Rivers Trail
The year of the Virus may2020
Three years back, I had done some of the cycling trails in South Korea, and now I plan to cycle up the east coast and then come down the centre of S korea to eventually get to Busan.
The idea of cycling that is promoted in Korea, is to get youself a cycling Passport and visit the stamping station along the way . When completed you can apply for certificate of medals of achievement
KOREAN EAST COAST TRAIL (TRAIL)
This is about 720km in total length
Starts at the Unification Observatory, straight down the coast of the country finishing off in Busan. However, I started at Busan and headed North
Two hour bus trip to get to my start point in Buson. From where I live while in Korea
First day wasn’t a pleasant experience, trying to navigate the roads and to find cycle designated paths to avoid the heavy traffic.
I took a few wrong turns, had to double back a few times and come 8 at night, i was desperately trying to find a place to sleep.
As i have a tent, i foolishly passed a couple of ideal spots where I could have called home for the night, but instead I entered an industrial area that went on for ever and then a large city (Haeundae-gu, Busan) East Coast
Finally made it through the other side of the city and out of desperation and exhaustion, i found a green spot down a dead end road. Which turnout out to be an other industrial area but without the bad smells
I was so tired, i half put up the tent, not pegs in the ground or a fly tent over the tent itself and after having noodles,i crawled into my tent and slept very soundly
Wake-up at 5:30, hit the road at 6:30 and found an alternative trail to avoid the motorway which turned out to be very hilly but as it was in the country side, it was a pleasant morning ride, putting aside the leg killing hill climbs.
7/11 breakfast, charged my phone and had noodles and hot chocolate for breakfast. Over here in Korea, they provide seats, hot water and wifi to make your visit enjoyable.
Made it to Pohang, My wifes cousins, stayed the night where we went out to a really nice restaurant then a tour of the town, one was a visit to a , like a temple at the end of a pier
8am breakfast, vegetables which is much better than my usual on the road noodles,
Had an uncomfortable experience, the cousin gave me an envelope, i knew right away what it was and wasn’t keen on accepting it, but what can you do, make a seen and refuse. Imagine the embarrassment. Latter i thought maybe its not for me directly and in fact for our newly born baby.
Rear tire was getting flat, i was a bit worried, couldn’t find a pump station for an hour or more then eventually i came across a bike shop where he pumped the rear tire. I know my tries are good quality and requires high pressure, but i was a little concerned about how much pressure he was putting in the tire.
Latter, i noticed the side wall of the tire was coming apart, first i thought it was a bulge, that’s what it looked like at first. A closer look reveled that the outer lining had broken down, probable because i was riding it flat, so hopefully it will be ok.
Found a great camp spot on green grass. Happy to stop early and rest up, tomorrow there could be rain, lets hope not.
finding a great camp spot isn’t hard
Early start and with only 2 hours ride, i was in a small town that had a GS25, where i decided to have my second breakfast.
Before leaving my comfortable camp site earlier, i was making hot water and while i had my back turned, i sore a flash of light that came from my cooker lighting up my tent, my goodness i acted quickly and put out the flames that damaged the outer door of my tent. Not a total disaster, but it meant that i’ll not be totally closed from the elements such as the coming rain or wind.
Rain was coming down while i was having a coffee at GS25, so with the help of my wife, i decide to stay the night in this town at a Jimjilbang, (Jimjilbangs are a 24-hour, gender-segregated bathhouses that have relaxing hot and cold soaking pools and communal sleeping rooms) i even went as far as asking my wife to phone to see if it was open. Yes it was.
However, once i arrived, they then said that they are not open during the night, apparently the lady behind the desk said she asked her boss and he said that they were closed to save heating, due to the low attendance. Really?, she didn’t know that? Or was it because i was a foreigner, possible teacher that is in the news lately for spreading the virus, or someone out of town and didn’t want to risk it with the resent spike in corona virus infections.
I guess i don’t blame them, if they had one case, just one, they would probable have to close their business down for a week or so.
So now, I’m back on the road, still rain
Friday night 15th May
After spending a few hours in Uljin where i had planed to wait out the rain at the local Jimjilbangs , i was then forced to move on.
I carried on with a strong head wind with rain socking my face and chilling me to the bone, after two hours, i had to stop at my favorite GA24 for hot chocolate and a snacks to eat.
This time there wasn’t any seating inside but a wooden picnic table that was partly sheltered from the rain and was close enough to an outdoor power point to charge my phone, while i examine my map.
As it’s 5pm and not wanting to get caught out in the dark which will be in 2 hours time, like my first night, its about time i started to think about a place to camp, my plan now is to sleep under a wooden resting house to provide protection from the rain
So just past Hosan-ri, i spotted a workers hut, a small shed that was unlocked, i looked in and it was a storage and an area where there was a table and chairs.I was there for something like half an hour and a workers truck can by, the driver jumped out and we exchanged basic hand signals with the understanding that he said i could stay there for the night, i was very great-full, many thanks to him in my limited Korean.
Luck was on my side even though the weather wasn’t, i unpacked my gear, and changed out of my wet dripping bike clothes , boiled up hot water for yet again noodles and then a cup of green tea.
11 at night, blue flashing lights and a quick blast from a police car siren broke my well earned sleep. With their headlights on the entrance where i could see small rain still coming down, the young police man, over 6 feet in height started asking me questions via a translator, a real person on the phone. It reveled that the person that gave me permission to stay filed a police report, why i asked? He said it was ok for me to stay, police latter said he was concerned that i may have the virus and spread it in the office.
I was then told, i must leave, i was shocked, but i started packing anyway after I pointed out that it was cold, dark and still raining.He gave me the signal to wait, made a quick phone call then after taking my temperature, he said it was ok for me to stay.
I’m guessing everyone is on edge about this virus, Jimjilbang rejected my stay, and this, where the police was involved. As i continue my journey through South Korea, i’ll need to be more mindful of this.
North Korean Sub on display with other ships
Well rested and was gone from my temporary home by 6am, kept cycling for three hours before finding somewhere to have breakfast, coffee, kimchie and black noodles. Not the best, but it did the job without any complications
Just before it was getting late, i went though a town which is called Dongsan-ri, very popular surfers place with many surf shops about and many surfers in the water waiting for that wave.
Passing through i was looking for a place to rest for the night, plenty of camp sights but most were set up on sand which wasn’t very appealing to me, and then you have to pay many for that? No thanks
Found my place for the night down a green path that looked like part of a national park, I did see a couple of wooden shelters , but these were too close to the main road to my liking.
Today’s the day I’ll reach the DMZ the most northern point on the east coast and receive my last stamp in my Korean cycling passport.
The presence of military was everywhere, most of the beaches were razor wired, many army barracks and i started to see more and more of the road blocking setups in the event the north invaded the south, effectually closing all roads with large concrete blocks.
It was a little confusing of which road to take on my last 10kms, on the map, it looked like there were three ways to get to the observation point for the northern border, so i continued with the map guild trail that i have been using since the start.
However, this turned out to be a dead end with the military closing the access, maybe the map hasn’t been updated?
The solder couldn’t help due to the language barrier, I made my way to an alternative route, which was an adjacent road where i had to back track a mile or so.
Very enjoyable area to cycle, passing many farms and military structures.
Finally made it to the end of the road, this again was barracked, with 5-6 army solders stationed, lucky for me this solder spoke English, i asked him if i could proceed to view the military museum and the the DMZ lookout, i knew what the answer was going to be, his reply was that its closed due to the corona virus.
So my goal to head as far north as has been achieved, next plan was to head over to Seoul via along the motorway where i was the only one using it far a good hour or so.
Should take me three days to get to Seoul, but lucky for me, just before it started getting dark, i found a really nice place to park my tent for the night.
Been a long day started at 6:30 and finally setup tent at 7pm.
Great setup last night, soft ground where i didn’t need to use my air mattress.
Where i camped, which i was lucky to fined by accident, was a park that looked abandoned that hasn’t any maintenance done on it a a while, thankfully no one was about to ask questions or to tell me to move on.
Porridge and coffee and i was back on the road, today is the 6th day in a row that i have been cycling, i feel I’m doing more kms each day, getting stronger, but today, every time i start cycling, pain in the legs would scream out and then would ease after a few seconds. Maybe i need a rest day, or I’m pushing myself to hard.
Avoided the main roads most of the day, however, at times i have to ride on it, in one particular segment, i was on the main road, i missed the turn off and just before me was a tunnel with a sign saying no cyclists, i made the decision to up all my energy into the bike and enter the tunnel as fast as i could with my lights on. It was one of these long tunnels, no traffic behind me when i first started, with traffic coming toward me, the sounds was very off putting and as i was going at top speed, i couldn’t look back to check for following vehicles.
As i exited, there was a concrete truck that passed me, i waved to thank him, he wasn’t following very close but with the sound bouncing about in the tunnel, i had no idea at the time.
Most of the day was cycling around a dam, great views and the sun was really beating down on me. I stopped to rest a few times, which was always at a great view point and usually after a long high hill climb.
Food and coffee at GS25, and i was ready for my final couple of hours for the day, Another tunnel, this time there was plenty of traffic, to much for me to risk it, so i took the alternative, up and over the hill that went on forever.
Thunder noise was getting louder, rain was predicted and I think I’m going to get it tonight.
I made it to the top, flat grass, ideal camping area was available, but i was put off as people had used it as a toilet area. Starting to rain, i sore a sheltered area across the road and i knew then that it was going to be my home for the night, my timing was perfect as the sky opened up and dumped a lot of rain all around me while I was in the tent. The shelter helped a lot, however the rain was a bit horizontal and still the tent got wet, but still I was happy as things would have been much worse.
Great timing with the rain, found a spot under cover at Chuncheon, Top of the hill where vehical would use the tonnel below.
SEOUL TO BUSAN
The bike path is around 633km in distance
Wednesday (160km today) 20may2020
Last night I made it into Soul where i was lucky enough to have the wife’s niece living there, city’s are really hard to navigate on a bicycle, footpaths, narrow streets, evening traffic and the continuous hills i had to climb after spending all day on the bike.
But anyway, finally got there and it was an absolute pleasure to have a hot shower, and to wash all of the riding gear that was getting a bit, shell we say, earthy smell since the last wash was 6 days ago back.
This morning I left the apartment with everyone still sleeping, where i knew that it was going to be a long day if i wanted to get out of the city limits.
A number of years back i had already done part of the cycling trail up to Soul, therefore i had already got stamps in my cycling Passport except for two. One being at incheon, not far from the international airport , and the other along the way. This means that i have to head out to incheon and return to Soul just for two stamps.
Then I can return to the cycle path and head south, which i had done a number of years ago.
South korea hydroelestic dams, one of many I passed while cycling the 4 Rivers
Great morning with a very smooth path, planned to have breakfast at the first convenient store, but as i started at 5:30am, nothing was open until 7:30
Many cyclists on the trail today, i was with a group of 6 for a few hours until I bailed out to have food at a local 7/11 where i relaxed probable longer than i should have with two coffees after noodles
Last part of the day was a climb and where I found a great spot to camp for the night in private