part one - part two - part three
Day Four: Bongyang to Sannae.
After Tuesday's 150km epic ride that went on into the night we slept in for a LONG time on Wednesday. It was much needed but we didn't feel well rested at all. Tuesday had taken its toll on us and we were all walking like action figures whose joints had been filled with super glue by some kid. The sunshine was turned up to 11 so that took the edge off things. We'd picked a motel which had a sauna in which was probably the best possible situation. Soaking your aching limbs in steaming hot water makes you feel infinitely better after a long ride!
Day Four Route: Approximately 90km. My iPhone died. That's why the blue line stops in the middle of nowhere, some way before Sannae.
This might have been the spot where Tim rumbled me buying four snickers bars to munch on throughout the day. I was pretty disgusted by myself, so I replaced two of them with some "Dr You" bars. This breakfast was strictly 7/11 junk food. By the end of this trip we were all pretty run down. My gums felt horrible, perhaps it was scurvy? Ha ha. I must eat more fruit!
Flatness! Winner! What a start to the day! On the downside my knees were grim from the get go, turning to dust with each turn of the pedals. They'd been left in tatters after the previous day's ride. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to complete the trip after all. I spent a lot of the morning lagging behind the others.
Later on in the day Hassan's rear wheel started to get a bit wobbly. At first it wasn't much of a big deal, but then the rims started to rub against the rear breaks. A couple of his spokes had broken. He had to ride with just the front breaks on for the rest of the journey. We passed through one town and looked about for a bike shop, but there were none to be seen. Tim and Hassan made a bit of an effort to try and adjust the tension on the spokes to straighten the wheel up. It helped a little, but he'd have to wait until we got to Busan to try and get them fixed. Even if we had found a bike store en route we would probably have been out of luck. Most bike shops in Korea only stock spokes for 26inch wheels. Even if a shop actually sells bicycles with 700cc wheels they rarely have the spokes available for instant repairs. So if you ride 700cc wheels and plan on doing a tour in Korea I would recommend taking a couple of spokes along for the ride. They only cost about 600 KRW per spoke (30p). Even in Seoul they can be hard to come by.
This dinosaur was made from melted bin bags. What a find!
This village was fantastic. The people were really friendly and curious. I can't imagine that it's very often when a bunch of white dudes on bicycles roll through their town. It's always fun when people ask you where you are going. "Busan!". They'd look at us as though we were insane with utter disbelief.
"Sorry mate you can't join our crew. We're the FOUR cyclists of the apocalypse. Five won't work."
Korea - M*A*S*H T-shirt - helicopter. PHOTO OP!!!
The calm before the hill.
This hill was pure insanity! It was the steepest by a long shot. Every single one of us had to get off our bikes and push them for for the majority of the climb. This photo was taken near the top of the hill where it had only just started to mellow out. Finally we could hop back on our bikes and pedal. Not even gears made this hill any fun.
Reward! You might be able to spot the KTX bridge in the background. Those trains seem a lot faster when you're stationary and they're whizzing past than when you're sat in one of them.
From here it was steady cruising. It was such an easy cycle, almost entirely downhill from here until we arrived at the lake (below). It was in stark contrast to Tuesday's finale.
Gibby ditched his bike for some rollerblades for the last stretch of the journey, or at least that's what it looks like.
We rolled into Sannae at sunset and found a nice samgyupsal restaurant where we drank some makkoli with a very enthusiastic and affectionate manager. He clung to us as we said goodbye at the end of the meal and invited us to come to his restaurant in the morning so they could cook breakfast for us. It was a lovely gesture but seemed far too generous to accept. I'm sure alcohol had something to do with his proposal and he would undoubtedly have ended up suffering had we accepted.
Day Five: Sannae to Busan (Haeundae Beach).
Waking up on Thursday I felt invincible compared to the day before. Previously I'd felt like I wouldn't be able to complete the trip but today my legs and joints were infinitely better. I wasn't the only one. Everybody seemed to be feeling well rested and full of energy. This was our last day on the road!
I don't know the exact amount we cycled this day as I didn't charged my iPhone the night before, so I couldn't use cyclemeter to track our ride. We clocked up somewhere between 90-95km. The terrain along this stretch is all pretty easygoing and should have been a quick ride to the coast, but there was one major obstacle: HEADWINDS!!!
The road leaving Sannae is pretty mellow. It twists and undulates for a short while before turning into a long gradual uphill climb.
In the cities of Korea tiny dogs are all the rage. Even a standard shitsu is a relatively large dog in Seoul. Miniature Yorkshires and teacup Poodles are regular accessories being carried around dressed up in all kinds of strange novelty doggy clothing. To see a decent sized dog you need to head out deep into the countryside where the farm dogs are much bigger. Don't jump the gun, I'm not going to start talking about dog meat!
When you cycle by a farm in the countryside you inevitably get received by a chorus of barking dogs. Most farms keep a few dogs for security, the louder and more energetic they are the better, like a Jindo. They are not guard dogs like in Europe as they can't chase after you because they are usually tethered on a very short chain. On this particular stretch of road leading out of Sannae was where it was really brought to our attention. One farm had around 8 dogs tied up to their kennels in the yard. These dogs have so much energy they need a lot of space to roam. This was the only part of our cycle trip that I didn't like - seeing animals living in such terrible conditions. The irony is that a lot of these dogs are tied up a long way from any residences, so they don't actually alert farmers to intruders on their property, they are just there to frighten people away. Yet everybody knows these animals are tied up so you could still go ahead and steal anything you wanted, if you so wished.
Yet more abandoned restaurants. Apparently Sannae used to have a substantially larger population, but all the young folk buggered off to cities like Busan and Ulsan.
After the last major downhill of the trip we spotted this strange nautical themed restaurant. They love this stuff in Korea.
These apartments were empty. They might have been gutted or they might never have been completed. One thing's for sure, they were old and filthy. We want to go inside and take a look around, but they were fenced in and there was some security present.
Only 45km to go!!! This is highway 35, the new one. We tried to stay off it as much as possible and keep to the old 35 which ran parallel most of the way but sometimes we had no other option. The traffic on this road was nasty.
The road from here to Busan was almost entirely flat, but the headwinds were some of the strongest winds I've ever cycled into. It weighed us down and added an extra hour or so to the day. I think wind is worse than rain and makes climbing steep hills fun. There is always a downhill at the end of a long climb, but not at the end of a headwind!
We saw this really strange rainbow in the sky. It was a full circle around the sun. I'd never seen this before in my life. It turns out that it is a circumhorizontal arc, caused by the refraction of light through ice crystals in cirrus clouds. It can only occur when the sun is elevated above 57.8°
Now that's what I call a Kimchi pot factory.
BUSAN!!! Riding into Busan felt unreal. We were almost there. We had cycled pretty much the entire length of the country! For once riding in the traffic felt exciting. Signs for Haeundae Beach started popping up eveywhere. The discomfort in my knee wasn't even in my mind anymore. I couldn't wait to get off my bike and run straight into the sea.
We rolled onto a largely empty Haeundae Beach. I'd said all along that I was going to run into the ocean, so I stripped down and did exactly that. I got stared at as if I was out of mind. It was April and the swimming season, which is strictly adhered to, doesn't kick of until July. Needless to say it was damn cold, but nothing compared to the Irish sea where I spent my summers swimming.
The CYCLOPATHS (left to right): Alasdair, Hassan, Tim, Gibby.
Drinking some well deserved beer on the beach!
We were in Busan. We had cycled 500km. We hit the town.
Tim and Gibby had to get back to Seoul for midday on Friday for a work meeting. Hassan headed back with them. I heard the others leaving so I said my goodbyes and went back to sleep. I woke up later with a dreadful celebratory hangover in a dark empty hotel room. The floor mattresses were piled up in a messy heap over in the corner of the room. Outside everything was dark grey and it was pissing it down with rain. The glory of Thursday night had completely vanished.
If you feel like cycling from Seoul to Busan you should definitely do it. It's not an easy ride so if you don't cycle much, clock up some miles beforehand to prepare. We did it in 5 days but it was rough and it would be nice to take some more time to stop and see all the stuff you come across en route. If you use the maps that Jan Boonstra take note of the accommodation he has marked down. You don't want to end up repeating that happened to us on day 3.
Remember: "If in doubt, turn left"!
part one - part two - part three