In our previous post we wrote about five cycling paths that we mainly rode in South Korea. Here, we carry on with this subject and describe more of them.
318 km, Sunrise Park – Unification Observatory
Subcounsciously we expected the Korean coast to be mild and flat with lovely sandy beaches along. In reality, the roads were really picturesque but usually leading far from the beaches and winding up between the hills. The route was mountainous and the most demanding of all we had cycled there and it definitely differ from the others. It was not only the landscape, but primarly the life was different there, it had its own undisturbed rythm. Women drying seaweeds and fish by the side of the roads, men playing board games at lunch time, cafes waiting for the first guests, fishermen on their boats. With all of these contrasted the kilometres of barbed wire fences, the military vehicles we passed every day and night guards at fenced beaches. It evoked many emotions in us and provoked thoughts, as it is hard not to notice rocket launcher ready to combat.
The night nominated to be the best one: the most abstract localisation, the night we spent 500 m away from the nuclear plant 🙂 The rainy day made us to look for a place in that area and wooden shelter in a nearby park seemed to be the best option. Sometimes we wonder about the place we want to stay, if it is safe and proper one. We check parks and various corners, also not to disturb and not to be so visible for everyone. In rainy days, we are more courageous, as we believe that people can understand our need to hide under the roof.
Intriguig were the kilometres of barbed wire fences that we mentioned before. In our opinion, and also mostly in opinion of people we talked to, the fences seem to act as military propaganda, showing the Korean that their country care about the society and their safety. As who would expect North Korea to attack from the sea? Or crowds of immigrants from there? In South Korea two years of military service is obligatory, every solider we met was a very young man. Maybe in that way they provide these young man tasks to do.
The border with North Korea is closely guarded, the museum in DMZ can be entered from the east coast only by car or bus, our bikes were refused to enter the area, so around 8 kilometres from the border we turned back and headed down to Seoul.
Problems? In the previous post we wrote about odd installations and route parts, here we also found some weird solutions to build the paths and obstacles for pannier cyclists. Sometimes, the path led uphills through tiny streets to make the route more interesting maybe, but also it went through stairs (!) and narrow platforms, so we ended up changing the way.
Cherry Blossom, the Japanese wait for it the whole year long. We started regreting that we wouldn’t be able to see it, but finally we saw the very first cherry blossom in Fukuoka, just before going to Busan in South Korea. The season for the trees to blossom came to Korea a month later, colorful petals fell on the roads, the smell and view was fantastic. Especially, when the light wind moved them around. Cherry petals sticked to our bikes for good 🙂 In Korea, similarly to Japan although not that much, they celebrate the spring time and flower festivals are organised. Before cherry trees, the yellow flowers – golden bells decorate the bushes, in Poland they are also signs of coming spring. We wrote that many times, after winter in Japan, we really waited for the warm days to come!
70 km, Sinmae Bridge – Balgeun Gwangjang
To Bukhangang route we cycled from North Korean border, from the side of east coast. Between the routes there wasn’t any additional cycling path, so we decided to ride the old way, rarely used by cars now (the new one is express road with tunnels). The old way is partly changed into cycling road, but it is not part of 4 River Paths. As in the mountains, it was tough and beautiful at the same time. We met Korean people twice who gave us some food, I guess the loaded cyclist riding up the hill made them share their food with us 🙂
We will remember the beautiful days of the early summer, steaming hills, when the air was clean after heavy rain and the pollution disappeared, what threatened us many times and is a big problem for Korea.
The night nominated to be the best one: the night we spent under the bridge, still in a tent of course 😉 One may associate sleeping under the bridge in a wrong way, but at that point there was a nice park that became a safe place for us. The most surprising was that we caught wi-fi there! This is Korean internet reach. You sleep under the bridge, but the free internet is still with you 🙂
HANGANG (this route covers two rivers: Hangang and Namhangang) and ara
324 km, Yeouido – Chungjudam
21 km, Ara West Sea Lock – Ara Hangang Lock
On the route along Hangang and Ara we could feel the capital prestige! Most of the Korean cyclists have wonderful bikes. The latest models of road bikes, older men on fatbikes, women on electric ones and futurists on horizontal bikes 🙂 It seems that in Korea, you can find only one type of cyclist, the one that cycles for posh hobby and have enough money for both: car and fancy bike. Unfortunately still in Korea, a cyclist is regarded as the poor person with no ‘proper’ vehicle. What did they think about us? We don’t know, but often they gave us some food 😉 Their cycling gear is not random! Their clothes have the same colours as their bike frames, they wear stylish sunglasses and something that make them really unique: speakers instead of water bottle! Almost every second Korean cyclist listens to loud music, some kind of Korean female vocal songs… No birds singing, but the good, loud music is the most important 🙂
Entering the capital appeared to be really smooth thanks to cycling lanes leading to the heart of Korean city-monster. We just cycled along the rivers and finally we reached perfectly prepared areas, that Piorun wrote in Seoul post. Painful was cycling out of these lanes and entering the car roads in the city. Drivers here are not used to cyclists at all and are not that patient unfortunately as well.
Master breakfast: we eat porridge every day, not only while travelling, but also at home. On the way, the ingredients differ, it depends what we can buy and what won’t ruin our budget. First of all, we changed oats into pressed barley, that is much cheaper and available everywhere. We also add fruit, nuts and sometimes plant milk, in Korea our favourite was black bean milk. And that particular breakfast we will remember because we bought strawberries on sale! They are available in every shop but the price is unbearable.
The night nominated to be the best one: we thought that it would be hard to find a quiet place in Seoul city centre but we found a great spot by the river Han with such a wonderful view that you won’t be able to find it even in Sheraton!
Free time, the Korean people love spending by the rivers. Especially at the weekends, they go camping and make picnics, that we wrote here about. Again, we could admire their camping gear 🙂 As well as, it is clear that well-organised river side area for the citizens of such a big metropoly is useful. Entering Han river side, you enter different world and forget that behind your back is one of the biggest cities in Asia.
What else the Korean love? Blossoming rape flowers! During our stay in Seoul, WS friend showed us her pictures from honeymoon trip at Jeju island, where one of the main attractions were pictures taken at yellow fields of rape flowers. We saw these fields by the river as well. Prepared specially for full bloom. And there were not only women taking selfies. We laughed that for us yellow fields of rape flowers are as common as rice for them, so noone take pictures there.
389 km, Andongdam – Nakdonggang Estuary Bank
The route goes directly to Busan, so it is the route the most commonly chosen among foreign cyclists who ride only Seoul – Busan part. Most of the route we cycled at the end of May, so it was full of beautiful flowers, the rice was already planted and the weather was warm. There is one point of the trail that lies aside of the main route and it is Hahoe town with traditional houses village, close to Andong. Also, you can find there theatre Mask Museum from Korea and all over the world. What’s more, you can see there a traditional mask dance, one of the oldest ones in Korea – Hahoe Byeolsingut.
Visiting Hahoe is like entering time machine! This charming village is listed as Unesco site. What’s interesting, it not another open-air museum, but the place that is still functioning, where history mixes with modernity, and people follow the 600 years old traditions. About 200 people live there, more than a half of houses are straw-covered, the rest traditional tile-covered. The govermnet helps to maintain and renovate the buildings, so you can really feel the Joseon dynasty time there.
Meeting of the path: absolutely not the random one but arranged by other WS friends in wonderful place of UPO Wetlands. So, a Korean couple of travellers live there – Mook and Aghi, who had travelled 2 years with their bikes in Europe before. Now, they live in a small town, away from the big city noise. The house they stay in is traditional Korean, they renovated it on their own and are keen on meeting cyclists there. We shared the same attitude towards life, although we have different culture and experience background.
Voluntary job in Sangju, that was an idea that we came up with on the way. We met Stacey and Jowrney through WarmShowers community, we saw the way they live and learnt their plans about hop farm, so we proposed our help as volunteers. One and a half month after our first meeting we arrived to Sangju again, to work at the farm and experience hop cultivation. Zucchini, melon-cucumber, garlic, they all need a lot of attention and care, whereas work in a greenhouse is not an easy one. Did you know that at the northern hemisphere the plants grow round the strings in clockwise direction? Now, we know that. These are another memorable moments and inspirations from people that turned their dreams into reality! See their story at FlyBasket.
What will we miss on the way? Our beloved Korean people, who loved staring at us everywhere! They were with us every morning when we crawled out of the tent in less conventional (for them) places; they always cheered us up with their chat and check our bikes thoroughly. They didn’t really care that we didn’t speak the same language but they wanted to share food with us and spend time together. We were irritated when they kept taking pictures of us without asking, but our hearts always melted because 100% of people we met were friendly and had positive attitude towards us.
South Korea is still in our minds and the trip there became a strong memory. We may come back one day there. Right now we are waiting for the medals to come by post after finishing the routes!