My day started well when I was invited to join two Korean couples for breakfast in their tent. We ate bap (rice), kim (seaweed), tongbaechu kimchi (whole cabbage kimchi) and soegogi (beef). I managed to introduce myself in halted Korean and learned that the couples were from Seoul, in their early 50s, camped twice a month and thought my cycling adventure is cool.
I found a cycle path that said it went to Busan so jumped on it. In no time I was crossing a high bridge being used by fishermen. They were using long rods as they stood there passing the time. Large fish lay flapping about on the path. A rod bowed sharply and a shout went up. A man jumped onto the rail to grab the line and between him and the angler the work began.
All eyes were on the pair to see what they hauled up. The bridge was very high and it took the men ages to bring up the fish. But, eventually, there it was. Men moved closer to view the catch and mobile phone cameras were clicking away.
The fish was a good size and I imagine it tasted very good if it was brought home for dinner.
The path followed the coastline and offered wonderful ocean views.
I stopped in Hajodae where I walked out to the skywalk and had a good chuckle at the goings on down on the rock wall. Everyone seemed to want to get just the right selfie (Korea is the land of the selfie … everyone has those sticks you can put your camera on to hold it out far enough to get a good selfie instead of a squished one). But then a big wave would crash over the rocks and walkway causing everyone to squeal and run away to try stay dry. Of course, each time at least one person would be too slow and would stand there shaking water off their arms or legs while the rest of the onlookers laughed a little. Somtimes it’s the little things that make the biggest impression.
I weaved my way through a long line of cars stuck in a traffic jam on the road to the Hajodae lighthouse. The cars were stuck in a queue because every so often someone would decide to just double park or do a multipoint u-turn. Then the cars behind would just sit and wait. Going around was easy because no traffic would move in either direction and I just had the whole left lane to myself. Once past the jam I got the whole right side to myself until the next queue. I had no idea where I was going so was pleasantly surprised at the end of the road when I got to this beautiful park with a trail to the lighthouse where I watched domestic tourists take yet more selfies and took some photos of my own. The rocky coastline with bonsaied fir trees is beautiful.
The cycleway disappears and I find myself on the highway to the 38th parallel. Of course I need a photo of the sign.
The beach below the sign is packed with Koreans learning to surf. It looks like fun but the day is far too cold for me to jump in and give it a go. I took surfing classes a few years ago and loved it. So perhaps I’ll have another chance to give it a go here in Korea. The waves at the 38th parallel beach are perfect for learning even on a wild and woolly day. It’s always fantastic to see people outdoors having fun.
The beaches along the coast are marked by constant reminders of the peninsula’s conflict with barbed wire, spot lights and military posts. As an Australian I am unused to this landscape of war and it feels odd to see people taking selfies and surf lessons amidst this millitary presence. But I guess we humans have this fantastic ability to adapt to what is normal to us.
I pedal onwards, passing through many fishing villages. They all feel so familiar despite my never having been in Korea before. There’s a constant about fishing village: boats, nets, tough brave men who make a living from the sea and the smell of seafood.
Small boats sit waiting to be taken to sea and I feel a sense of awe at the bravery of the men who will take them onto the ocean. It must take much skill to prevent them being swamped, especially if they are full of catch.
Women sit on the docks selling and gutting fish. The elaborate water filtering systems are interesting as live fish swim in buckets and shellfish are filtered in the smallest ones. Its’ quite a sight and similar to the way seafood is sold outside the restaurants but there the fish are in tanks. I haven’t yet bought fresh fish from the dock but I will when I go down there tomorrow.
The cycling is slow today because there is so much crazy traffic. In one village a man has a whistle and is trying to direct traffic at a busy intersection but he’s made a total mess of it. Cars are all stuck under his direction unable to move forwards or back. I ride past the kilometre of stationary cars, sneak through the intersection and ride along the road on the other side totally unbothered by traffic because it’s all stuck at the intersection. The trick to understanding Korean driving is recognising that car ownership is a relatively new phenomenon. The current generation were not passengers in their parents’ cars and didn’t have the benefit of growing up around motor vehicle traffic. So there is a general lack of experience on display. Drivers will just stop in the middle of the road to answer their phones or drop off a passenger at a shop. When reaching an intersections drivers hesitate as if they don’t know which way they want to turn and sometimes they will just start doing a mutli-point turn (three-point turns seem unheard of here) for no apparent reason. But, despite the moments of chaos, I feel much safer here than on Australian roads where drivers are aggressive and rude. Korean drivers seem distracted and a little disoriented but they are still the same friendly and polite people they are outside their cars. And perhaps it’s this courtesy that creates the traffic jams and moments of chaos. Since I’ve been here, no one has sworn or yelled at me. I’ve been beeped twice but both times by truck drivers letting me know they needed some room because they couldn’t slow quickly enough. Usually drivers wait behind me if there is oncoming traffic or they clap as I climb hills. But still, it is tiring to drive in the fishing towns where the sheer volume of distracted and disoriented drivers can be overwhelming.
It’s late afternoon when I reach Aark House in Gangneung. It’s a fantastic and restful hostel in a quiet part of the city. I have booked two night but will probably stay three. I need a few days off to recover from the sensory overload that I’ve experienced the past fortnight. Today I will probably go nowhere to let my mind process the many things I’ve seen, tasted, heard and felt the past fortnight. Tomorrow I will explore Gangneung before I start the next phase of my ride.
(Total ridden 63km)