My first bike ride in Tongjin-eup and heading towards Gangwha was interesting to say the least. To survive on the roads here one needs to be aggressive and hyper aware of everything that is happening around you. I left our apartment around midday Saturday with the goal to do a 32km loop heading north towards North Korea. Getting out Tongjin required doing some climbing, and ripping through back alleys with surprisingly little traffic. Going fast through single lane back roads is quite exciting, although I am quite thankful for all the mirrors at intersections allowing me to see the blind corners.
Getting finally getting out of the city and away from most cars was a nice change of pace for me. Seeing the rolling hills and traditional farms along decently paved roads was quite relaxing. I finally felt like I was in Korea. Following my little blue line and a blank map on my GPS added to this feeling of uncertainty. Each turn providing a new landscape that is waiting to be discovered.
I came down a road guarded by painted wood army men in the outposts on a pothole filled gravel road. Yet again the juxtaposition of a perfectly groomed golf course beside military outposts was interesting. I proceeded to climb at hill with a grade reaching 15% near the top. I pushed over the top at my limit, the view was awesome with Gangwha in the background. Somewhere I will be venturing out to this week.
Heading deeper into the farmer’s fields was exciting, mostly because it was silent and I felt isolated among the towering hills and canopied trees on the road. Then I took a wrong turn… I don’t know why but driving is apparently difficult here, I was stuck behind some car going down a one lane rural road for a few minutes. Then two cars met head on. Holy could they not figure it out. I took after observing the delivery men on mopeds in Tongjin and their weaving in and out of traffic, driving on the sidewalks, and street racing skill and applied it to my bike ride and made my way around them. The road continued on for a few more minutes and ended at a military base surrounded by the towering hills. The common thee in Korea has been the military presence and incredibly odd driving.
After turning around and passing the same car I made my way back on the correct road and followed it for another 15 minutes until… More military, this time a checkpoint which I was not allowed to pass through. Probably because I am a westerner and local traffic continued through. I had now broken one of the three sacred rules of The Tour de Vav (my bike trip from Ottawa to St. Johns NFLD), Never Go Back. I had no choice other than to turn around, but rather than following the same path back I took road 48 back to Tongjin and went off my predetermined bath. That road is quite busy but has a paved shoulder so it is not too bad for the 10-15min I spent on it. I arrived back in Tongjin and continued to weave in and out of traffic and made it successfully through the huge mess that is the Tongjin Five Points. Success after day one of biking in Korea.
Ps. this place is tiny.