Sangju to Daegu (Gyeonsangbuk-do)

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The rain is bucketing down outside the pagoda when I wake and I briefly consider laying in the pagoda for the day but that would be a bit soft and Daegu is calling. It’s only about 125km away and, while I’ve never ridden 100km in a day with a fully loaded bicycle the river path is flat and I am confident there will be a bed waiting for me at the Empathy Hostel despite my not having made a reservation. Besides, rain is only water.
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The wind is gusting and rain is stinging into my eyes like a summer storm back home in Brisbane. Like those storms this rain is warm and, fortunately, unlike those storms there is no lightning or thunder to make my heart race. As I leave I notice two Korean cyclists packing up their tent under a pagoda near the first certification centre that I pass so now I feel more confident about future pagoda camping adventures.
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As my Goretex fails to keep me dry I pass many Korean fishermen sitting comfortably in their tents with coal barbecues, picnic tables and soju. Their fishing set ups are epic and would make my uncle Big Muscly Bill in Holland jealous. With at least six rods a piece sitting on fantastic rod holders and at least three crab (?) nets in the water and a multicoloured scoop net on the shore, these men are not just here to watch the scenery.
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I also pass some strange totem poles. I can’t quite decide whether I should be afraid or amused. Perhaps a little of both is the intended emotional response.
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Despite the rain there are still some lovely sights. In fact, I think this orange-leaved tree might look more impressive against the steely water as the greenery around it gets washed out by the rain.
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I reach Korea’s answer to Silicon Valley: Gumi. Through the rain I can see a sign proudly proclaim that LG Displays is the Global Number One display company. I guess it probably is if many Australian households are anything to go by. This section of the cyclepath is industrial as it travels through Gumi’s industrial zones.
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At Chilgok Dam and certification centre I stop at the only shop I see on the entire cycleway today. It’s a CVU where I experience my first Korean microwave burger. I have been eyeing these things off for weeks and it seems like time to take the plunge. Naturally, the instructions and the microwave buttons are all in Korean so I rely on the CVU lady to show this ignorant foreigner what to do. The burger actually tastes quite good. It has two mince patties, cheese, mustard and (my personal favourite) pickled gherkin. I have a messenger conversation wtih my friend at home. He wishes for me that the rain stops. I scoff and say I doubt it will. I step outside to find that it has. The skies are not blue but at least the worst of the downpour is over and I can take off the Goretex that has so far failed to keep me dry anyway. I pass a typical Korean city residential area with numbered buildings. I wonder what life must be like to live in such places. Is it any different to living in a suburban house like many Australians do? How many rooms does an apartment have? How big is it on the inside?
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I spy a traditional looking building about 50m off the track. There is a place to park my bike at a pagoda so I walk in to take a look. The building is an old residence that has been partially restored. The story is not so interesting but the building has a charm and I enjoy a short stay.
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After 95km of cycling I see Daegu sprawled out in the distance. The city is nestled between the mountains and river. It feels so close but what I don’t realise is that it will still be 5km before I reach the certification centre and then another 20km until I reach the city centre. But it’s only 2:30pm and this means I have time to make it to that warm dry bed and nice hot shower I have been daydreaming about. The cycleway into the city seems to end abruptly after about 5km leaving me with two choices: ride along crowded pedestrian footpaths that have a cycle lane painted on them or join the crazy traffic. I jam my helmet onto my head and select the latter as it will be much faster and, unlike the pedestrians, the traffic is only going in one direction. I don’t know from where I draw the energy to zip in and out of parked vehicles and sprint off from the traffic lights after the ride I’ve just done but somehow I find myself cranking down the road at speeds of over 30kph and throwing my 60kg loaded bike around as though it was built for trials. It’s worth it when the hostel has a bed and I enjoy a deliciously hot shower.