Wimping out…

Posted by on 30, Sep 2016 in 2016 - South Korea, Asia, Tilly the Tandem

Wimping out…

​Andong to Hyeonpung 4 nights 225km 759m climb (916km total)

The hills out of Andong for some reason really bothered us so we decided we’d try to avoid them as we retraced our steps down stream.   The route so far has had numerous posters advertising lifts for cyclists up and over hills so we visited tourist information and enquired about booking one. This proved way too expensive and only took the bike so we just went for the old fashioned pedal and push instead.  

The first hill was actually fine and we got to within 50m of the top before having to push. The second hill was much longer and on a main road, one of the few sections on the whole route that has been. It’s never nice pushing, but generally worse when you’ve got vehicles passing you.  Most trucks here are like shrunken Ford Transit Pickups.  They are tiny and look like they should drive back into their toy box each night and as we hit the bottom of the incline one of these passed us going the opposite way.  I pointed to him and the hill and then us and he immediately stopped,  dropped the tailgate and helped us load Tilly onboard and took us up to the top of the hill, All without a word of English. The driver and his mate looked so pleased to help us with huge great grins on their faces and they were Linda’s hero’s as we sat in the back of the truck and cruised (well chugged anyway) up the hill.  Result!

You may not have realised this yet so I’ll say it again Korea is hilly and virtually all the things to see are up in the mountains or hills.  At the end of a cycle the last thing you want to do is cycle off up a mountain side to visit a tourist attraction but on our route downstream we passed Haeho UNESCO world heritage site which is actually on the banks of the river. This is a gorgeous little thatched village that time had forgotten (if you can ignore the residents Mercedes) and was idyllic nestled between mountains and framed by a u bend in the river, well worth the visit, though the world famous mask dance was unintelligible to us and involved disembowling a cow, peeing on the floor and smelling it, a dirty old man chasing after a young lady and smelling her pee and laughing at a mentally handicapped character.   I’m sure much was lost in translation – or lack of it – as the hundreds of school kids loved it and all the westerners looked horrified. Queen Elizabeth visited here in 1999 and I wonder what she made of it.

After our detour to Andong we rejoined the Nakdongang and headed south.  The river begins to broaden, largely due to the dams, and is quite simply stunning.  

Koreans live in huge tower blocks in cities. The countryside is relatively deserted with just small villages maintaining the farming and the scenery is like something from Doctor Who. Wonderful green vista’s of trees and mountains as far as you can see then a huge group of Tower blocks sticking up signalling the location of the next town. The dams too look like something out of a sci fi movie and are so futuristic, yet the farming is often done by hand and naturally enough by the women. 

Despite being in the countryside most of the trip you can never escape K Pop.  Cyclists more often than not have a water bottle shaped speaker blasting out music as they cycle past whether they are 17 or 71 and the racing boys have them as do the trikes with a 90 year old lady.  Visit a toilet along the route and it may not have running water (long drops) but it’ll probably have piped music. The streets and parks have speakers and even if you can’t see a house a person or a bike then don’t worry, the cows in their pens (no free range here) have piped music as do the Orchards.  Clearly when her maj visited she brought Charles with her!  But, the apples are the size of grapefruits and unlike large apples in the west, very tasty, so maybe it works! Though at £2 an apple you can see why they tie little bags around them on the trees as they are growing..

The cycling from now on is down hill as we head to the ocean at Busan, but there are one or two big hills in between and we’d fortunately met Tobias – a German cyclist – early on in our trip who was plotting their locations and reporting back to us on this difficulty so by the time we reached them I’d plotted routes around them all.  Even so, we still had some unavoidable hills, one was 25% and you couldn’t cycle down it let alone up it. Some of the passing cyclists offered to help push Tilly up as were stopping every 5 paces for a rest –  they obviously felt so sorry for us.

Our detours actually were gorgeous too allowing us to see more of the countryside and villages that we’d miss from the river route and it makes you appreciate just how beautiful Korea is.

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