After five lovely days in Daegu I set off in Saturday morning traffic to rejoin the Four Rivers bicycle path. It’s a beautiful Saturday morning. The sun is shining, a light breeze is blowing and there are lots of people out enjoying the day. At the river a 300-strong group of Koreans who live abroad have gathered as part of a reunion tour. Men are playing foot volleyball in parks beside the cycle path. A group of Indian men play cricket. Many games of soccer are underway. And, of course, in true Korean style there are lots of marquees set up with families eating and drinking lots of good food.
For most of the day the river path makes for easy riding. I don’t have to think too much to know which way to go, there is little traffic and the path is relatively flat (with the exception of some short sharp climbs with gradients over 20%). Many cyclists are out enjoying the path. Husbands and wives wear matching jerseys. Many cyclists play music out loud without earphones. It is amusing when matching pairs of riders are playing different music while riding together. Young solo male riders seem threatened when I overtake them with my loaded bike so sprint away competitively only to walk up the next incline while I ride past. Young couples ride along on matching bicycles. When there is a climb the girl generally gets off with a resigned look on her face while the guy pushes her bicycle up the hill and waits. I see no solo female riders along the path. Perhaps they have better things to do with their Saturdays.
I reach an old Joseon era Confucian School. It’s a pretty group of buildings that harp back to another era. The paint work has been carefully restored in colours I will now always associate with Korea. Many local tourists are here taking photos and looking around. Like so many historic places, it is free to enter and take in the country’s history. The landscape here is deeply rooted in an agrarian culture. Tractors move slowly, rice is dried on the roads and couples work the fields. Nothing seems rushed. It is as though the farmers know that the seasons will keep changing, the work will always be demanding and not much is likely to change for them. There are no young people here in the fields and I still wonder what will happen to Korea’s food supply as the older people pass one. Will young people bring technological advancements to farming? Will backpackers be relied upon for manual labour in exchange for the experience of working on a farm? It’s a conundrum being played out all over the developed world and Korea appears to be no exception.
I hear music and Buddhist prayer chants echoing from a hillside. My map says the path here splits with the riverside route being challenging and steep. But still I am drawn to the chanting sound; it intrigues me and is the first Buddhist chanting I have heard in some time. The two guards at the base of the hillside path should have served aswarnings for what was to come but still I pushed on. A sign and some idols mark the start of the temple area. Nearby there is a stone pagoda. The chanting sound is coming from some nearby speakers. There doesn’t appear to be anyone here but perhaps I am wrong. It’s a very small temple that is not marked on any of my maps. The location is beautiful and I learn later from a passing cyclist that you can stay there for free.