Monday, May 16, 2011

Ben's LAUNCH into Cycling in Korea :: Gangneung to Pohang Tour remarks

Ben's Bike Trip - Reflections of a first cycling tour in South Korea
 1. The idea to go on a cycling trip in Korea came to me somewhat out of the blue. I had previously heard about the experience from friends such as Brian Perich from the Cycling in Korea facebook group but I did not give it much thought over the winter as I did not own a bicycle and had very limited cycling experience.
I rode bikes a fair amount growing up but never over a long distance as I saw biking as little more than a practical way to get to a friends’ house. Two weeks ago, growing tired of running on a treadmill at the gym, I decided to buy a bike and plan a trip to see for myself what the buzz about cycling in Korea is all about.
I had a four-day weekend and planned to leave from Gangneung in Gangwon-do on a Thursday to see how far down the East Coast I could ride. My friend Brian helped me get started by cycling with me to Donghae before sending me off on my own. I had previously hoped to make it to Ulsan but had no idea how far my skinny legs would be able to take me, especially after that tiring first leg through the mountains.
I was proud of the effort I put in to reach Pohang by Saturday afternoon and decided that for a first solitary bike trip in Korea, the coastal city was a very reasonable final destination. I caught a bus back to Gangneung that night, looking out the window during the four hour bus ride at the highway and side roads that took me two and a half days to navigate by bike. It was comforting to know that I would have a full day Sunday to recover from my maiden voyage before heading back to the classroom. It was also nice to think ahead to my next trip knowing that I can push myself further next time and hopefully reach Busan. 

[Ben southbound for Samcheok on Day 1]
[Can't get lost on AH6 -Hwy 7 Eastern coast of South Korea]
[Nice climbs between Gangneung and Donghae, Gangwon-do Province -northeastern coast]
 2. [Ben's remarks on his tour, things to bring on a bike journey in Korea] In no particular order:

- A large water bottle. You can stop at any gas station to fill it up so long as you ask politely.

- Sunscreen. I regret not bringing some along because on the third day of my trip I found myself in the countryside with red arms and a red face.

- Large bag of raisins. As recommended to me by Brian, these dry fruit provide instant energy and knowing that you`ve got some in your gear is can be useful when trying to motivate yourself to get to the top of an uphill section.

- Cash. You will end up spending less than you bring, but having enough cash handy to bail you out of an awkward situation will also give you piece of mind.

- Camping gear. I found Jim-jil-bangs, which are public bathhouse/sauna/accomodations in one! (approx. 7,000 won/night saunas) to stay at both nights of my trip but it is better to be on the safe side and bring a tent and sleeping bag if you have them. You don’t want to be stuck overnight in a town that has no such saunas and have to fork out more money on a hotel.
 [Ben also found some wonderful foam floor padding*]
 [Our bikes on the ride south from Gangneung to Donghae on Hwy 7.]
 [Korean mudding the tiles in a tunnel towards Donghae]
 [Brian in the Donghae 1 tunnel, there are two 500 and 700 meter tunnels outside Gangneung]
 [Ben escaping the jaws of Donghae 2 Tunnel, huge downhill ahead]
 [Brian's Kona Explosif that will be used in China this summer]
 [Hwy AH7 from Goeseong in the north to Busan in the south, best touring in Korea]
 [Ben's got it down and continued for over 240km to Pohang]
 [7% downhill is nice, the climbs become habits -good for conditioning]
 [Bilingual signs in Korea, you can learn Korean by reading them]
 [Brian taking and photo and Ben keeping a steady pace along the line, well done B!]
 [It was one of the most beautiiful days of the year so far, awesome -thanks Ben!]
 [Hmmm...would you like some onions, they are large in Gangwon-do!]
 [Rice fields pre-planted in spring, Korea becomes lush green in summer months]
 [For cycling international, these roads are smooth as silk]
 [What I like about cycling? The clear thoughts, the solitude, the rhythm, the peace]
 3. The highlight of my trip was getting on the road at 6:30 Saturday morning in Pyeonghae knowing that I had a full day of cycling ahead of me and seeing the sun rise in a cloudless sky. By Saturday, my legs had gotten much more used to the distance cycling and I felt a rush as I rode through countryside. By 8:30 am, when I normally wake up for a day of teaching, I had already cycled nearly 40 km, it was a great feeling.


Day 1: Gangneung to Donghae to Samcheok, starting distance 57km

Day 2: Samcheok to Pyeonghae, accumulated 167kms.

Day 3: Pyeonghae to Pohang, accumulated 240kms.

Total: 197.2km (linear distance) -240km (actual) according to http://distancecalculator.himmera.com/find


 4. I slept in a Jim-jil-bang (public sauna house for overnight accommodations) on both nights of my trip. The one in Samcheok cost 7,000 won for the night and I was happy to be able to soak my aching legs. The second night I caught a break when I arrived in Pyeonghae. I asked the local police if they knew where I should set up my tent but instead of answering that question they offered to drive me 15 km up the road to the Hupo beach area where there was a Jim-jil-bang. The kind police officer picked me up in the morning and brought me back to my bike in Pyeonghae. Since this kind of generosity cannot be expected, I think it is best to bring camping gear along regardless if it will be used or not. I would recommend staying in the saunas to anyone who is feeling sore after a day of biking.
[The northeastern coast of South Korea]
 5. Having a rack on your bike with a tent and a sleeping bag on it certainly makes you feel prepared for a longer bike trip. A tire patching kit in case of a flat tire also provides great piece of mind and is very inexpensive. A good map and a nice chunk of change can also come in handy if you find yourself in a tough situation.


6. If I could bring two things that I left behind they would be sunscreen and a light long-sleeved shirt. They would have kept me from burning up in the sun and it was a rookie mistake not to bring them along. I wouldn’t have left much behind but I would have found a way to take some of the weight out of my backpack and onto my bike rack.
 7. I was so beat after the first day that I didn’t know if I would be able to make it to Uljin. There was doubt that crept into my mind as to whether or not I was cut out to be a cyclist. The evening that I reached Uljin, I told myself that I had some more gas left in the tank so I kept pushing, riding into the darkness until I reached Pyeonghae at 9 pm. The self-confidence that I gained by pushing myself just a little bit further that night may be one of the best things that I got out of the trip. As a rookie cyclist, I am now ten times more comfortable riding a bike in Korea than I was two weeks ago.
 [Ben's seatpost rack was great to pack the camping gear]
 [Ben's piece of floor foam is a replacement for a $100 thermarest]
[Ben successfully makes his debut 240km+ ride Cycling in Korea]

8. - Ben's 10 top reasons why Cycling in Korea & Bicycle Touring is a good idea:
- It’s a beautiful country.

- The local people are kind and those I met were more than happy to help along the way.

- It is great exercise (I lost 3.5 kilos in 3 days).

- You will see parts of the country you would miss if you were travelling by bus or car.

- You will not forget the experience (I’ve got loads of pictures and funny stories from along the way).

- It may be easier than you think. My previous longest bike ride was somewhere around 15 km.

- It’s cheaper than going out to a bar all weekend and much more satisfying. (:

- Being on a bike for a few days is a big break for the mind and relieves any stress you may have built up.

- It is an environmentally-friendly form of entertainment.

- You will gain self-confidence and feel proud of yourself for trying something different and achieving a goal.




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice one, Ben... it sounds like you had a really positive experience! Hope to connect up sometime, on 2 wheels!

-Murray

Please share the free inspiration and adventure cookbook with all your friends and families (:

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About the Korean-World Author

Brian Perich was an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) lecturer for a decade, father, and adventure cyclist based in South Korea.

Previously, Brian has led Canoe adventures in Quetico Provincial Park, Atikokan, Ontario, Canada (1993/1999); led Grand American camping adventures (2000); lived at Paramahansa Yogananda's SRF Ashram for 5 months (see the film "AWAKE"), formerly worked in titanium welding at Agilent Technologies, formerly worked in Winery industry in Marin County with Kendall Jackson in California; Surfing and Meditation continued for several years in California, British Columbia, South Korea, Yoga training in California 1999-2000.

Between 1994-1998 - Brian completed his own adventures with motorcycles. His motorcycling marathons took him across the United States and central/western Canada, while traveling solo over an astounding 24,000km in 60 days! Brian endured 900 mile/1300km average days in the motorcycle saddle and apparently loved every minute of those adventures.

Today, he has given up motorcycle adventures altogether, but finds an outlet for his enthusiasm in outdoor recreation while bicycle touring and micro-blogging about those experiences on his mountain bikes.

While employed as an English teacher in South Korea, Brian has became an advocate for bicycle touring on his mountain bikes. The Korean-World blog originated from those small adventures in Korea, now expanded to cover his recent trek down the TransMongolian highway to the Gobi Desert, cycling 900km east through the Khentii grasslands and in 2012 crossing Mongolia in 45 days, 2500 kilometers 1553 miles. HimalayasX expedition Brian previously cycled across western China, the Taklamakan Desert, the northern Himalayas of East Turkestan Xinjiang/Uyghur Autonomous Region, the corrugated back roads and mountains of Kham Tibet. Brian successfully completed his 2011 mountain bike expedition with 3200 kilometers / 1988 miles unsupported, on/off road MTB adventure cycling.
Brian has completed his second mountain bike journey, MongoliaX expedition - Crossing Mongolia 2012, an unsupported mountain bike MTB expedition across 2500km of Outer Mongolia from Ulanbaatar to Altai Taven-Bogd National Park bordering China, Russia and Mongolia.


In 2013, as a sequel to a trilogy of cycle tours, Brian enjoyed a more leisure bicycle tour onboard his Koga-Miyata World Traveller seeing the northern tier of the United States and western Canada covering 3400 kilometers / 2000 miles in 30 days. This North American cycle tour was called Totherocktour. Enjoying the adventure of bicycle travel and every great conversation started while traveling on the road - has refueled his inspirations to cycle around the Earth. In 2013, while he cycled solo from the Great Lake State of Michigan, United States to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. He weaved through local communities and reconnected with friends, family and community after spending almost a decade in Asia.


Brian is now supporting several non-profit foundations through expeditions: IDEAS Foundation of Canada IDEAS is the acronym for Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society which supports the IBD community, those suffering from IBD-inflammatory bowel disease, also known as Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis.


The second non-profit foundation is ETE.ORG - Education Through Expeditions, UK which supports educational outreach programs inside schools around the world. ETE connects explorers with students in the classroom, through an interactive online program in development (Beta).


Brian is researching support for a 18000 kilometer bicycle expedition across the Americas: North, Central and South America - ONE -Arctic to Argentina
Please contact him if you are interested in helping out.

Twitter: Cycleagain
Location: Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea or southern Ontario, Canada.

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Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

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