Posted by on 23, Oct 2016 in 2016 - South Korea, Asia, South Korea, Tilly the Tandem


​Jeju island 272km 6 days Climb 1296m (1765km total)

Our ferry trip was an experience in itself. We couldn’t buy a ticket in advance but had to make a reservation and then turn up on the day early to pay.  Tilly always causes problems at ferrys.  What do you charge a tandem? Two bikes, one and a half or one? So what usually happens is our phone with a picture of a tandem on, gets passed from staff member to staff member until one of them is prepared to make a decision. Two bikes this time. 

Next you have to wheel the bike into the baggage hall and then get waved out of a side door that Tilly just about squeezed through where we were faced with a ramp of stairs up to the ship.  There’s no way Tilly could be pushed up these – even unloaded as the ramp was too narrow.  We looked at it with puzzled expressions until a crewman came over and pointed to the rear of the ship and the lorry ramp.  He escorted me to the ramp and we weaved our way thorough reversing lorries to the cycle stowage area where I left Tilly without being able to secure her to the ship as I was told that was the crews job.  Linda hadn’t been allowed to come with me either so I then had to repeat the lorry dodging process and meet her and board up the ramp rather than being allowed to go up the stairwell next to where I’d left Tilly.

Anyway, once on board we found our room, a communal room with about 20 people lying on the floor with shoes at the door.  The thought of taking our shoes off, which by now are new life forms with their own particular smell, was not appealing and quite possibly dangerous.  So we dodged past the crew guarding the Royal Sweet (sic) and found a bench marked VIP and took up residence there.   There aren’t many seats on the ferry outside the canteen, most people lie in their cabins on the floor or walk about on deck so we were quite fortunate to have secured a VIP bench!  We have no idea why they were VIP and no one seemed to be bothered by us sitting there so we enjoyed the view as the ferry cruised from Mokpo to Jeju City weaving it’s way between the dozens of islands off the coast.

The ship was full with two huge parties of school children. One boys around 17, one girls about 14.  Both groups showed no interest in the other and were immaculately dressed in their school uniforms and bowed to us and their teachers whenever they walked past, we really did feel like VIP’s!  Some of the braver kids stopped to practice their English encouraged by the teachers but most just walked past saying “Hello” “Nice to meet you” and “Goodbye”.  It was great fun and we all spent ages laughing and smiling.

Disembarking was quick – we were first off and as all the vehicles are ratcheted down and the crew boards at Jeju to untie them we were well away before the first lorry made the ramp a death trap. 

We’d studied the weather for the island and had seen that the wind was going to change to make a clockwise circumnavigation the most efficient.  I know, it’s sad what you do when you cycle to avoid cycling to to the wind! We set off and found a lovely little town on the beach with a nice hotel room with balcony overlooking the waves for the night and actually went out for a drink and a meal for once!  Obviously it was beer and pizza, but it was very nice. We tried to get some vegetables added to the pizza but ran up against the normal problem of adding to a menu item that you get here.  More often than not you just can’t do it.  You can have a cheese pizza or a meat pizza with onions and peppers on but you can’t have the onion and peppers on the cheese pizza nor the meat one without the meat. Rules!

Still the hotel had a fabulous view and we retired to watch the moon on the water and go to sleep listening to the waves lapping against the shore. The hotel was good, but in our experience hotels are rarely as much fun as the motels and usually much much more expensive. This hotel started off at 140,000 won – around £100. But after a brief haggle it came down to 70,000 won and hotels do get the views whereas motels are usually tucked away.

We continued the next morning to find we were going the wrong way around the island! All the routes so far had been bidirectional, but Jeju is a one way anti clockwise route but as we’d got 30km we decidedly to plough onward against the traffic anyway.   The cycle Lane is often just on one side of the road – the correct side for going anti clockwise –  so we just cycled up it the wrong way, which isn’t really a problem as it’s quite wide most of the time.  In fact it’s a positive advantage at times.  Passing around 100 cyclists a day we obviously got the normal waves , thumbs ups, comments and looks of incredulity that have defined our trip so far,  but as the route spends a lot of time following the main ring road dual carriageway and the locals use it as a car park, we were ideally positioned to see what was hurtling toward us each time we had to swing out onto the main road to pass a parked car.

Jeju is volcanic, most of the beaches are black basalt and were formed when molten lava met the sea.  They are a mass of bubbles and pools and quite extraordinary and beautiful.  The cycle route, when away from the main road, follows the coast which is lined with fish farm after fish farm and at numerous points the Jeju fishing ladies mopeds sit whilst the women themselves in their wet suits and flippers are slightly offshore diving down into the water to collect shellfish. It’s quite a sight and the ladies, when out of the sea beam and smile at you as we’d cycle past. It’s a sort after occupation we’re told with parents favouring a girl over boy so they can get the prestige of a daughter fishing lady.

You can’t escape the  dormant / extinct volcano sitting in the centre of the island though,  dominating all around at a height of 2 km. We’d planned to walk up it, or at least try, but decided to fall off Tilly instead! 

We’d gone down a short steep hill at some speed and managed to get nearly to the top of the other side but ran out of steam.  As I put my foot down to get off the bike I fell fowl of the inverse camber (again) and my foot floated in thin air before we slowly toppled over getting tangled up in a mess of panniers and bike. 

Linda hurt her knee and grazed her arm and leg and I hurt my side where I’d been twisted in the fall as well as my twisiting my knee to keep Linda’s company. We both found cycling difficult after that and I had pain breathing too.  No hiking up a mountain for us!

When you injure yourself like this you never know whether to rest up and let it heal or to continue so it doesn’t seize up. Plod on was our choice.

Jeju cycle route is the fantasy route, but it was overall our least favourite route, largely because of the main road sections which make up about 1/2 of it and the unending line of fish farm’s.  But the bits that aren’t main road or fish farm is lovely and a very pleasant change from all our river cycling.

Our final days cycle was undulating and into a strong breeze.  Strong enough to mean we only managed 9kph for large sections of it and by the time we reached Jeju City to complete our loop we were tired, somewhat fraught and hungry, oh, and we’d missed our planned (but not booked)  ferry.

We thought we’d try our luck at some of the sea front hotels but found the standard room, no seaview, to be 240,000won. Ouch.  Linda was particularly knackered with a throbbing knee and wasn’t in the mood for my looking through all the hotels trying to find a bargain. Her “Just book the damn thing” comment was backed up with a cold glare to make her point so we quickly looked on ebookers and found the posh hotel we were currently sitting in and abusing their WiFi was 100,000 won for a non sea view. I started to say we may be able to get a cheaper deal elsewhere and the glare returned with avengeance and we booked online and returned to the receptionist who promptly upgraded us to a sea view as she’d be obviously been scared senseless by ‘the glare’ too.  And a fabulous room  it was too.

We tracked down to the ferry terminal the next day to book our ticket for the evening ferry to be sent home and told to come back at 3pm which we did to be told that the ferry was full! Oh dear. Back to our hotel, smile sweetly at our favourite receptionist and get another upgrade for another evening.  Linda’s paddy had been well timed!

We did get on the next day though, and were charged for one bike only, making it one and half each way which is about right. 

Next stop our final river….

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