After waking up and getting dressed, I somewhat leisurely made the oatmeal that I had brought along with me (there was a hot water dispenser in the room) and ate it while watching a pretty disturbing National Geographic show about rhinos and elephants getting eaten by lions. Yeah… I know. But there wasn’t anything else on television aside from an infomercial channel, so it was either lion attacks, a Korean spokesman advertising fancy floral cooking knives, or silence. WHICH ONE WOULD YOU HAVE PICKED? Anyway, because of Sunday’s fairly low mileage (50 odd miles), I knew that I would have to pick up the pace during this mountainous stretch… so I wanted to enjoy a relaxing (what? with dying elephants on the TV?) breakfast and the comfort of having a private room for a bit longer before checking out of the hotel and heading towards the two epic mountain passes that were in store for the day.
Here is a picture of the hotel that I had stayed in during night 2. I could not get over how beautiful the morning was– I was invigorated with the low-hanging stratus clouds, the mountain-scapes, and the artificial palm trees.
Bored? Come on down to Suanbo, Home of Dog Soup and Skiing!
I cycled through the town, looking for a convenience store to load up on Pocari Sweat and protein bars before heading towards Sojoryeong Pass, a mountain pass with an elevation of 385 meters located along the Saejae trail in Hwacheon-ri. Suanbo, commercially speaking, looks a lot like Cheonan (where I live) and there was a lot of activity on the streets and in the shops. The mountain backdrop is nice when juxtaposed with colorful Korean store fronts.
I only biked a few kilometers before the relatively flat trail became a serious incline. I was approaching the first mountain pass. The views were so drawing that I had no choice but to dismount and take pictures.
Two kilometers before reaching the peak of Sojoryeong, I came upon an abandoned restaurant that stood alongside the road. As it was still fairly early in the morning, I figured that I would have enough time to explore for a few minutes, so I got off of my bike and climbed through a broken window to see what I would find.
I found it really interesting that the restaurant was more or less left intact. I would think that it would have been vandalized to a much greater extent than it was or that it would have been boarded up to keep people and animals out. Luckily for me, I could climb in through a broken window and whet my appetite for human artifacts.
Perhaps 10 minutes or so of decaying restaurant exploring happened before I hopped back on the saddle… I still hadn’t reached the peak of the first mountain pass and had a few more kilometers to go. On the way up, I passed three cyclists who were also biking to Busan. They couldn’t really speak any English so instead of speaking we just took pictures of each other. Little did I know that they were to play a big role in B.A.S.K. some 7 hours later….
Reached Summit. Coasted down. Found kimchi pots.
The views were breathtaking. This stretch was definitely one of the highlights of the journey– the landscapes, the weather, the crumbling buildings. It definitely made up for how I was feeling the night before to be sure.
I mean, how could I not be in high spirits!? Nothing but clear skies and mountains ahead!
Before hitting the second mountain pass, I came to more abandoned businesses and buildings. The pictures below were taken of a gas station and what I think used to be a convenience store.
Again, I dismounted to briefly check out the buildings; I was feeling good from the coast down Sojoryeong Pass and I figured a “reward” was in order. I climbed into yet another broken window…
These buildings weren’t nearly as well preserved as the restaurant and it looked as though many more people before me had peered inside and fingered the material left overs of the buildings’ former occupants.
At any rate, I soldiered on… I had a lot of ground to cover before the day was to conclude and Ihwaryeong Pass (the second mountain) was looming in the distance. Before long, I was climbing up the pass. The road quickly began to wind around the mountain and after a while I began to lose steam. It was really steep! For various stretches I had to dismount and walk the bike alongside me. And even more frequently, I would peak through the trees and survey the world below me…
Ihwaryeong Pass was the highest mountain that I climbed during my 4.5 day trek across Korea with an elevation of 914 feet over 3.5 miles. It took a while to climb to the peak and with the day as hot as it was, reaching the top was a happy feat. I only took a few photos from the top of the pass as I wanted to make up for the mileage that was lost the day before. And really, the coasting down mountains thing is just, you know, like so totally awesome…
Here is a pic from the summit:
I think my day peaked fairly soon after I had reached the height of the day’s elevation …haha. 18-20 miles past Ihwaryeong’s summit, I made a navigational “error” that was to prove both costly and emotionally frustrating. I had been [loosely] following Jan Boonstra‘s bike route and the plan was to follow it all the way down to Busan. As some of you might remember, I had pre-planned my daily destination points and had determined rough mileage estimates to help organize the trip and keep me on track to hit my goal in the 4.5 day time frame. As I had written about before, there were times when Boonstra’s route ran concurrently with the 4 Rivers bike route. Okay… well… so I absentmindedly followed the clearly marked bike path (thank you 4 Rivers…) and missed a river crossing/right hand turn that would have spit me out into Sanyang and then through to Yonggung (Boonstra’s route). Instead, I continued on the marked path, through a rural community, enjoying the architecture and styles of the homes that I was passing by. And then, when the bike route began criss-crossing me through farm plots, I stopped to check where I was on the GPS. Yeah………. I had biked some 8 miles past the turn to Sanyang. EFF. It was already mid-afternoon at this point. Turning back would mean that I would essentially lose 1.5-2 hours of bike time and with the sun setting at 6:30 p.m. and having another 25-30 miles to bike before concluding for the day, I just didn’t think that I could afford to bike back to correct my mistake. I thought for a while (/anger-cried for about 15 seconds) and decided that all wasn’t lost, I could just scrap my original plans and follow the 4 Rivers route down to Busan. Ugh. HI HO SILVER AWAY!
My new goal for the day was to bike down past Sangju, a rural town known best for its persimmons, silkworm cocoons, and rice. It really was a beautiful fall afternoon– but I was having a hard time enjoying it. I was angry at myself and uncertain what my mistake would mean– how much additional mileage would it add, if any? Would I be able to get to Busan via this new route without a map? And most importantly, how would I be able to find food and accommodation along the way as the majority of the 4 Rivers trail is panic-inducingly rural for someone who can’t speak Korean. And while I generally prefer to do things solo, I was really wishing I had brought along a biking partner to help me with navigation.
Fast-forward 20 miles: the sun was beginning to set and I had no clue as to where I would sleep for the night. I was biking on farm roads and I hadn’t seen any other cyclists (or really anyone) for miles. I was beginning to worry that I would have to knock on someone’s door and beg for help… the nights were too cold for me to camp outside and I was getting hungry. My phone batteries weren’t going to last me much longer, but still I tried using Google to see if there were any major roads or businesses near to where I was located. Nada. And just as my panic began to set in, the three old men from the morning came up behind me! I flagged them down and in broken Korean (HAH! Who am I kidding…) I asked where they were spending the night (“Jimjilbang?” + questioning arm motion). They motioned for me to follow them and managed to convey that we’d have to bike for another 5-8 kilometers. Too emotionally and physically exhausted to care, I followed them…
We passed by Nakdanboa, a huge hydroelectric dam that supposedly combines the design styles and cultures of its surrounding cities: Sangju, Gumi, and Uiseong.
A kilometer or two past the dam was a small dead-end street that ran just off of the bike path. With one motel, three restaurants, a noraebang, and two butchers, we were in the lap of luxury. The three old men and I carried our loaded bikes up three flights of stairs to reach the motel and book rooms. We said goodnight and parted ways. Time to eat!
Day 2 Stats:
Distance: 64.46 miles (Suanbo to Sangju/Gumi)
Money Spent: ₩2,500 (coffee + pocari sweat + protein bar), ₩2,500 (kimbap lunch + rice drink) + ₩8,500 (dinner) + ₩30,000 (hotel room)= ₩43,500
Times Lost: 1