Busan or Bust: Day 1 ~ the full story

In which I wait out a storm, learn an early lesson and race against the weather to reach destination 1.

Day 1 ~ 여의도, 서을 to 여주 (Yeouido, Seoul to Yeoju) 95km

4Rivers guide here. http://www.riverguide.go.kr/eng/page.do?menuIdx=632

Day 1 (courtesy 4Rivers)

Day 1 (courtesy 4Rivers)

The story so far

Day 1 - Stamp 1 at Yeoido

Day 1 – Stamp 1 at Yeouido

The unpromising dawn to the day preceded a glorious morning in which the storm had blown away all vestiges of the clinging humidity which had been building up for a couple of days. We set out only a half hour later than planned and had crossed the Han river to reach the Yeouido certification centre for our first official trail stamp of the journey shortly after 9am.

The first lesson of the journey came early as I pushed my fully-laden bike up the cycle ramp to cross Seogang bridge and almost lost my baggage off the end of it. My cheap-as-chips seatpost bike rack, although claiming to be able to support up to 25kg, was not designed for a bulging 10kg of enormous SPAO backpack. I improvised with my tiny Daiso bungees and the dangling backpack straps, and things seemed much more secure.

The furthest I had ever previously ridden by bike is the 25km circuit from Hapjeong station to Banpo bridge, across and back home to Seogang, stopping on the way back for chicken and beer in Yeouido Hangang park. I enjoyed the very familiar ride along the south bank of the Han and could be accused of dawdling over it a bit, so it took quite a while to get as far as Paldang daegyo, our first significant landmark beyond the boundaries of Seoul and comfort.

Paldang Bridge also marks the first point at which the Han loses its flanks of apartment buildings and blossoms into a mighty waterway wilderness, winding a majestic course through the mountains and rice fields that characterise rural Korea. From that point on, the ride became a bit more beautiful and wondrous. We criss-crossed the dam and the river to head towards the next significant stop, Nungnae Station, a charming preserved railway station from a now defunct line whose tunnels have been converted into bike paths and ‘art tunnels’ as part of the 4 Rivers project. As well as providing much needed shade from the afternoon sun, they play classical music and a lightshow as you ride through!

By this time we were into the early afternoon and I had been banned from stopping to take any more photos. After a short break at Nungnae, we ploughed on to Yangpyeong for a lunch break of two huge, much needed kimbap and about a gallon of water. The glorious morning was clouding over again as mountains rose up behind us, and we still had 30km to cover before our planned rest stop at Yeoju. The race was on.

Race I did. Beyond the bounds of Yangpyeong there was a fair amount of Sunday bike traffic with families out enjoying the trail in the beautifully maintained parks that line parts of the bike path. Further out of town, the trail became lonesome once again, and it was time to let rip and see what a fully tuned-up Madame was capable of. A lot of straight and a huge area of what could be emergency landing strip proved great fun to cycle through at full pelt. A couple of drops of moisture in the air as we approached the impressive Ipobo dam meant we didn’t stick around long, and we made it to Yeoju shortly before 5pm. I was ecstatic to have completed the first day’s ride in good form and good spirits; easily triple the longest distance I had ever ridden before.

It was time to down a whole bottle of delicious Milkis in one and find the biggest, iciest bowl of nengmyeong (cold noodle soup) that I could in the pretty and historic town, before falling asleep, dead to the world.

Lessons from the Road

1 ~ If you’re gonna do it, do it right. I skimped on the seatpost rack having read Couch On Wheels‘ blog about getting one partway into the journey to help with an unwieldy backpack. I was always going to end up with an unwieldy pack, so I should have invested in better gear to take it with me. For all cyclists considering camping along the route, definitely get proper pannier racks fitted to keep the load balanced and secure.

2 ~ If you’re gonna ride it, ride it right. I always have my seat adjusted high for my short commute to work and back (5 – 10km, depending where I was living) as it relieves stress on the thighs. However, for a longer ride it actually creates stress in the ankle and achilles area. I had to stop to lower the seat twice and ended the day in some pain.

3 ~ As Baz Luhrmann sang, wear sunscreen. I covered up really well, but forgot the backs of my hands, which are unusually exposed while riding. I bought a pair of cheap cycling gloves for the rest of the journey (thanks Daiso). These would have been a good idea from the start.

***

Ride report

Stamped up and officially started the trail at the Yeouido stamp stop at 9:15am. Stayed on the south of the Han all the way from there to Paldang-daegyo, which is a mistake if you’re collecting the stamps. Head to the north bank over Banpo bridge to collect the Ttukseom Resort stamp and you’ll eventually be signposted to the south bank again.

Dawdled very much on the stretch between Yeouido and Hannam city, but the route is virtually flat and very well maintained all the way, with lots of water fountains and bathrooms. Passed Paldang bridge just before midday, and stopped at Neungnae Station stamp stop at 12:30.

There was a bit of confusion in the signposting heading out from Neungnae as there’s a junction with a different trail. Ignore it and follow the 4대강 signs towards Yangpyeong.

I arrived at Yangpyeong just after 14:00 and had an hour’s lunch before setting off on the final leg at full pace. Again, the route is flat and easy and I got to Ipobo stamp stop just before 16:00, and finished at Yeoju-bo at 16:50. I may have stopped for a couple of photos; riding time for the whole Yangpyeong to Yeoju leg was about 90 minutes.

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