I wake ridiculously early in the pagoda. Perhaps some insect or small animal walked over me because I dream that someone was sitting on the bench behind me and stepped over me, stealing one of my bags. In my dream I am standing in my sleeping bag shouting at the person. But of course I am not and it’s just a dream. No one is there. Just me and the darkness. Nothing is disturbed; only my sleep.
The good thing about waking up and being on the road before dawn (I gave up trying to go back to sleep around 4.30am) is that you get a headstart on the day. I follow the river path in darkness, every turn seeming to bring me back in a circle but, of course, it actually doesn’t. I reach the actual town of Ganhyon a few kilometres after leaving the pagoda. I find some wifi and Skype / message with people from home until the sun rises. The bicycle path signs lead to a long steep climb. I doubt myself and do a few laps of the township before deciding I might as well suck it up and start climbing.
As I climb the valley opens out behind me. It’s the first of many such views I will see during the day and it takes my breath away.
The cycleway takes me through rice fields. It’s harvest time. I ride past workers and cut rice. I think rice fields are some of the most exotic places to cycle.
At the end of the cycleway I join a road. It seems crazy to think of tanks needing to use these roads until I realise that the war here was only relatively recent and that this part of the country was the last frontier in that war. There are probably heaps of military camps still located around here and training probably isn’t hypothetical.
I enter a valley an see a crowd of scarecrows in the distance. It looks like a whole township of people. They are so creative and well thoughtout. These “guys” actually look like they are playing soccer.
And these “children” are “running around” playing like children do.
My other favourite is this scary guard along the road.
I reach Hoengseong where another riverside cycle path leads me out of town. There seem to be a lot of cycle paths here in Korea. This one takes riders to the Hoengseong Dam but I turn off partway.
The river has cut a deep path through the valley. In places the cycleway runs along elevated boardwalks that overhang the watercourse. I love the jagged peaks that jut out like sharks’ teeth.
In other places flowers line the cycleway and rice fields add to the atmosphere.
I leave the cycleway and follow road #19 over a pass. In the valley I reach a small town that does not appear on my map. It’s typical of the towns here. Some buildings along the main road with one road behind. I spend about an hour waiting to post a birthday present to my nephew. The post office man only has one other person to serve but he is painfully slow; and that’s before he tries to serve me with my total lack of ability to speak Korean. Outside a shop chillies and zucchinies (corgettes) are drying, and school children sit at the bus stop eating lollies and crisps.
I climb a long pass out of the valley where the post office town was. As I climb I take a spill while I drink some water. In Australia we drive on the left so I usually veer slightly to the right if I am off balance but here those few centimetres cause me to run into the crash barrier and come off my bike. I’m fine: just a grazed knee and some bark off my pannier. The view back to the valley is worth the spill.
Each pass I cross leads to another breathtaking valley where farms are wedged in every crack of the mountain. It takes my breath away each time I see it. All day long I ride from valley to valley exlaiming at the view.
I stop in Seoseok to look for a minbak or hotel. There is a pension but no one answers the door when I arrive so I have to keep going. I ride on looking for a place to camp when I come to a roadhouse and something that looks like it might once have been a guesthouse but is now closed. Across the road there is a sign for camping but it also is closed. Tired and worn out from 96km of mountain riding I push my bike down to the campground and hang out waiting for dark to pitch my tent. It’s pretty with a creek running nearby and mountains rising on all sides. It’s a fantastic place to end the day.