This weekend saw me take to the road again in one in what I knew was going to be a tough challenge. This time though, I had some company to share the journey with me. The legendary Shaun Petit was going to putting me through my paces on the road. Shaun’s an up and coming triathlete and someone who has already cycled from where we worked together in Canada, right down to Mexico. It was an exciting prospect sharing the road with such a great friend and someone I could learn a lot from.
On the Friday night, straight after work, I took the 11pm night bus down the east coast to Korea’s second city of Busan, right on the southern tip of the country. I was meeting Shaun there, as he was travelling from his home town across the other end of the country. Originally we were planning on taking another short bus a little way back up the coast, to start the 280km’s journey from Ulsan. However, as both of us had suffered from a sleepless ride down and were keen to get going, we decided at 4am, to add on the extra distance and start our journey straight away from Busan. 330 km’s of rolling hills to my hometown of Samcheok.
After a huge breakfast of oats and a substantial amount of peanut butter, we set off under darkness, head lights blaring as we made up the 50 extra km’s to get to Ulsan. From here, the journey began to take shape as we knew it would, constant hill climb after hill climb, as we clung to the road stretching along the East coast. This journey is usually undertaken as a 4 day trip, due to the demanding climbs, but seeing as we had only the weekend to do it, we had to press on and get it done in two.
Our first decent stop of the day was a little premature, as I was desperately hungry and needed a good feed. The pair of us, much to the amazement (and possible disgust) of the restaurant owners, set about demolishing 4 big meals and all the sides that came with it…carbo loading the Korean way! A packet of digestives later, and we were back on the road, heading to the city of Pohang. Here we stopped again, and the lack of sleep the night before became a little apparent to us (I woke up after a ten minute snooze with a drool covered shirt).
The final leg of the day was a 50km on a road that will last long in our memories. If Carlsberg did roads, the ’20’ would surely be one of them (apologies to any non UK reader who might not understand this reference). We didn’t even care about the punishing rolling hills, as the views and incredible landscapes were too breathtaking for words. Tiny Korean coastal towns, one after another, popped up against the backdrop of rolling mountains and incredible cliff sides. This country really is an absolute gem and this stretch of road is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
We rolled in to the crab city of Yeongdeok to rest the legs for a night and get a much needed feed before finding a spot to camp for the night. The day was a long one, with a 183 km’s cycled and a total elevation gain of over 8000 feet. After finding a great spot to set up for the night, we quickly passed out for the evening. Around 5.30 am, we were greeted to a stunning sunrise and after tucking into a breakfast of fruit, almond bread and peanut butter, we took to the road again. Getting back onto the saddle was a painful experience, it took 20 minutes for my arse to numb itself enough for the pain to go away from the long day before. We had 145 km’s to ride and we knew another day of climbing was ahead.
The first 2 hours were incredible, on par with what we had seen before on the legendary route 20. By now I’d begun to regret not investing in a better bike for the months leading up to the start of the ride in September, having to put in so much more effort to get my heavy, cumbersome bike up the hills. With so much money needed for my trip, at the time, spending a lot on a training bike was a luxury I couldn’t afford. After we tucked into some lunch at the halfway point, we pinned the ears back, and set about knocking off the km’s to finally reach my hometown of Samcheok. The hills got steeper and the climbs longer, especially around Korea’s famous ‘penus park’ (a place which has to be on everyones bucket list). We finally cleared the last big climb as we sailed downhill into my hometown of Samcheok, exhausted, but content, after a difficult but massively rewarding two days along the coast. The day had been shorter, with 145 km’s rode, however far steeper, with a total elevation gain of 11,000 feet…a massive total of 20,000 feet in the two days. This journey, especially in the timeframe we did it in, is not for the faint hearted, but one which will reward you over and over again.
It’s been a good week on the fundraising front, with plenty of donations and another £200 donated by a Leicestershire business still to come in over the next couple of days. I’ve set myself a target of £5000 by the end of this month, so there’s still a way to go over the next 2 weeks. If these journeys inspire you to do so and you’d like to support the cause, please sponsor a mile today. I have such a long way to go to reach my target and I cannot thank everyone enough for the help and kindness I’ve received so far; I cannot put into words how grateful I am. Please check out the new look website (thanks to the computer wizardry of Riaan ‘Braaimaster’ Bam and the artistic talents of Cale de Andrade Pissarra…a top bloke even if he is an Arsenal fan). Next week, I’ll be taking a trip to Burma for 8 days to scope out what this mysterious country has to offer. R and R is what I’ll be looking for, however, with plenty of hiking and cycling on the cards, I doubt I’ll have any time for that. Thank you to everyone who has supported me so far, please keep sharing these posts and spread the word.