With another watery soup and rice breakfast in our tummies we head off with our most important motivation for the day: “Today we ride all the way home”. Unfortunately the only thing between us and Busan, except for 140km of cycling track, were some of the worst hills of the whole trip.
Just about half an hour into the morning we encountered an unending incline, winding up and around and up all the way to the top of a mountain. We zig zagged the breadth of the road, back and forth like ants in our attempt to reach the top as going straight up was futile. When I finally did reach the crest of the hill, my legs would not listen to my commands to clip my feet out of the cleats on my pedals. There was nothing for it but to topple over sideways connected to my pedals, feeling and looking like a fool. Nursing my bruises we basked in the feeling of accomplishment at the top and spurred other riders on with “fighting!” while they struggled up the last few meters.
We decided to take the suggested detour in our guidebook, as the next mountain range and uphill cycling track were apparently worse than the one we just conquered.
After a long morning of cycling we reached one of the certification centres by lunch time, hoping to find something to fill our stomachs and fuel our legs. However even after some discussion with locals and other cyclists it seemed there were almost no restaurants or shops around.
Me and my friend decided to try to find some kind of civilization and veered off the track down a local road. We did not have to go far and found a tiny ramshackle town. There were a few run down building looking like restaurants. We picked one and went inside, unaware that we have found a gemstone in the wilderness. There was only one menu and it included delicious cooked pork in a spicy sauce, three bowls of hot steaming rice for the two of us, a range of delicious side dishes and a tasty soybean soup filled with all kinds of vegetables and goodness. We were encouraged to eat as much as we wanted as the plates could all be refilled. We were also told to take as many cold water bottles from the fridge as we wanted. My friend Dong Jin was especially happy, he said we were eating real countryside food, like he haven’t had since he was young, fresh, delicious and rivaling his mom’s own cooking.
One ice cream later and some energy bars from the small local store in our bags, we headed off with new energy for the next 80 km.
The last leg of our trip included meeting up with some previous cycling partners, helping out others with some punctures along the way and giving directions to some lost foreigners. As the sun set on our third day I could feel my home getting closer and closer with every turn of our wheels. Soon we were cycling familiar tracks near Yangsan and stamped our second last stamp.
With darkness chasing us we entered Busan with the middle aged couple from the day before and another couple of men following our lead. Some of the navigation became difficult as the signs were hard to read in the dark and some parts of the road were under construction, but me and Dong Jin knew our way blindfolded and so the rest followed us.
The last sign, “Certification 2km further” spurred my tired legs on and made my wheels sing all the way to the last red stamp box. Our original plan was to cycle down to Daedaepo’s beach, but with time and darkness catching up on us, we decided to leave that for another day.
Late on this Saturday night, cyclists mingled around the stamp box, imprinting their accomplishment and smiling for a picture, the moment too big to talk about. After a rest and victory beer we helped our new cycling friends to buy some bus tickets online for going home and then we lead the way to the nearest subway, Hadan station. We filled up the train with bicycles, bags, tired legs, sweaty bodies, closed eyes and huge smiles.
382km, 3 days, 2 nights, no punctures, a botched back brake, lots of energy bars, one huge hill, interesting people and conversations, mountains, rivers, insects, animals, stamps, smiles, pictures, bruises, lots of sweat, detours, getting lost, napping between rice patties, parks, strange buildings, a few too many cups of makoli, hills at night, a spooky temple, liters and liters of water and so much more. As one foreigner put it who I met during the trip, “Why go abroad to travel during Chuseok when you can do such a trip like this?”.
Any information about cycling in South Korea.