part one, part two, part three, part four
Day Four: Seongsan Ilchulbong - Jeju City
The final day was a relatively easy 63km. This stretch was mostly coastal roads so it was incredibly scenic with very little traffic. The cycle paths along here are brand new and are surprisingly decent - smooth and not punctuated by even a single bus shelter! There are quite a few wind farms along these parts but they're still quite a novelty to me. Wind farms are a good gauge of how windy a place can be but we made pretty good progress nonetheless.
(gpx file download)
Squid hanging out to dry in the sunshine are all over the shop in Jeju. I love dried squid, but I'm not dishonest enough to help myself to them off the side of the road. I'll save that stuff for the baseball stadium.
Jenny was complaining about the wind in her ears so she made these home made ear muffs from her hooded top. Style for miles!!!
Haenyo in action. Just keep your eyes peeled for the orange buoys bobbing around and you'll find one soon enough.
The photos below are from a quaint fishing village called Gimnyeong. I haven't a clue what the place is like in summer, but in autumn it is a complete ghost town. It's a lovely little village with a white sand beach and picture perfect blue waters. All of the narrow streets are lined with dry stones walls built from black volcanic rock. I would like to go back there some day with some rods, go fishing and top it off by drinking some makkoli.
Jenny papped me tucking into a calorie balance bar. I never lose weight when I'm cycling because I end up eating my weight in Family Mart goods!
I'm totally envious of Sean's red Ortlieb panniers. They look good, they're durable, but most of all they stay on the rack! My silver panniers are made by Topeak. They are fine except for one major problem: they don't like to stay on my rack if I hit any major bumps. I've tried them with two different racks now. I will no doubt be investing in some Ortliebs in the near future. The only thing putting me off is the price tag - 190,000 KRW for a set of two.
Ddukbaegi! This stuff was so damn good. The broth just gets better and better as you get down to the bottom of the dish. The shrimp are heavily armoured though and a total pain in the arse to eat. Jenny cut her thumb trying to snap one of the buggers in two. Proceed with caution!
I gobbled this octopus down all in one go, then the ajuma came over with a pair of scissors to cut it up. She was fishing around in the communal hot pot trying to find it. I was pretty embarassed as I think I was supposed to share it. Whoops!
Walker should write a stretching manual.
"The beaches in Jeju suck" Jay Diaz.
I don't know where he got that idea from. This is Hamdeok beach and it looked like the perfect beach to me. I'm sure it gets overcrowded in the high season but on this day it couldn't be faulted. My one complaint was the music that was blaring out from one of the nearby restaurants. If I hear Celine Dion one more time I might reach breaking point and be forced to gun down a whole bunch of people. Sure, music can potentially enhance the atmosphere of a place, but Celine Dion can only lead to violence. FACT!
Stay hydrated guys!
Game Over at the ferry terminal.
We had a strange time in the ferry terminal at Jeju Island.
First off, finding the correct terminal was pretty difficult. It's way further east than we expected at the other end of the road from where we initially landed.
Secondly, while we were waiting for the ferry some ajuma slowly shuffles over to Sean's bike and right in front of our faces, without even trying to disguise it, she wedged a piece of trash into his helmet (it was on his bike, not on his head) and tried to walk off as if nothing had happened. Needless to say we were astonished at the audacity of it. I can only assume she was out of her mind drunk on soju or makkoli, or perhaps it's okay to just dump trash on people's belongings. Sean, completely flabbergasted at all this, called her out for her behaviour. She reluctantly took back the trash and tried to hide amongst the rest of the day-glo cladded hoards of living dead that were also waiting to board the ferry.
Thirdly, and this baffles me the most of all, the staff wouldn't let Jenny on the ferry because she didn't have her alien registration card, she had left her purse back in Gwangju so we had a problem on our hands. In Mokpo en route to Jeju they didn't ask us for any identification at all when boarding the ferry, so here we were stuck in Jeju without being offered any kind of solution. The woman had no interest in helping us whatsoever. She expected us to accept the fact and leave it at that. It seems completely illogical that the ferry company would let you head out in one direction without your identification yet demand it on your return journey. I showed her my E-2 alien registration card, explained that we were both registered at the same address (she should have been able to find her on their system) yet the woman was still unable to help us. Andy came back and pointed out that the woman actually HAD found Jenny on her system; her photo was up on the screen right in front of her. The situation only became resolved when we pulled out our phones and started dialling numbers. Eventually one of our co-workers came on the phone and magically resolved everything in about thirty seconds.
To sum it up, always keep your alien registration card on you! You never know when it might be needed. You've been warned!
The return leg of the journey was a lot of fun. The ferry had loads of picnic benches on deck and a well stocked 7/11 store on board. We said our farewells to Jeju and got treated to another amazing sunset at sea. We really did have the best luck with the weather and it made the trip all the more enjoyable. We were given a whole room to ourselves on the ferry. I suspect it was because we were foreigners, but whatever the reason why I don't care as we totally appreciated it.
God bless Korea and its ididosyncracies! I do love this country despite some of the peculiar situations I find myself in.
That's a celestial sunset right there!
That's a nuclear sunset right there!
Having been to Jeju three times now I would say this trip was the best of them all. All of the conditions were perfect and we had a great crew assembled. Cycling allows you to travel at your own pace and you get more time to enjoy the scenery. I've visited Jeju in February, July and October. I would recommend avoiding the high season during the summer as the island gets crowded and overpriced, plus the weather is unbearably hot and rainy.
Jeju is not the "Hawaii" that a lot of Koreans hype it up to be, but it is vastly different to mainland Korea and has a lot to offer. Avoid all the tacky museums that are on offer (perhaps with the exception of the bizarre Loveland) and make the most of the natural beauty on this island. Stuff yourself with delicious seafood and avoid the "black pig" like the plague. Sure it tastes fine, just like normal samgyupsal but with the added displeasure of being covered in black stubble. Oh, and I almost forgot... it would be rude not to bust open a bottle of the local makkoli whilst you were there.
I highly recommend a trip to Jeju in the winter as you will completely avoid the crowds. Hiking up Hallasan in the snow is a magnificent experience although you will need some crampons. We bought a pair for 10,000 KRW (£5) at a 7/11 near the beginning of the trail. Another added bonus is the super cheap flights available during the winter. In February we were able to bag round trip flights from Seoul with Eastar Jet for just 60,000 KRW (£30) each. They are also the only Korean airline that has a decent foreigner friendly website that accepts foreign cards as well.
There are also ferries to Jeju from various other ports including Incheon, Wando and Busan. The trip from Incheon, the closest port to Seoul takes about 12 hours.
Well, the fun is over and I've got to get back to teaching. I hope to do another bike trip soon. I've got an expedition bike in the works, the frame being built by Tom at Donhou Bicycles. With any luck I'll have it all assembled at some point next year. I'll keep you posted!
I'm out of here.
(photos: Alasdair & Jenny)
part one, part two, part three, part four