Saturday, 6 February 2016

Cycling 150km in Minus Seven Degrees is a Terrible Idea

I had been building myself up to cycle from Hongseong to Daejeon for a while. Stef had deserted me and swanned off to the sunny shores of the Philippines for ten days with her friend Aisling who flew over from Ireland, so this seemed as good a time as any.

Without Stef's company and in a fit of desperate loneliness I committed myself to what I thought was about a 100 kilometer cycle. It ended up being just over 150 kilometers and almost 9 hours when taking into account my creative "shortcut" detours, crashes, angry dog evasion and honestly, just getting lost! Also the entire journey was almost entirely in sub zero temperatures! What an idiot!

Sun rise start. I'm pretty sure if you touch this picture on your screen you'll be able to feel the cold! Minus 7 with a "real feel" of mius 11.

As the sun rose, off I went, engulfed in three layers of thermals, neoprene gloves, a buff/scarf and a hat under my helmet. The only part of my body exposed, my eyes, were bloody freezing! Literally (in the correct use of the word)! I stopped to put on extra socks at one stage (which did nothing), and my eyes had gotten so cold that, while putting the socks on, I couldn't focus properly!

Anyway, I continued, blinking as often as I could to stop my eyeballs causing too much hassle.
Luckily my attempted-beard only froze when I took off my scarf!
Much to my delight the road was relatively free of ice which was a bonus. There was the odd obvious patch that was easy to spot and avoid, but besides my frozen feet slipping off the pedals, everything was golden.

Although, the G36 from Cheongyang somewhat let me down. As it brought me closer to the river it turned abruptly into a mud path. For a while I got lost amidst my creative "shortcuts". The GPS on my phone was useless when the roads it said were there, just weren't there! But sure twas all part of the adventure!

The G36, a large smooth and well built road, turned, surprisingly suddenly, into this beauty for about 3 or 4 kilometers

Then with even less indication it completely disappeared into roadworks, rubble and a makeshift path for another couple of kilometers.

Feeling free of the fear of slipping on icy roads, I decided it was safe to put the afterburners on. Particularly once I had gotten to the car-free, and quite beautiful, river cycle-path at around kilometer 70. At this stage I thought I had a max of 50 kilometers left. It turned out I still had 80 to go.

The cycle path is fantastic. It's 190 km of path marked with a continuous blue line from Daejeon to the coast. But as I discovered, painfully, much of the beautiful river path is made of elevated slabs of ice like veneer which are cunningly disguised as cycle paths. This is clearly intended to trick fools who listen to "Rage Against the Machine" to increase their speed whilst cycling! So, crashing down I came while travelling at around 30 kph downhill, around a bend, which was actually well equipped with rubber grip strips that I studiously avoided because I thought they might slow me down!

Luckily the barrier saved me a 10 meter fall into the river, and I somehow came away with only a punctured front wheel and a sore toe! 

Fixing my puncture after coming down on the bend in the background and crashing into the barrier
30 minutes later (I couldn't find the damn hole in the tube), with frozen fingers and a fixed bike, on I went until I found this beautiful ice sculpture surrounded by some straw huts that looked like they needed me to have a hard boiled egg and a crisp sandwich in them. So that's exactly what I did and except for the fact that the crisps weren't "Tayto" (an iconic Irish brand) it was possibly the best crisp sandwich and boiled egg combo I've ever had!

Ice sculpture and lunch spot.

Don't judge me by the pants I wear!

Crisp sandwich, boiled egg, straw shelter, and a lovely ice sculpture to be lookin' at. What more could you ask for!

After lunch I rolled on through more adventure; beautiful scenery, impressive and dangerous river paths, and an angry dog chasing me down the road!

It was the first time I've ever been chased in Korea by a dog that didn't look like Paris Hilton's dog got trapped in a handbag that was too small and stunted its growth! This was a proper dog and I was bloody scared! 

Luckily, the things I had read about what to do in this situation came flooding back to memory just at the right moment: shout and act big and aggressive. That should scare it off! 

I shouted so loud at the dickhead dog that I pulled a muscle in my shoulder as I tried to speed away from the scaldy mange-bag! But damn it if it wasn't an avalanche starting shout. The dog ran off and despite the pulled muscle I was fairly chuffed with myself for being able to produce the volume I needed for the job!


After the dog I sat here for a few minutes massaging my shoulder and my ego.
From here on, despite my fatigue and hoarse voice, the journey was smooth running and in no time I found myself in Wolpyongdong, Daejeon.

Crossing the Daejeon Gapcheon river Wooooohooooo!

Passing by EXPO park
But just before I arrived in the safe haven of my buddy Stuart's apartment (who I did a similarly calamitous cycle with a year and a half ago),

The similarly calamitous journey a year and a half ago with Stuart! I blame him!


I made one last pit stop at a Jimjillbang (ubiquitous Korean hot spas), got naked and melted into the saunas and hot pools! For 5 dollars they are one of the things I will miss most about living here.

After nearly nine hours and 150 kilometers of freezing adventure, it might have been the greatest place to be in the multiverse at that moment, and was possibly the greatest moment of my life!

The Wolpyongdong Daejeon Jimjillbang: almost impossible to pick out amongst the standard barrage of signs and advertising on  many Korea streets!
The only one thing that could have increased the pleasure factor at the end of my freezing journey would have been if they sold "Tayto" crisp sandwiches at the hot spa... oddly, they do sell hard boiled eggs!

Nick