Busan or Bust: Day 2 ~ It Is Closed on Mondays.

In which disaster strikes twice but doesn’t hinder distance.

Day 2 ~ 여주시 to 수안보 map (Yeoju to Suanbo) 91km

4Rivers guide here. Scroll to the bottom right of the page to download a PDF copy of the map. Korean only, I’m afraid, but y’know – maps is maps.

Map (c) 2009-2014 by Map Pedometer. 4Rivers guide (c) Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

Day 2 (courtesy 4Rivers)

Day 2 (courtesy 4Rivers)

The story so far

I slept the sleep of the dead after my first day’s riding and awoke totally disoriented on finding myself in a hotel room. Having read on Couch on Wheels’ account of the trip that the tomb of the Number 1 Korean historical figure King Sejong the Great is located here, I felt I must visit it. Wonderboy felt no such compunction, so I agreed to get up early and go before we hit the road.

It Is Closed on Mondays

It Is Closed on Mondays

I’d obviously assumed that this would be a public memorial site that I could wander up to. In fact it’s a protected UNESCO World Heritage site, fully ticketed, walled and gated. Such a site was obviously not open at 7am, and as with attractions the world over, it is not open at all on Mondays. Disappointed, but glad that I’d tried, I made my way back to pick up and pack up my stuff and hit the road.

Amazed at the relative lack of pain I experienced getting back in the saddle after the longest ride I’ve ever done, I revelled in the sensation of being alive. The bike felt very light as I soared along the pre-traffic roads, sans pack. My bum wasn’t really that sore, my hands were surprisingly OK with the help of the new cycling gloves, my legs and shoulders didn’t hurt that badly; things were going to be OK! I got back to the cheap n’ cheerful Prince Motel feeling in high spirits and ready for another day on the road.

bridge at Yeoju

bridge at Yeoju

Yeoju trail

Yeoju trail

Sejong remembered

Sejong remembered

We were packed up and underway before 9am, our target being an ideal 8am set-off, when, a mere ten minutes in to the day’s ride, disaster struck a second time. I’d decided to lower my bike seat while Wonderboy scouted out the route back to the trail. By the time he came back to beckon me onwards, I was on the verge of tears clutching a snapped seatpost clamp in my trembling hand. Being a very small woman, there are few times when I’ve ever had the opportunity to surprise myself (or anyone else) with my own strength. This was a very unwanted demonstration.

It took an hour of riding around town wearing my heavy pack and with my seat and bike rack slung over the handlebars until I found a shop which was willing to swap out a seatpost clamp from some of their stock for an only-mildly-extortionate fee. I was in no position to bargain so I coughed up and set off once again, high spirits somewhat quashed.

It was to be the start of a day which required more mental endurance than day 1. Physically, I was still feeling good. Mentally, I was cross with myself about the lost time, mainly because it would mean fewer photo stops and less chance to take a rest for snacks. Inspired by the turn of speed at the end of yesterday’s ride, we had planned out the days’ route before turning in for the night and decided to make an ambitious push to Chungju for lunch, hoping to get 60km and the bulk of the ride out of the way.

The ride through the still Monday morning countryside was beautiful, but quiet and determined. The day was hotter and the path much, much quieter. No cheery groups of fully lycra-clad cyclists. No families. Just the bike, the river and the abundance of nature.

There was a short detour over a couple of fun hills early in the day, and some nice shade as the morning wore on. The trail remained all bike path apart from the detour, but that was an error as it turned out. There was also a long and messy patch of road under development which meant a couple of kilometres of riding on gravel and rocks, stones pinging worryingly off spokes and ricocheting off the kerbs. It slowed the going down, but not terribly.

Binaesum Stamp Stop appeared like magic around 12:30, just as I was starting to tire, but I was determined to head on through to Chungju for lunch, so only took ten minutes for a crap cereal bar (that’s an adjective + noun combo, not a missing comma) and a half litre of water. It was shortly after this point that my temper started to wear thin in the baking midday sun. Things didn’t pick up again until I established that Chungju Dam, which all the mile markers were signalling, was actually several kilometres further on than the town of Chungju and so lunch was closer than I thought. At this point I hadn’t read Tangled Up In Blue’s account of her erroneous decision to take in the dam, so I was glad in hindsight that my stomach had dictated the route.

As I covered the final few kilometres into Chungju, I was back to my cheery self. The day had clouded over a little, the scenery was becoming more varied (and included bridges, which I’ve only just realised I really love) and lunch was close at hand.

Lunch

Lunch

Lunch on the road: an attempt by a layperson with an inaccurate knowledge of nutritional values to achieve a) enough calories to keep going, b) enough fibre to keep g-o-i-n-g c) enough protein to keep muscle repair in good working order. Packet of dried squid, bunch of bananas and whole punnet of plums, anyone?

Impatient to eat, I came off the trail at the first sign of civilisation and raided a ‘mart’ for all they had. I should have waited till the certification stop, which is located at a beautiful park at the other end of town where the Hangang and Saejaegang trails converge. Still, there was shelter and a lovely view over the river and it was the perfect break.

On to the Saejae river trail for the afternoon, and a dramatic change in the scenery. We got a tiny bit lost leaving Chungju; taking an unnecessary detour over Dalcheon bridge before swiftly realising that despite what appeared to be signs prohibiting bike access to the riverside, that was exactly where the route was.

The 25 kilometres from that point were probably the sweetest of the journey so far. I felt tired, but full of post-lunch optimism. The day had cooled and more of the trail was in shade, including a stretch along a quiet, riverside road with only the river and the rocky banks to see. Winding towards Suanbo the road rose gently into the mountains and the scenery became lush and green. The sky filled with evening clouds and a hint of rain and the air had the glimmer of an early summer twilight. We cycled past the 1 kilometre notice for our final Stamp Stop of the day and passed through more rice fields; stately cranes picking their way through the crops. “I must come down here at dawn and get some great photos,” I thought to myself.

Reader, laugh your arse off now: that was never going to happen.

spa

spa

What did happen was the glitzy-on-the-outside, sparse on the inside Motel Gloria (if you’re reading this for information-gathering purposes: avoid), a steaming bowl of haejangguk (해장국), and a muted sunset in the town plaza with my feet in the freely-flowing spa waters for which Suanbo spa town is famed.

Heaven.

Lessons from the road

Lesson 1 ~ expect the unexpected
There were many things I prepared for. Snapping sturdy metal bike parts with my weedy lady-fingers was not one of them. Ain’t nothing you can do but do your best to smile, nod, and use your best tourist Korean to try and get a bike shop owner to take pity. Or not be so damn stupid in the first place.

Lesson 2 ~ Ride on a Sunday and Korea Rides With You. Ride on a Monday and You Ride Alone.

Self explanatory, but I was still taken by surprise by the difference between the atmosphere on the busy bike paths between yesterday and today.

***

Ride report

Set off from Yeoju city at 09:50. Didn’t take the time at the first stamp stop, but it’s virtually no distance at all. The road is all well-maintained, flat bike path beside the river.

Somewhere in Gangcheon, early in the journey, I misread the signs and ended up on a small road over a couple of minor hills where the river bends to the east and then south again. It wasn’t a major detour and I don’t think it added any time, but keep your eyes peeled!

There’s a kilometre or so of road that’s in the middle of construction at this time (June 2015) a little after Danam-ri. That really will slow you down, especially if, like me, you’re on a road bike. And the whole stretch from Danam-ri to Binaesum certification centre is gently rolling hills on a minor shared road. I reached Binaesum at 12:30.

From Binaesum there’s a mix of flat bike trail and gentle hills on minor shared roads, all easy going. I got to Chungju (without visiting the dam) at 14:00.

I know I left Chungju at 15:00, but didn’t record the time I arrived in Suanbo. It was roughly around 16:30. The route between Dalcheon-dong and Danwol-dong as you’re leaving the city is a little unclear, and again there are some roadworks through Danwol-dong at this time, but once you’re past them it’s plain sailing all the way to Suanbo. Most of the route is on minor shared roads, but there was very little traffic.

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