The Market, The Mountain and Mohammad

I am so happy with the map I found!

great tracksIt even shows the tiniest zig-zaggery roads that google won’t show me! Google is not so great in Korea. They have their own version called ‘naver’ wich is very difficult to use for me as my Korean is rather terrible.

along the road

But I can read maps and followed the road along a river until an interesting looking turn off, as I tried to get up a very steep hill the sun set and the temperature plummeted. It is the end of autumn, still some lovely colours in the forest but getting colder every day.

I ended up in a very small village where this gentleman invited me to have dinner (and breakfast) with him and his wife.

Nice guy

His English was a little bit better than my Korean and he told me the story of his visit to a sauna in Amsterdam. He did a hilarious rendition of the big Dutch naked ladies and told me it was a bit of a shock to his system. As the sauna’s in Korea are very different indeed.

over the hill

I rode over the hill through the forest and into the next valley where this friendly man stopped to make a wonderful fresh cup of coffee.

Good coffee making couple

He asked how I knew about this road as according to him it’s one of the most beautiful in Korea.

Nice road

I didn’t. I just happened to ride there. Isn’t that lucky?

We were going to end up in the same town that night and figured we would meet again at the market. But that never happened.

Because that very evening as the sun had already gone down and I came over the last hill to shoot into the small town of Jeongson,  a lady waved me down on the side of the road.

With her smart phone as handy translating tool she said: “You lay in my home?”

Oni

This is Kwon Hey Keyng.

Who I now call Unni, that means big sister.

She took it upon herself to look after me when I woke up with a sore throat and a head full of snot.  She kindly let me stay in her beautiful old Korean house in the hills until I was ready to hit the road again…

4 days later!

We had a great time, from drinking lots of coffee to exploring the local market.

the Market

And making 200kg of Kimchi, Korea’s national dish.

It involved cutting up a truckload of Chinese Cabbage.

Soaking it in salt water, making the sauce with mushroom, apple, radish, seaweed, dried fish and chilli pepper sauce. Rubbing the sauce on the cabbage, and of course -the best part- Tasting!

It was a great experience. And I really like kimchi!

It surprised me when I got back on my bike and suddenly all the pretty autumn colours were gone. It is now winter.

Winter

I would’ve been slightly more comfortable had I not left my warm winter jacket behind, but Kwon Hey Keyng gave me a jacket of hers to use which really came in very useful.

bike

There’s some lovely quiet mountain roads in this part of the country. It seems like new roads get build all the time wich makes the old ones that snake up and down the mountains inefficient for vehicles and perfect for bicycle touring. It would’ve been even better if the gradient could stay roughly below 10%, but that often is not the case.

It made for a slow trip.

not just a zig and a zag

Just on dark I saw a sign on the side of the road, hoping it might be a place I can find some food I called in. And yes! It was a little restaurant where the ladies warmly welcomed me. Until they discovered I wasn’t the one who’d made a reservation for 5.

And 1 person alone could not be served.

It happens in a few restaurants around the country as the meal you order is supposed to be shared. And there are no small portions for one. So unless I wanted to cough up about 60$ I wasn’t going to eat here. I didn’t mind too much, after all I always have a good stack of pasta and tuna in my panniers….

But I got lucky.

Dinner with the class

Just then the 5 who made the reservation walked in. One of them lives in America. This was a high school reunion for the class of ’76 and they insisted I join them for a meal!

Duck was on the menu. All parts of it.

They wondered where I was going to sleep. In my tent, was my reply. After a bit of talking they took it upon themselves to find me a good spot. Not necessary as I’m perfectly capable of camping all by myself. Then another group of men arrived who joined the discussion and when they started inviting me to hotels (all in Korean mind you) the ladies jumped in, took me to their quarters and insisted I sleep in the spare room….

I would’ve been ok in my tent.

In the morning they showed me pictures of their family,

his family

set me down for breakfast and wouldn’t accept any money for anything… I thought it a lovely change from refusing to serve me the night before.

I rode into Odeasan National Park, where I was told that the road that was clearly marked on my map was closed. Ever since Hokkaido I don’t believe in closed roads, so was a little annoyed when I noticed that indeed the road was not closed, just the gate.

orange

But there wasn’t a way to sneak in as this was sunday and this was a famous temple where a large part of the population had to go this very day.

Temple

So I turned around and took the main road through the park headed for the coast. One good thing though, I was not alone anymore.

Let me introduce you to Mohammad;

Mohammad and Me

This is how I see him mostly;

MohammadHe’s from Iran and has been riding the world since 2006. Doing some projects and visiting schools along the way.

You find more information about that on his website here.

It’s interesting to see how someone else does things.

up hill

We have rather a different style.

Where he’s very tidy I’m a complete mess. All his things are always in the right place and clean. And thus he never tends to lose anything.

I normally chuck all my stuff in my bags and never know where what went.

There's me

I tend to lose stuff regularly. Very lucky the time I lost my iPod on the road he found it.

I also tend to bring enough food to feed an army camp, where he carries next to nothing and either buys something right before camping or trust something will work out.

I can not do that. I must eat! Often and a lot…

But the menu’s here can get confusing.

confused

So usually we point at something and hope for the best. And the best is often exactly what we get!

not bad at all

One thing we do have in common is the love for photography. It’s great for both of us to suddenly have lots of pictures of ourselves cycling.

Seoraksan

These are rather hard to take yourself.

Mohammad going up hill

Coffee is another binding factor, and of course the freedom of bicycle travel.

Because of the detour through the National Park we ended op on the east coast.

the coast

Where there are some lovely beaches apart from the large barbed wired fences…

barbed wire

You can even buy it as a souvenir!

This is the first place I noticed a strong military presence. We were getting close to North Korea.

But both more keen on mountains then coast we veered back inland towards the last national park on my list, and a rather spectacular one at that.

seoraksan

Seoraksan.

On the way up we found one of the most beautiful places to pitch our tents.

Yeah, not bad.

Yes, it was cold, but with the lights of the city in the distance and the mountain behind us it was really awesome.

The only minor issue was that there was a military area nearby where they practised their shooting half the night.

I still got up early enough to see the sunrise and this view.

waking up in Seoraksan.

As I’ve notice before, when having a travel companion, I slow down. It’s nice to chat away over breakfast, coffee, 2nd breakfast, lunch and all the other breaks.

We took the art of lingering to a new level and on our best (or worst, however you might see it) day we only managed a meagre 19km!!! We do have the excuse of the freezing temperature. It makes it harder to get going in the morning. And also passing places like this;

little stream

Where it’s obviously impossible not to stop and make a coffee from the little stream that’s coming down the rocks…

And then there is still temples to visit,

the Temple

At the temple

photo’s to take,

yeah... ok

and trails to walk.

Another squirrel

You can’t rush these things…

Yeah.

17 thoughts on “The Market, The Mountain and Mohammad

  1. Leuk om zo kort na ons gesprek al weer je nieuwe blog te zien waar je het over had. Zoals altijd zijn de foto’s weer geweldig. Liefs!

  2. Your blog posts inspire me. Sure, I have a big reason why I can’t get up an cycle the world(my partner doesn’t like cycling and I love her), I have started to explore more on my bike and to plan some cool cycling trips of 1-4 weeks 🙂

  3. I vote you best bike tour blog! I await your posts. Beautiful. Inspiring. Heartwarming. You provide the ‘real world’ where the rubber meets the road and the tourist meets the locals. Thank you.

  4. beautiful photos!! I’m so glad you got to the north-east! just such a stunning place 🙂 In another month or so those little rock streams will have beautiful icicles hanging off them – you can ‘pick’ them and make coffee!!
    Thank-you for sharing 🙂 loving it!

  5. I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the generosity and hospitality you’re finding in Korea compared to other countries you’ve visited? Any general similarities or differences you could explain? I’m from USA but I live in Yeosu, South Korea (south) and am curious to see if you agree when I say that some Koreans I’ve met are the most genuinely nice, open, and generous people around.

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