I wake to the sound of rain beating down on the roof of the pagoda. I roll over and go back to sleep because I know it’s my final night in the comfort of my tent. Besides, the pagoda is doing a good job keeping everything dry so I won’t have to worry about everything being wet when I pack. When I finally wake I watch another episode of Arrow as the grey light of dawn breaks.
Out on the cyclepath all is soaked. The wind is blowing and puddles have formed. I am glad my Ortliebs and Bike Bag Dude kit are waterproof so nothing should get wet during the ride.
A sign tells me it’s only 60km to the end of the cycleway in Busan. This is the last time that I’ll pass a distance sign to Busan because I am about to make a silly navigational error. The kind of error an adventure racer and rogainer should know not to make. I am about to force the ground to match the map when it clearly doesn’t. Every navigator has done it at least once. And it never ends well.
But I don’t know my mistake yet. I am just enjoying the sights, including these delicious looking fruits growing on path-side trees.
And this cute frog that was sitting on the road.
I ride up a beautiful misty hill still trying to make the ground match my map. I know I need to climb a mountain but this is nowhere near as steep as the one I am meant to be climbing. It is also twisting in the wrong direction; I should be heading back towards the river not circling around that mountain to my east. But I am too stubborn or stupid to go back.
At the top I realise my brake pads have finally worn through and have become totally ineffective so I walk the kilometre down the other side of the hill. It’s a beautiful walk but I can hear heavy industry below me. I shouldn’t be able to hear it; the guide book for the ride says I will come to a small village and some bridges over the river. But I can tell from the lay of the land that the river is nowhere near here. I have definitely done something wrong. But there’s no way I’m riding back over the mountain. I have a few near misses with the trucks that own the road here, including one that backs out of a driveway without looking. The driver of that truck apologises profusely and I smile acknowledgeing it wasn’t intentional.
I check Google maps and discover that I have three options: (1) follow the cycleway signs back to the Nakdonggang, (2) follow the main road to Busan or (3) follow a smaller road to Gimhae and then on to Busan. I set off on option one but the road becomes steep and my body refuses to take me there. I realise that this will be the longest route so I turn back. Option two will put me on a busy road with many trucks. So I take option three. It starts out okay but then I start to climb. And climb and climb. It takes no time before I get off the bike to push. I know from experience that I’ve created a huge calorie deficit over the past couple of weeks and it’s caught up with me. The road is narrow but I have no choice but to walk. My body won’t allow me to do anything else.
There’s a long descent on the other side of the mountain and I decide not to walk. So I give my front disc brake cable one final adjustment knowing that I’m rubbing metal on metal and I turn the rear rim brake pad upside down because that’s the only way I can get rubber on rim. It’s not ideal but it will do. And it helps me keep the speed down.
I reach Gimhae where I hit the CVS and eat a microwave hamburger, two Kit Kats, a fried chicken leg, a can of Gatorade and a pineapple Fanta. It’s just what I need. I navigate the city traffic past the airport and across Nakdonggang where a some rowers are training. It’s a delight to watch. I don’t row but I love watching rowers do their thing. It’s that balance of raw power, balance and timing that combines perfectly to make the boat move poetically across the water.
If I thought Seoul was big then Busan is ginormous. It took me 33km to get from my pagoda to Busan and then another 30km to get from Gupo to my hostel. And I didn’t even make it all the way to Haundae Beach. The traffic was manic but I fought my way through it, stopping ocassionally for more food when my body bonked.
I find a hostel online and make a beeline there. I find the alley in which the hostel is supposed to be located and suddenly feel overwhelmed by the sights and sounds. A man calls out, “hey are you looking for the hostel?”. I wouldn’t have found the place if I’d been left to my own devices. The guy leads me up the lift to the fourth floor of the building where I can park my bike. For just 13,000 won ($AU/US13) I get a bed in a dorm for most of the week. I can’t stay Saturday night because there is a festival but I can leave my bike and luggage at this hostel while I stay elsewhere for the night. All this is organised while I drink an ice cold glass of water, have access to an English language newspaper and wifi. It’s relaxed and friendly, just what I need.
The dorm is comfortable too. It’s located nearby in a separate building where a Korean home has been turned into shared guest accommodation. There’s bread in the fridge to make unlimited amounts of toast, butter and jam in the welcome pack, Busan city tourist maps and plenty of towels. This will be home for almost all my final week here in Korea. The cycling is over so now it’s time to relax, find a box in which to take my bicycle home and check out this one last city.