Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cycling in Korea

Cycling in Korea is very much similar like cycling in Japan - both countries are extremely mountaineous. 70% of both countries are covered with forest, because it is too steep for any sort of agriculture. But this is also very the similarities end.

I had thought that Japan is pretty hard work, but this was before I came to Korea. Gradients of 10% + are normal here, meaning that I am very, very often pushing my bike because it is just too steep. My bottom bracket is making all sorts of funny noises again and my speed hub should have had an oil change 7,000 km ago, so steep climbs is what I least need now. Luckily we could find a lot of quiet country roads that compensate for the climbs.

Our Lonely Planet guidebook makes cycling in Korea sound like a suicide attempt and I was very much scared to begin with. Korean drivers are by far not as polite as Japenese, but also not much worse than other countries. Only city traffic is horrible and unfortunately, there are hardly any bike lanes. I dread the day when we will cycle into Seoul....

We are also facing a new problem here: water! Although taps are ubiquitous, our guidebooks tells us not to drink tap water. Other foreigner we asked do not do it either and in restaurants you are served filtered water. So where do we get drinking water from? It is not a problem around lunch time, because we usually fill up with water in the restaurant where we eat lunch - now that we can afford it we are eating out a lot! The problem is getting water for camping in the evening, but luckily John came up with a very creative solution: Churches! Half of the Korean population is Christian and therefore churches are everywhere. I have to add here that Korean churches are about the most ugly ones I have seen. They are all very modern and very tasteless, but they are usually open and have a water dispenser. So ask and the Lord will give!

Kimchi variations
Another nice addition to our diet are the orchards we are cycling through right now. Apples, persimmon, peaches everywhere. Unfortunately, they are all in orchards, so that we are not really eating much of it as opposed to the fruit trees in New Zealand that were ownerless. But with the orchards comes a very new and unpredicted threat: Bird scares! One evening we had already set up our tent and were in the process of cooking when all of a sudden at 7 pm a gas gun went off about 150 m away. Although I realised that it was only a bird scare and nobody is shooting at me I could not get used to the noise: Whenever the gun went off I spilt noodle soup over my pants.... No way I could sleep through that so we had to find a new camp site in the dark... Shit happens!

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