Picture this – a cycle path that almost stretches the length of a country, following its’ four major rivers on purpose built tow paths. Korea is a cyclist’s dream and anyone who chooses to travel on two wheels here will be immensely rewarded by it’s peaceful and serene scenery. We cycled a very small part (proportionally) of one of the rivers over the long weekend at the beginning of May, and want to share with you how you too can have this awesome experience.
The first step is obviously to pick your starting line, weigh up how much time you’re willing to dedicate to the tarmac, dirt and gravel, and pick a course. The next is to pick an end point, and as it’s nice to end any adventure at the sea, we chose one of our favourite seaside cities, Busan. That worked out quite well really, as the Nakdong River cycle path meanders past Daegu, a mere hour bus ride south of us, to the second ocean facing capital in the south.
The start of our mini adventure was loaded with anticipation, adrenaline and excitement. These were soon quelled though as the three of us soon realised that the 210 km bike ride was going to be a little more challenging than we had expected. And then there was a crash. Will, one of our most amazing friends, who we spent three wonderful years at University with, was visiting and seeing if he could fly like superman on a bike… he couldn’t.
With, thankfully, just a few cuts and bruises, we continued cycling along the tributary until we hit the main vein of the south east, the Nakdong river. She flows from Andong, just North of our home town, to the coast, and nourishes just about every town, reservoir and rice paddy on the way.
We hit the bike path at a fighting pace, and blazed across the flood plains of the river. Ten, fifteen, and twenty kms under our belt, and it was time for the first of many snacks – instant ramen, the snack of champions. We wolfed down our flavoured styrofoam and hit the trail again. I gave Jade a little tow, as her bike was a heavy ‘ol iron horse and mine was a lighter weight mountain bike, and a short few kilometres passed under our tires before we passed a place for some proper lunch. Bibimbap was consumed, and progress was discussed; the light was faltering and we had to push on. We kept rolling along through the ubiquitously beautiful scenery and passed many an enthusiastic Korean, decked to the pedals with decent cycling gear. We would bow to each other simultaneously rallying a call of “fighting”, whilst rapidly punching the air.
It wasn’t long until the easy flats came to an end, and the first hill was tough. We climbed slowly and it felt so damn good to fly down the other side and stumble across this stunning confucian academy. It reminded us the importance of stopping on a trip like this, and encouraged us not solely to focus on our fitness.
The light really was getting low, and head torches were firmly in use by the time I came across a sign advertising a temple where we could lay our heads for the night. I phoned ahead to confirm availability and we head to the nearest barbeque restaurant for a decent feed. Day 1 was nearly up, and thankfully it was only a short ride from the restaurant to the temple.
We pushed our bikes up the lantern lit hill and were welcomed by two sweet old ladies who indicated that Will and I would be sharing a cupboard sized box with another Korean man for the night. Jade, being a girl, got a room to herself! The tone had been set for the following couple of days, and the adventure had truly begun. There was only one problem, and that was that our elapsed distance was 40 km short of what we had intended…
Find out how we got on on day two of the adventure.