I woke up at 7am and was hurting– my legs were stiff and it was cold outside of the comforter and I really had to pee. Needless to say, it was a rough start to the day. I needed to make the six o’clock train from Busan to Cheonan by Wednesday afternoon or else I would surely be stranded in Busan for the night. After briefly showering, I got dressed and tried to gauge on Google Maps how many more miles I would need to bike to get to Busan on the new route (I figured around 120). I also decided that I would have to bike a good distance past Daegu before checking into motel number four. I packed up my gear and called my mom. After a pep talk and pleas for safe biking, I checked out of the motel and was handed a note by the receptionist which I absently stuffed into my pocket before heading out into the cold morning.
And goddamn was it cold! I tied my bandana around my face the way I had seen many Korean cyclists do before me… and pulled my gloves out of my pocket when the note fell onto the ground.
It turned out that the three old men from the day before had written it. I was really touched by their kindness; I definitely teared up for a moment (don’t judge, insane amounts of exercise can make anyone bob and weave between emotional extremes).
The fog was incredibly thick but it made for a beautiful bike ride. I opted to take the national road that ran through Nakdong-ri, the village where I had spent the night, as opposed to the bike path because I wanted to see if I could find a place to get coffee and some hot water for my oatmeal.
I biked for roughly 5 miles before finding an open shop (it was after 8am, mind you). It is honestly mind-blowing how late stores open in Korea. I went inside the shop/”diner” and asked for a cup of coffee. They didn’t have any. Then I asked if they had a cup of hot water. The owner poured hot water in a dixie cup and handed it to me. I asked if I could sit down for a few minutes so that I could eat my breakfast. He said no. So, I awkwardly left and prepared my oatmeal on the steps leading up to his business… I’m sure he loved that….
The cool thing about dixie cup oatmeal is that it is fairly portable. I was able to bike and eat at the same time– it was like eating a thick, warm, and decidedly bland version of ’90s childhood favorite go-gurt.
I continued on in this way for a while, biking and slurping, enjoying the fog and gloominess of the villages just outside of Gumi. This eerie tranquility was interrupted however when I passed by what could only have been a “dog farm.” I can’t say for certain that it was a “farm” in the sense that I mean to imply, but the screaming and vicious snarling and barking of the dogs absolutely frightened me. The sound seemed to carry for miles. For those of you who aren’t familiar with traditional Korean methods of obtaining dog meat, google it (the sensitive among you, be warned– the practice is nothing short of sadistic). Let’s hope I am wrong…
Nearly every tree along the road was draped in dewey spider webs. Colorful Nephila orb weavers hung in the webs, waiting for unlucky dragonflies.
I biked along National Road 59 and then turned left past an Oilbank to get onto Route 25– a road that would take me down through Daegu. As I would be crossing over the Nakdong River, I figured I’d catch back up with the 4 Rivers bike path again– thankfully, this was one of the few times when I made an accurate navigational guess. The 4 Rivers bike path closely shoulders the Nakdong River and both the bike path and the river run in the same direction as Route 25. Fairly soon after getting onto the bike path, I saw a sign for Daegu– 58 more kilometers! At this point I called my mom from the saddle to let her know that all was not lost and my morning theatrics were all for nothing; I was heading in the right direction and as long as nothing terrible happened, I would be able to reach Busan by Wednesday afternoon. Score one for Sydney!
At this point, a lot of biking happened. By 12:20am I had hit 40 miles. After patting myself on the back, facebook-style, I swapped cell phone batteries and continued on…
The weather had changed from cold to absolutely hellish– and then I ran out of water. And so did Korea apparently…
Before I knew it, I was in Daegu! The bike path became a bit like a pin ball game– you ride back and forth behind warehouses, through narrow alleyways, around corners, up hills, down hills. It was a nice change from the monotony of the river.
After hitting Daegu, I lost a bit of steam but tried to maintain my pace. This was the first (and I think only) point during the entire trip where my, uh, regions, were feeling sore. The path itself was nice enough though…
Again though, I began to worry where I would find dinner and spend the night . The bike paths were far removed from the cities they ran through and I didn’t want to travel too far off of my route. When mileage and navigation are already problems, the last thing you want to do (if you are me) is throw in more mileage and stray from the path– that’s just asking for trouble.
I eventually came to Dalseongbo, a large bridge that “serves a multitude of purposes.” While I was checking out one of the map signboards, I ended up meeting two bikers who were trekking from Andang to Busan. We talked for a while… and they told me that if I followed the 4 Rivers route, I would still have to bike another 140 km before reaching Busan (turns out that following rivers isn’t really the most efficient way to get from A to B). None of us were sure where we’d be spending the night, so we decided to bike together to Hapcheon Changnyongbo, a bridge that connects Hapcheon with Upo wetland, the largest wetland in S. Korea, and then continue on until we found something.
Moon Young and Esther, my new cycling buddies, and I decided to take a shortcut through a neighborhood on the outskirts of Daegu to reach Hapcheon Changnyongbo. The shortcut shaved off about 9 miles… : )
Back on the bike path, trying to make our way to Hapcheon Changnyongbo before the sun set…
Soon after the sun set, we hit some pretty intense hills and a mountain, our last obstacles before reaching the evening’s destination. Luckily, two of us had flashlights which helped (a bit) as the bike paths are not lighted (at all). The mountain was incredibly steep and it was so dark that we had no choice but dismount. It must have been a 15-20% gradient… we were struggling. Once we reached the top of the mountain, there was still no relief. The ride down was just as steep, just as dark, and just as intimidating.
2 kilometers after clearing the mountain we FINALLY, finally, finally we reached our destination point: Hapcheon Changnyongbo .
Esther’s bike had been giving her trouble and we ended up hanging around the bridge for another hour so some local mechanic could work on it. We ended up eating convenience store rice porridge and soy milk for dinner at a GS25 just past the bridge… Calorie-wise, it was a bullshit meal, but we didn’t have any other options, really. The mechanic offered to take us and our bikes to the nearest hotel (only a few kilometers away), as it wasn’t really easy to find and it was the only one in town.
We decided that we’d share a room (₩10,000 vs. ₩30,000) and head out together at 7 the next morning– all of us still had a full day of biking ahead of us, so it made sense for us to start early and together as we were heading in the same direction. Once in the room, I realized that I was pretty badly sunburned… I had an uneven burn on my face, my hands and arms were painful to the touch (and swollen), and my chest was a lovely red color. Esther was also sunburned on her face and thighs. FUN!
Soon after settling in, we crashed.
Day 4 Stats:
Distance: 88.41 miles (Sangju/Gumi to Cheongdeok-myeon)
Money Spent: ₩2,500 (canned coffee + crackers) + ₩3,000 (2 protein bars + Pocari sweat) ₩4,000 (dinner: rice porridge + soy milk) + ₩10,000 (hotel room)= ₩19,500
Times Lost: 0