Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bike Ride from Yangpyong to Andong

Over the long weekend several weeks ago, a few friends and I attempted to ride from just outside of Seoul in Yangpyong to Busan.   We were the only two who didn't have to work, so we got an early start on the trip on Friday. Here we are at the start of the trip on Friday morning at 9:00am, ready to go!

About 1km into our journey we hit a bump and my friend got a pinched flat. Here he is, looking not so happy about it. 

Fortunately we were prepared and, and we were able to patch the tire in 30 minutes flat (haha, pun intended), And we thought we were ready to continue our ride. 

A minute later we realized that not only had he gotten a flat, but had also damaged his pedal crank. We did a quick Google search to find the nearest bike shop to fix it. Unfortunately he pedal crank had to be replaced, but the only option this bike shop had was a steel one. It was quite heavy, but it was cheap, so we had them put it on and continued along the journey. 

We made it to within sight of Ipobo before the new pedal crank was now wobling like the first one. Unfortunately, there were no bike shops out here as it was much more rural than Yangpyong. We had no idea how to fix it and we had ti figure out a way to get to Yeoju, then next city. We thought maybe we could somehow get the bikes into a taxi. Upon asking a local for the phone number for the local taxi company, he laughed at our notion of getting two bikes in a taxi and suggested that he could take us in his Bongo truck... for 50,000 won. While it was steep, we didn't know any other way, so we bargained our fare down to 40,000 won and he drove us the remaining 15-20km to Yeoju. In Yeoju we were able to get a better steel alloy pedal crank for his bike, but at this point we were quite frustrated and it was getting a bit late in the day to continue on to the next big city, Chungju. We settled down for the night an grabbed a motel and waited for two others to join us there in Yeoju.

In the morning two friends, my husband and I took off, our final destination being Suanbo Oncheon (because who wouldn't want to stay in a oncheon (hot spring) after a full day of riding the bike?).  The terrain was a little different than the trail to Yeoju (which I had done twice before this trip). Whereas the trails to Yeoju are well maintained and separated from road traffic, these trails were often riding on car roads with a side lane for bikes (see photo below). Some off road trails were a bit bumpy and rough, no problem for mountain bikes, but a little uncomfortable for the road bikes. However, this was also one of the most beautiful rides I've done in Korea.

When were were not far from Suanbo Oncheon, they boys decided to take a 30 minute break by a river. Somebody went for a swim... I just watched from the shore.

 Face mask protects from sun, bugs, and dirt, though probably not much from pollution.

Upon arriving in Suanbo, we got our passport stamps and we found a public hot spring for anyone to stick their feet in (perfect to put right by the bike trail).  Three of us found a hotel for the night with hot tubs with hot spring water in the basement, while one friend departed back for Seoul. The hot springs were slightly disappointing, only because the temperature is 53˚C, making it too hot to stay in for more than a minute or two.

In the morning, we continued our way along the infamous Saejae Bike Path. This path is infamous for it's difficulty. It has at least two big mountains which need to be traversed, and most of the path follows roads with nothing more than little white bikes painted on the roads warning cars to share the road. Fortunately the traffic here (or anywhere along any of the paths we did) was not too bad. The photo above is us at the top of the first hill. I don't think I walked at all going up this hill, it was very long and hard (about 3km uphill), but the grade was not too steep so it was possible to keep going without getting off the bike.

Going down from the top of a high mountain is fun... actually a little scary because you have to keep your hands on the breaks constantly for a long time. Some bikers fly down, but I prefer to keep my bike under controllable speeds, especially because my brakes are not exactly top of the line. As we were going down, we were lucky enough to stop to find this Buddhist carving on the side of a cliff. It is special because there are two Buddhas seated together.

Finally it was time to do the dredded big mountain. 5km continuously uphill. the bike lane looks like this. It's nice because there are many kilometer markers along the way so you know exactly how much further you have to go and how far you've come. It's also nice here because they seem to have little resting points every 500 m or so.  It wasn't hard but extremely long. We took several breaks going up, but again, we managed without walking once.

Here were are at the top after 5km uphill. There was a little shop/restaurant up here, and we really enjoyed a little ice cream after the ride. 

After tackling the big mountain it was all downhill from there. We couldn't help ourselves but to stop by this omija wine factory and get a glass of omija wine. 

We finally had to stop for the night and we stayed near Munkyung in the city of  Jeomchon (점촌). This happened to be the city where Halmoni lived and worked for many years after the Korean war. My husband was quite excited to finally see this city which was so important in his family history. We stayed the night here in a little love motel for 35,000/night.

The next day we decided that, since we had gotten too delayed on day one with all the bike problems that it would be impossible to get to Busan. So, instead we decided to follow our plan B, to head to Andong Dam. 

This is another bike path which follows the Nakdong river. It was also another fantastically beautiful path through the countryside. Though they call it a bike path, it's basically the little, rarely used country roads between the fields. 

Finally we arrived in Andong. We were pretty exhausted so we found a love motel to share for the night. Since Andong is a big city, it was a bit more expencive than the other places we had stayed, 50,000, so we all stayed in one room. Dinner was Andong Jjimdak, of course. Then we got ice cream and went back and watched movies and passed out.

In the morning we continued on to Andong Dam (so close from where we were! Probably less than 5km! We should have just finished it the night before) and got our stamp. We explored the area a little, they had a nice natural area, plus an area with traditional houses which were saved, moved and preserved before creating the dam in the 70's.

Since it was Buddha's Birthday, we made sure to find a temple and get some bibimbap. 

Our last stop before leaving Andong was visiting the Andong Soju museum. There we met a friendly man and my husband was able to ask all his soju brewing questions to (we have made soju at home several times now). 

Finally it was time to go home. Being the last day of a long weekend, we were lucky to have gotten standing room only seats on the train. So you know, trains have some bike racks in the cafe car. We tried to get it on the regular car and not only would it have been impossible but they weren't very happy about it either, and sent us to the cafe car. Here we were lucky to have gotten on at the first stop and we got a seat on the floor in the cafe. As you can see, people who got on later didn't have that luxury. Though they also didn't have as far to go either. From Andong to Cheongnyangni station was about 3.5 hours. Not too bad, and no risk of traffic either since it was a train. I wouldn't mind taking the train again (especially if I got seats ahead of time!).

Overall it was a really fantastic trip, I look forward to the next bike trip! I hope there will be many more!

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