The sun rise over industrial Donghae is stunning. Construction sites and factories form intriguing shapes against the red horizon. I’ve slept well, eaten a good breakfast and am on the road fairly early (by my standards).
Nearby women and men prepare their stalls at the Donghae Five Day Traditional Market. All manner of vehicle is used to bring the goods to market. Little blue trucks litter the street as older marketeers unload bundles of vegetables that seem heavier than the people lifting them. Wheelbarrows are pushed down the road as though the trucks and cars bustling about don’t exist. Pumpkins, shallots, Korean radishes and dried chillies are just some of the items you can buy here.
I follow the signs towards a nearby beach. Before I can reach my first destination of the day I come across what will become a familiar sight over the coming days: rice being dried in the middle of the road. I’m guessing that the road is perfect for drying rice because it is dry, relatively clean and heats up during the day. So why not just put out some witches’ hats, lay down a tarp and rake the rice down. Besides, it’s right next to the paddy so that saves on transport costs.
I come to a rocky beach. It’s tucked away in a cove just after the industrial zone ends. If I had arrived from the south and stopped here I wouldn’t even guess that Donghae is an industrial hub. The golden sun creates silhouettes of the rocks and I walk a short path around the headland to properly enjoy it.
An old building stands sentry at the head of the beach. It’s yet another example of the way the traditional and modern blend almost effortlessly together here.
Navigation becomes easier as I follow the coast. Whenever the road deviates I can look for one or both the new east coast cycleway or the Romantic Road of Korea. The cycleway is well-signed where it exists (I believe it is under construction and not yet complete, which is why I keep finding places where it disappears) and the Romantic Road of Korea is clearly signed in most places (it sometimes disappears in towns, which might also be because I deviate from its course). The road is actually quite romantic with plenty of places to stop and take in ocean views and see cool tourist attractions.
If you do come to the east coast of Korea to cycle, this is an example of the blue line that has been painted on the road for you to follow. In other places there are pictures of bicycles followed by two chevrons indicating the direction you should travel and often there are also signs that are similar to those on the four river cycleways. Unlike the river paths, much of this cycleway follows quiet coastal roads rather than being on dedicated cycleway but don’t let that put you off because the roads have little traffic and are away from the main highways.
There’s no shortage of fishing villages today either. Drying seems to be a popular method of preserving seafood here. I can’t help but wonder whether the drying of vegetables and seafood is a response to Korea having four distinct seasons (or so I am told by Koreans). Winter is approaching and perhaps drying is how food is stored for that season.
Despite being on the coast the ride is no doddle. The mountains here drop right down into the sea. And no concrete has been wasted when building the roads. I discover that a 13% grade is too steep for me to ride with a fully loaded bike and clip pedals that no longer release reliably. After about 50m I get off to push the bike.
The climbs are rewarded with stunning ocean views of water so clear that you can see the changes in depth.
At one tiny village I can resist no longer and, seeing no signs forbidding swimming, I unpack my raft, blow it up and push off into the sea.
I say that like I actually went somewhere but I didn’t. Rather, I bobbed around on the water just a few metres off the beach enjoying the crystal clear view of the ocean floor and surrounding rocks. Small waves rocked me gently as I watched an old lady watching me from the shore. For about half an hour I just bob there not going anywhere or doing anything. It’s a magical feeling.
Paddle over I dry my raft in the sun, pack and set off up yet another seaside mountain climb. At the top I find Haesindang Park with it’s famous phallic statues. That’s right … a whole park dedicated to the male member. Most of the other guests of the park (entry 3,000 won) are small groups of women giggling with each other. I even spot a nun wearing a habit amoung one of the groups. I spot two young couples holding hands with lovestruck grins on their faces and a couple of men looking embarrassed being led around by their wives. There is a large fishing village museum in the middle of the park but I don’t see anyone entering it.
While some of the statues are rather erotic and suggestive, others are more creative. They have been placed here to appease the spirit of a young lady who drowned when a wave swamped a nearby island. She was a seaweed collector and loved a local fisherman. He took her to a small island to collect seaweed and said he would return after his day fishing. When the time came for him to collect the lady a storm broke out and made it impossible for him to reach the island. During the storm the island was swamped by a wave and the lady drowned. Thereafter, the village suffered poor catches until someone made an offering of a phallic statue in the shrine. After that statue was offered, the village again had successful catches so more statues were added to continue to appease the lady. The entire walking route is about 1.5km (1 mile) return and there are many statues to be seen.
In the village itself rows and rows of squid hang out to dry as women sell all manner of dried seafood. A lady gives me a couple of small cooked fish from her lunch barbecue and asks nothing in return. I have already indicated that I am not buying any of the big piles of squid and fish that have been bundled for sale. I would if there was just one squid but I really do have no need for the family sized bulk pack.
I reach Hasan-ri where I see a big sign advertising a motel. It’s a tempting sight and it’s after 3pm but I decide to push on to find a place to camp. A closed camping ground across the river looks tempting but, again, Hasan-ri is an industrial place and something doesn’t feel right about camping here. Perhaps it’s my desire not to freeload or the signs with red letters and barrier across the entrance to the park. Whatever it is, I can’t relax here and I need a good night sleep.
There are two options from here: a coast road or a mountian route. What I don’t realise is that the coast road will connect with the mountain route by the most direct path. After pushing my bike about 200m up yet another unrideable climb and seeing that it will continue for about 1km, I turn around and ride back to Hasan-ri to stay in the motel. It turns out to be a very strangely decorated love motel with huge posters of scantily clad women on the walls, a massive mirror above the bed, and a condom and packet of lube on the dresser. What is nice though is the upmarket aftershave and moisturiser that is also on the bedstand. Oh how glorious it feels to smell human again after having been Mr Stinky the past few days.
I left the hostel in Gangneung with no real idea about how far I would get. I decided to just ride and enjoy the seaside towns that I passed. I took the cycleway to the sea where I watched the sun turn the water to gold. A random cyclist on a really cool MTB stopped to say hello and took a photo of us together. It made me smile and was a good start to the day.
I followed a range of small roads and paths through the rice paddies trying to find my way out of Gangneung. It took me 15km before I found my way back to the number 7 road but I enjoyed the detour through the paddies, which gave me plenty of time to get close to the fields and take photos.
The rice harvest looks like it is backbreaking work. While it looks like machinery is used to cut the rice, women and men still bundle it up and carry it off the fields by hand. I am impressed by the farmers’ work ethic and strength.
Once on the coast road I wound my way ever southwards. Navigation was a challenge because I didn’t really want to follow the highway but I also didn’t want to spend all day checking my location on Google maps or Naver. So at first I just followed the signs to the Unification Park where I got to explore a captured North Korean submarine and a massive South Korean warship. A group of young sailors were also touring the warship; one in particular was friendly and keen to practice his English. Nineteen out of the twenty-seven rooms on the ship were open to the public, making the ship a worthwhile stop on the road south.
My favourite “room” was the pilot’s station. It was interesting to see just how limited the view is from through these windows.
And I also liked the helm with it’s old-school controls. It looked like something out of a movie.
Speaking of movies. Where else but Korea would you see a romantic photo opportunity on a warship? Unfortunately, I am traveling alone on this trip so I couldn’t get a photo; though I did try to find a spot to use the self-timer on the camera.
A little further down the road again I climbed a hill to this pagoda. It was so pretty tucked away between the trees. As I descended to return to my bike a group of ladies were setting up a picnic behind their parked cars on the street. They placed down a mat, took off their shoes and proceeded to pour coffees. A polite invitation was extended to me but I decided to decline as it was obviously just that: an invitation out of cultural requirement. And besides, I really don’t like coffee.
From another mountainside pagoda I could see the road I was about to ride stretch out before me. This section of road was advertised on the tourist map as one of the most beautiful sections of the Romantic Road of Korea, which I have been following since Yangyang. The road hugged the cliffs but was also exposed to the sea.
I stopped on the side of the road to watch as waves crashed all around. There were warning signs about the potential for waves to break over the road and I imagine at times it could get quite dangerous here if the seas were high.
The sea was actually breaking over the road in a few places and I had to time my crossings carefully so as not to get wet. There was no risk of being swamped and taken out to sea but I still preferred to stay dry.
A beachside pagoda made a good place for lunch. I tried some of these honey bread things but found them quite dry so I heated a couple up and lathered them in Nutella to make them more palatable. The beaches here are wide. It really struck me all the way down the northern sections of the east coast. You could fit a lot of people out there on a nice warm summer’s day.
Every cove seemed to have it’s own fishing harbour. Small boats proudly flew Korean flags and the salty air was filled with the sight and smell of fresh fish being dried.
It was mid-afternoon when I reached Donghae and saw the signs to the caves near the centre of the city. I didn’t expect much so was surprised when I was handed a helmet and instructed in it’s proper adjustment. It turns out that you actually do need a helmet in these caves. Unlike so many I’ve visited in the past, there are places where you actually have to get down and almost crawl under low ceilings and dodge your way past real stalamites (or are they stalagtites?).
The formations in the caves were stunning. While my guide book of Korea criticises the caves here of having garish lighting, I quite like the colourful effects. It’s quite cheerful.
I didn’t make it much further after leaving the caves. I rode for about 10km but was still in the city itself so stopped next to a cycleway in a riverside park where I waited until after sunset to pitch my tent.
Despite the heavy industry humming away across the river, the sunset was superb and I found myself able to relax.
So I haven’t written in a few days and so much has happened. I am relying on free (or included in accommodation) wifi here in Korea so sometimes it takes me a few days to be able to log on. During the day I can use my phone to update my Looking for 42 Facebook page but for blogging I prefer my laptop, which I keep buried in my panniers and under my rack bag while riding.
On my second day in Gangneung I went out for a little ride around town. My hostel was near the river, which had a cycle path along it that led all the way to the beach. Unlike in Australia, bicycle helmets are optional here in Korea so I have often opted not to wear mine. And I’ve very much enjoyed the whole wind through what’s left of my hair thing.
The beach was delightful. I found this very comfortable seat to sit in for a little while to watch the waves.
And then these really cool picture frames in which you can photograph yourself as if your photo is being hung on a wall. This is the quirky part of Korea that I think you’ll have realised I love. There were three or four of these frames and of course I took a multitude of photos at each one. Thank goodness for my camera’s self-timer.
Further down the beach was this strange seed in which was cut the shape of a human. I don’t know what the message is meant to be but of course I did have to use the self-timer on my camera again to take a picture of me in the seed. This is my idea of a fun outing.
Just near the seed was this postbox. It had drawers that contained all different postcards from Gangneung that were already stamped and free. So I took a stack and wrote them. The next day I went to the post office because I didn’t know whether the postage covered international mail. The post office didn’t accept any money and said it was “okay”. Unfortunately, at least one of the postcards I wrote didn’t yet have an address on it because I was waiting for a response from my son as to where his new home is. Whoops.
A bicycle path ran around the edge of the nearby lake. This park is very beautiful and has many sculptures. A series of little statues told the love story of an official who came to Gangneung in the old days. He fell in love with a beautiful lady (as they all do) but was torn away by official business (naturally). When he returned a mean man (there’s always a mean man) told him that the lady had died (as mean men do). The mean man was joking but the official felt sad. But then he saw the lady was still alive so they fell in love again and lived happily ever after (thankfully Shakespeare did not write this story). The sculptures were so expressive that even if there had been no English translation I would have known the story.
On the other side of the lake some “children” were playing in the park. A girl was floating a boat down a stream, another girl was picking flowers and a boy was playing at being a soldier. But my favourite were these three “children” playing hide and go seek. You can actually see the movement in their actions.
From the lake it was a a bit of a ride to the house of the lady who is on the 50,000 won note (I wish I was better at remembering the names of people and places). I guess this place is like a palace for it is large and regal with beautiful groomed gardens dotted with pagodas and white-washed worker cottages. Like so many other Korean museums and places of interest, the entry fee was a mere 3,000 won ($AU/US3). I am impressed by this commitment on the part of Korean tourism to encourage people to access the many museums and sites the country has to offer. They all seem to be either free or only 3,000 won.
The property looks like it is being renovated or repaired. Workmen carted heavy blocks of concrete up the stairs as a team. There was no crane or machinery … just muscles.
I probably only stayed out for about four hours but it was a delightful experience.
Today is a day of rest. I have slept in, watched movies on my laptop, cooked lunch and bought groceries for the next leg of my ride. This evening I intend to continue to do more of the same. I haven’t even started my assignment despite taking the day off riding to do so. I can report that my bunk at Aark House hostel is very comfortable. Tomorrow I might go sightseeing here in town and do some of the work I was going to do today. But every now and then a day in your dorm room bunk is exactly what the doctor orders.
The only news I have to report is that the supermarket is that I am clearly becoming more comfortable here in Korea because my trip to the supermarket was not as mysterious as it was a week ago. I found some much more appropriate foods like dried seaweed and vegetables (the greens I bought in Seoul rotted in the heat and I suspect the sniffer dogs at Brisbane airport will make a bee line straight to my luggage when I return to Brisbane at the end of the month).
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)
I didn’t get very far today. But what a wonderful day full of activity that it was.
I started my day with a gentle 5km (3 mile) descent to the base of the mountains I was descending when I stopped last night. What a contrast starting the day descending makes to starting with an ascent. Ah the wind in what little hair I have left (through my helmet because the road was relatively busy) and the sight of mountains becoming smaller as I traveled east. The lake at the base of the mountains was a pretty sight and I can imagine it would be amazing to camp here a night.
I had heard Yangyang was having their annual Mushroom Festival this weekend but had no idea that it would be a big deal. At first I felt a little lost entering a big city after a short slightly scary ride along the highway. I wanted to get straight out as quickly as possible. Until I stopped, ate a packet of Oreo cookies (you get three for the price of two at one of the shops here and I do love Oreo cookies) and wandered through the main street. My first win was having a bike mechanic adjust my disc brake for free (a good thing because I had no front brake descending the mountain yesterday). I still need new pads but he didn’t have any and I couldn’t work out how to ask him to switch me over from disks to V-brakes (I have V-brake mounts on the front fork and have decided to retain the existing disc wheel but use V-brakes instead because pads are easier to buy than disc pads. My rear wheel is already a V-brake). Anyway, it didn’t take me long to find the mushroom festival and that was it for riding today.
What’s not to love about a festival: even one to celebrate something as random as mushrooms. There’s always good food to be bought including these massive sweet crispy apples that are about the size of a children’s soccker ball.
There’s always my favourite: the person dressed up as some sort of cartoon character. It just makes me need a photo with them.
Speaking of photos with people. This drag performer’s wife pushed me onto the “stage” to have a photo with her husband. She was very proud of him. I don’t know whether his singing was any good but it was real.
The military were at the festival doing some public relations work. There were displays of cut open bombs and missiles, artifacts that have been dug up from the war and North Korean military items. Young soldiers made balloon animals for children, painted children’s faces and served military chow.
You could even have your picture taken in a real South Korean military uniform. I now have four small polaroid passport sized photos of me exactly like this. They were even free. That’s the great thing about Korea. Many touristy things are free or very cheap. Not quite sure the Australian passports office would accept the photos for my next passport though.
I probably spent a good two hours exploring the market and another hour in Yangyang proper before I set off along a riverside cycleway towards the beach. This is another great thing about Korea: they have proper off-road cycleways and my experience is that they are usually located along rivers and creeks. This path kept me off the busy highway 7 and gave me lovely views of parklands and the beach.
Once at the beach the cycleway split into a boardwalk over the sand …
… and a pathway between the trees. I rode both, taking in the full beachfront cycling experience.
The experience included watching locals hire quad bikes and ride them along the wide sandy beach. This is part of the playful side of Korea that I have fallen in love with. This ability to just do something for fun with seemingly little concern for what others might think. I mean … if you are a grandmother with a six or seven year old son wouldn’t you want to let him drive you around the beach on a quad bike? Perhaps what I am enjoying is the contrast between this type of behaviour and the nanny state in which I live at home where this type of fun would never be allowed.
What tourist location experience would be complete without horse drawn carriages? But here this kitschy experience is taken to a whole new level: the carriages are lit up and play music. What a sight to make me smile. If I was here with friends or someone special I would so take a ride because I would probably not stop smiling.
It’s not all fun and games. Nearby fishermen were working hard mending nets and preparing for their next trips to sea.
I rode past the fishing boats and up the short steep hill to Naksansa (temple). A lot of Koreans were also here taking advantage of the public holiday to see the temple. I paid my KRW3,000 ($AU/US3) entry and wandered in.
There were peaceful pagodas and amazing ocean views.
A massive statue stood in pride of place at the top of a cliffside hill. There is a big story about it but I didn’t really pay attention because I was just soaking up the atmosphere.
Temple buildings that had probably seen thousands of visitors just today alone felt tranquil and calm as tourists mingled with the faithful who had come here for prayer.
The whole experience was peaceful and calming, which I needed after a bit of a mishap with my credit card and the loss of the sunglasses that were at the centre of said mishap. A vendor at a shop unintentionally charged me KRW200,000 instead of KRW20,000. It’s an easy mistake but I don’t know whether he knew how to reverse the transaction. He said he cancelled it and tore up both copies of the receipt (I hope he doesn’t think that equates to canceling it) and there was a language barrier at play. I phoned my bank who have registered the dispute but have to wait until the vendor reconciles his transactions. To add insult to injury, it was very windy today and said sunglasses blew off my head within an hour of my buying them. So, as I explored the temple grounds I reminded myself of the Buddhist teaching of impermanence and the reality that everything will be okay. Besides: I am in Korea having a wonderful time and it’s not like the guy intentionally ripped me off. He was so apologetic and polite about the whole thing.
And so I came to my favourite place in the temple. It wasn’t anywhere special or signed. Just a grassy field between the lake and main building where some small lanterns stood guard. People walked along nearby paths but the lanterns drew my attention away from the crowds and into that place we all find sometimes when everything will be okay.
And okay it will be. For this morning I had no idea where I would sleep tonight but now this is the view from my tent at a campground right on the beach just a short ride from the festival or a quick walk to seafood restaurants. The fee is KRW30,000 a night for up to four people but I snagged a site for KRW15,000 because I insisted on “what about if only 1 person”. I probably could have gotten away with a free camp in a park by the river but this way I can leave my tent to explore the bright lights of Yangyang: a fabulous town that has made me smile for all the right reasons.
(Total cycled 30km)
I wake ridiculously early in the pagoda. Perhaps some insect or small animal walked over me because I dream that someone was sitting on the bench behind me and stepped over me, stealing one of my bags. In my dream I am standing in my sleeping bag shouting at the person. But of course I am not and it’s just a dream. No one is there. Just me and the darkness. Nothing is disturbed; only my sleep.
The good thing about waking up and being on the road before dawn (I gave up trying to go back to sleep around 4.30am) is that you get a headstart on the day. I follow the river path in darkness, every turn seeming to bring me back in a circle but, of course, it actually doesn’t. I reach the actual town of Ganhyon a few kilometres after leaving the pagoda. I find some wifi and Skype / message with people from home until the sun rises. The bicycle path signs lead to a long steep climb. I doubt myself and do a few laps of the township before deciding I might as well suck it up and start climbing.
As I climb the valley opens out behind me. It’s the first of many such views I will see during the day and it takes my breath away.
The cycleway takes me through rice fields. It’s harvest time. I ride past workers and cut rice. I think rice fields are some of the most exotic places to cycle.
At the end of the cycleway I join a road. It seems crazy to think of tanks needing to use these roads until I realise that the war here was only relatively recent and that this part of the country was the last frontier in that war. There are probably heaps of military camps still located around here and training probably isn’t hypothetical.
I enter a valley an see a crowd of scarecrows in the distance. It looks like a whole township of people. They are so creative and well thoughtout. These “guys” actually look like they are playing soccer.
And these “children” are “running around” playing like children do.
My other favourite is this scary guard along the road.
I reach Hoengseong where another riverside cycle path leads me out of town. There seem to be a lot of cycle paths here in Korea. This one takes riders to the Hoengseong Dam but I turn off partway.
The river has cut a deep path through the valley. In places the cycleway runs along elevated boardwalks that overhang the watercourse. I love the jagged peaks that jut out like sharks’ teeth.
In other places flowers line the cycleway and rice fields add to the atmosphere.
I leave the cycleway and follow road #19 over a pass. In the valley I reach a small town that does not appear on my map. It’s typical of the towns here. Some buildings along the main road with one road behind. I spend about an hour waiting to post a birthday present to my nephew. The post office man only has one other person to serve but he is painfully slow; and that’s before he tries to serve me with my total lack of ability to speak Korean. Outside a shop chillies and zucchinies (corgettes) are drying, and school children sit at the bus stop eating lollies and crisps.
I climb a long pass out of the valley where the post office town was. As I climb I take a spill while I drink some water. In Australia we drive on the left so I usually veer slightly to the right if I am off balance but here those few centimetres cause me to run into the crash barrier and come off my bike. I’m fine: just a grazed knee and some bark off my pannier. The view back to the valley is worth the spill.
Each pass I cross leads to another breathtaking valley where farms are wedged in every crack of the mountain. It takes my breath away each time I see it. All day long I ride from valley to valley exlaiming at the view.
I stop in Seoseok to look for a minbak or hotel. There is a pension but no one answers the door when I arrive so I have to keep going. I ride on looking for a place to camp when I come to a roadhouse and something that looks like it might once have been a guesthouse but is now closed. Across the road there is a sign for camping but it also is closed. Tired and worn out from 96km of mountain riding I push my bike down to the campground and hang out waiting for dark to pitch my tent. It’s pretty with a creek running nearby and mountains rising on all sides. It’s a fantastic place to end the day.