In our last story, we had arrived safely in Seoul, South Korea, and we stayed at the home of two wonderful people we originally met in Quesnel. We hosted Sungjong and Jihuyn three years ago as they cycled through our town on their way to Alaska. It was the last leg of a 10-year round-the-world bicycle tour for them!
We spent a few days at our friends’ place and when finally ready, we hit the road. After a test ride, we were familiar with the route to the river and the main cycle route south. We felt very comfortable and pretty excited to be here as we rode along. Our planned route for the next few days had changed because of the damage caused by Typhoon Mitag on the east coast. Instead, we were heading to the traditional 4 Rivers Trail routes south of Seoul.
The ride through Seoul was mind-blowing, to say the least. It was Sunday, Oct. 6 on a holiday weekend, and the cycle paths were absolutely loaded with riders. Thousands of cyclists were out on a beautiful Korean fall day. Again, we felt so lucky to be rolling along … being passed by hundreds of speedy cyclists.
We stopped a number of times to take in the views and the vibes on this family-oriented day. We had started our tour in between two national holidays in South Korea. National Foundation Day Oct. 3 commemorates the founding of the Korean nation by the legendary god-king Dangun. Hangeul Day Oct. 9 is a commemoration held to remember the creation of Hangeul, the country’s native alphabet as proclaimed in 1446.
As we rode along, it was apparent that many of the families were already staking their place to view the huge fireworks show in the evening. And, in most of the parks along the way, music was happening, and people were playing. Soccer, baseball, drone parks, scooter parks for the kids and … fitness stations for anyone who needed a chest press or bicep curl. There were dozens of these facilities along the way strategically placed under one of the 21 or so bridges we’d come across. (Seniors had pretty well taken over these outdoor gyms.)
Finally, we crossed the Han River under the Banpodaegyo Bridge. I say under because there are two crossings stacked one on top of the other. Bike lane, walking path and another car crossing at river level. Incredible. On the south side, the bike traffic on the trail seemed to increase. It was a huge culture awakening for us — we had never seen a place like this, ever. So many people …
We slowly made our way to the suburb of Hanam. We had a fresh traditional Korean dinner at an outdoor family-run eatery. There, we were adopted by two fellows who helped us order, and in the end, it cost $14. The guys were totally taken with our bikes and the fact that we were from Canada. We asked them some local stuff with Google Translate, and, using their advice, we ended up cycling into the town of Hanam to get a hotel for the night. Heavy rain was forecast for the whole night and the whole next day. We happily booked into the Grand Windsor hotel ($60), had a bath and thanked our lucky stars our South Korean adventure had started!
— Chris and Heather Hartridge
Quesnel residents Chris and Heather Hartridge are spending five and a half months cycle touring around South Korea and Southeast Asia on their Good Neighbour Tour. The Quesnel Bikers, as they are known, will be sharing their journey with the community by sending periodic articles and photos to the Observer. They also have a blog at crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?doc_id=22429.