It’s a good day that starts with a Korean pancake. I’m becoming relatively good at whipping these up for myself having bought some Korean pancake mix back in Seoul. You just add water so there’s no need to carry eggs or milk around. The pancake batter does not appear to be made of wheat flour; a friend suggested perhaps it’s buckwheat, whcih is commonly used to make noodles here in Korea. Whatever it is, I like them and have been adding a sort of grass-like onion, leafy greens and spam to mine. Yes, that’s right: spam. Meat here is expensive and spam is cheap and transportable. Not something I would usually eat at home but hey, I’m not at home.
My campsite was part-way up a big long climb so there is no warm up for the day, not easing into things. This is the mountains and I am straight into a climb that goes on and on and on. Actually, it takes me almost two hours to travel the first 10km (6 miles) of my journey for the day so I must have climbed for ages.
I even got to ride up my first ever proper mountain switch backs. I have seen roads like this in magazine and blogs for years. The pictures I saw looked so exotic and I just wanted to be out climbing on those roads. I can tell you that looks can be deceiving: it’s still a climb. But I just took it a couple of switch backs at a time enjoying the views.
Mountain climbing brings mountain scenery and isn’t that why we do it? About 4km from where I had camped there was an amazing campsite and hiking area. If you are ever in the area, definitely check it out. There was no indication you had to pay either. A stream flowed right by the campsites and little rock paths led through the trees.
The higher I climbed the less rice I saw. Mark did tell me the other day when we were hiking that I would eventually be above the altitude where rice is grown and he was right. Farm buildings sat betweeen fields of vegetables. These strange root vegetables were being harvested everywhere.
And 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.
Despite the challenging riding, I felt happy all day. These are the toughest roads I’ve ever cycled and the first mountains (or hills for that matter) I have attempted on a loaded touring bike. But I found that once I settled in and just ground along looking at the scenery and stopping to rest when I was too tired to continue, I made steady progress.
And with scenery like this how could I not enjoy the day.
Everywhere I looked my eyes feasted on autumn colours breaking through the greeen.
And endless mountain ranges cut by deep valleys running off into the distance.
At around lunchtime, right when I was starting to daydream about eating a big juicy steak with chips (not going to happen here in Korea), I came to a little market. I still don’t know what it was about but I did manage to buy some chicken on a stick and some other random meat stuffed with something white. I have no idea what I ate but it was mashissosoyo (delicious – I am trying to learn some Korean words).
Belly filled it was time to hit the final climb of the day. A long 5.5km at an almost constant 7% gradient with some 9% pinches that took me up to a pass at 1,013m (3,300 feet). Had someone told me that this was going to be here I would not have come this way, and look what I would have missed then. Yes, I can read a topographic map but the map I bought for Korea (a 1:15,000 map published by International Travel Map) is hideously inaccurate so I couldn’t rely on it for specific information about climbs. When I say hideously inaccurate I mean that it looks like they have just plopped dots and put town names anywhere in the general vicinity of where towns might be. And they have used town names that do not match anything you see on road signs. I mean, they have Seong-gok marked as a town when it is just a petrol station but Seoseok nearby is not marked when it is a big town. The publication date is 2011 so it’s not even that old. At least it has the road numbers marked on it so I can follow them and trust they will at least take me in the right general direction. But yeah, if you are going to produce a driving map, at least send someone to drive the main roads and check your map is accurate.
The climb is great value for energy output because from here I head downhill for over 15km and back into rice country. A farmer has hung their rice harvest on the roadside guardrail to dry. I suspect I will see more of this as I travel further south and deeper into the harvest season.
At around 2:30pm I spot this cute building next to a small shop. I’m not in a town but I think the sign says that this is accommodation. A closer look at the website on the sign shows the word ‘pension’ in the website address so I take a punt at organising my first Korean accommodation that I didn’t book through an English-language website. A bit of ‘lost in translation’ later and I hand over KRW60,000 ($AU/US60) for a fantastic large room that is more like a small studio apartment than a hotel.
And with views like these from the back balcony I settle in for the evening to catch up on my blog, do some work, watch some television shows online and Skype home. Just what the doctor ordered: a night off from travel to hide away in my own private world. We all need it sometimes.
(Distance about 65km)