Busan or Bust: Days 6 and 7 ~ setbacks, surprises and the End of the Road

In which my body is falling apart, the bikes are falling apart, but we finally make it to Busan and THE BEACH

Day 6 ~ 남지 to 양산 (Namji to Yangsan) 70km

Day 7 ~ 양산 to 해운대, 부산 (Yangsan to Haeundae beach, Busan) 40km

You can also navigate from Yangsan to Busan Seomyeon station using Jan Boonstra‘s live Google Map.

The end of the trail

The end of the trail

The story so far
Day 6 started in high spirits with a lie-in until 8am and fine weather. We trotted merrily down to pack up the bikes in the parking garage below our motel and disaster struck. Wonderboy’s valve blew, and I discovered that, despite meticulous bike parts planning, I had neglected to pack, or even acquire, a spanner.

Wonderboy’s workhorse of a bike, aptly named Beast, does not feature such niceties as a quick release front wheel. After destroying a pair of cheap Daiso pliers in an attempt to undo the bolts, we trooped round the corner to the handy supermarket to buy the right tool for the job, which they only stocked in industrial size. It didn’t take too long to get the inner tube changed once we were properly equipped, and we were underway for the day before 11am.

I had that slightly gloomy feeling in the pit of my stomach that you get when you’re about to finish a great book and you don’t want the story to end. It may have been down to the weather, which was close and cloudy with rain predicted. I think it was also the feeling of coming to the end of a journey which I have really loved. There’s still the week on the beach to look forward to, but for once, it really is the journey, not the destination, that has been the most enjoyable part of the whole experience.

Ignoring the blues and determined to enjoy what remained of the trail, I set off humming a tune as I crossed the lovely bike bridge and headed east. The first stamp of the day was acquired with little fuss and then I was back over the river again.

Shortly after midday I felt the first drops of rain and pulled out the glamorous bin bag, thus far unused, to wrap up the backpack, which needed completely undoing and taking off the bike rack and then putting back on again. I’d noticed a bit of play in the bike rack the evening before and tightened the screws, but this was to become a nagging issue as the day wore on.

The rain, echoing my mental state as if in a crap rip-off of Wuthering Heights (Wuthering Bikes, perhaps) was surprisingly refreshing and restored a sense of challenge to the ride. Feeling like a hero once again I revelled in the wet weather and the swishing sound of the tyres cutting through the rain. The nods to fellow cyclists braving the weather or huddled in the many shelters along the way became conspiratorial. The lush scenery of widening river and green hills was well-suited to the mist and rain.

misty trail

misty trail

Bridges in the mist

Bridges in the mist

The Last Sign!

The Last Sign!

Closer to Yangsan and the outskirts of Busan there were more people out making the most of the Saturday afternoon regardless of the weather. I trailed a small bike club towards the final Stamp Stop of the journey at Yangsan Water Culture Centre; ‘trailed’ because by this time the bike rack had come very loose and every tiny bump made me fear that either the rack would slip, disgorging hundreds of dollars worth of new camera gear rudely on its head, or worse – that it would snap completely and take my seat post with it.

I finally limped in to the desolate town of Mulgeum-eup after 4pm. The few motels clustered miserably near the train station were pricey and uninterested in negotiation, but I needed a shower and I’d spotted a bike shop on the way in which I intended to check out to resolve the rack issue. Checking into Motel Kan, I was pleased to discover I was at least getting my money’s worth with a huge room with all mod-cons and a great shower.

The evening’s entertainment consisted of an hour fiddling with the bike rack and changing the rear brakes (which I really should have checked and changed after the first hills day), a trip to the bike shop to purchase a new screw for the stripped one causing my rack woes and a new brake cable, and some cheap don katsu in a 김밥전국 place followed by the awful late 90s Kevin Costner vehicle, The Postman , a film whose bleak-with-an-end-note-of-hope world served as a metaphor for the day.

Mulgeum-eup in drizzle

Mulgeum-eup in drizzle

Day 7, the final day of riding, dawned relatively clear and promising. With just under 20km left on the trail before I returned to city streets to cut across Busan from its western edge to the bustling Haeundae beach in the east, I expected to make short work of the day’s riding and be relaxing on the beach with a celebratory ice-cream by early afternoon. However, if this journey has taught me nothing else, I have learned that such dreams are not meant to be and that a journey will fill the time you set aside for it.

Victory is Mine

Victory is Mine

False starts and a relaxed attitude to time with the goal close at hand meant I didn’t leave Mulgeum until 12:30pm. The going was easy but the path was full of Sunday riders, echoing the trip out of Seoul exactly a week ago. I made it to the turn-off point into the city within an hour and was surprised to see that the end of the Nakdong trail was well under 10km away. It seemed rude not to undertake the final few kilometres to collect the last stamp of the trail, so I left Wonderboy, who did not share my feelings on the matter, to search for some lunch and took a 14km detour to the final Stamp Stop, a ridiculous cheesy grin plastered across my face at this concrete sign of achievement.

This happy moment buoyed me up for the sweaty, stressful return to city riding. I love my morning commute in Seoul, but the rural trails of the week had shaken the assertive city rider out of me and the stream of traffic rattled my nerves. The route is quite straightforward, with only a couple of turns, but it still took a good two hours to reach the beach.

The Beach

The Beach

Reach the beach I did, however. And shortly before 5pm I rode onto the prom, propped up Madame on her kickstand and literally giggled with glee at having completed the 600 kilometre journey from Seoul to Busan using only the power of my own stumpy legs. It’s one of those moments when you can enjoy a real sense of having done something amazing. My heart leapt around in my chest – cardiac behaviour I chose to interpret as happiness rather than a sign of imminent collapse. I’d done it, and it was time to celebrate with beer and ice-cream.

Celebrating with beer and ice-cream

Celebrating with beer and ice-cream

Lessons from the Road
1 ~ Don’t delay progress for sentiment

This really should have been one last big push for the end. It would have meant another long day’s ride, and the problem with my bike rack could have been a big spanner in the works, but I think I might have avoided those end-of-journey blues and had an even greater sense of exhilaration on arriving at Haeundae.

2 ~ Make use of that helmet
I had my helmet strapped to my pack for the majority of my seven days riding, where it variously annoyed me by disbalancing my bag, butting on my butt, scraping on my wheels and generally being more trouble than I thought it was worth for what were mostly bike-only routes. On day 3 on the road going over Ihwaryang pass and then in to Sangju city, and for the final couple of hours through Busan it is worth all the rest.

Ride report
Day 6: Left Namji late at around 10:45. The first stamp stop, Changnyeong Haman dam, was further than expected and took around thirty minutes to reach. The route is part bike path, part road.

My timings for the day were very slow after this due to rain stops and some luggage problems with the bike rack which meant I couldn’t push the speed. Finally arrived at the final stamp stop for the day, Yangsan water culture centre, at 16:00. Turned off the path and under the train tracks there to stop in Mulgeum-eup for the night.

Day 7: Very late start at 12:30. Arrived at the turning point from the 4대강 trail to Jan Boonstra’s trail at 13:15. This is at Gwaebeop Renecite station on the purple line. All flat, easy bike path.

From there it’s 7.3km to the end of the Nakdong river trail at the Nadong-gang estuary bank certification centre. I took the detour to go and get the final stamp. Again it’s flat, easy riding, but the bike path is shared with pedestrians so speed is fair to low. I made it in 25 minutes.

After detour and lunch, set off again across the city at 14:35 and hit Haeundae beach by the Westin Chosun hotel at 16:45. It is all big main roads from Gwaebeop Renecite to near BEXCO, where you can pick up the beach bike path. Beware: Busan’s bike paths can end unexpectedly!

In retrospect, I’d have made this part of the ride one long, final push. The route is almost all riverside bike path in good condition and there are no hills. The final part of the ride through the city is unavoidably hellish, but then you can collapse on the beach!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jim McHugh
    Jul 02, 2015 @ 23:21:01

    Well done!!



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