Mountains and misadventures
Today we climb Misiryeong Pass, 767 metres to the top. We had looked down on the road from Ulsanbawi Rock and we had watched a video of someone cycling it, so we had some idea of what to expect. About 10kms to the base of the climb, and then about 8kms uphill, with a maximum gradient of around 13%. Great way to start the day, particularly when still suffering stiff muscles from the 2000+ stairs we climbed on Saturday. It had rained overnight, but when we set off round 7:30am, it was overcast but dry.
The markets were setting up and the street was a little chaotic. We hit the main road, and whilst quiet at first, it became more major and busier as we approached the turnoff to the Misiryeong tunnel, which was forbidden to bikes. We stopped at a petrol station to ensure everyone had snacks, and to plan to meet at the top, so we could all cycle at our own pace. The owner came out and gave us free bottles of ice cold water, telling us the pass was steep but good views.
The top of Misiryeong Pass in the distance
The climb started gradually and was clearly marked as a bike path. Cars gave us a wide berth, so we felt quite safe. Jonno was soon a speck in the distance and climbing rapidly. I stopped a few kilometres in and took photos of Simon and Georgia as they climbed. The weather was perfect as there was no wind, and being overcast kept the temperature down. The climb was relentless but not too steep. I was surprised to see that tanks also had a speed limit when ascending the pass.
The relentless climb
Tank speed limit
After almost 8 kilometres, the top came into view, tantalisingly close but with one of the steepest gradients of all to climb. Jonno had already been at the top for 30 minutes when I arrived, with Georgia and then Simon not far behind. The views towards Sokcho were amazing and all the more rewarding for having climbed to the top.
The top comes into view
The last final climb to the top
What we have climbed
We made it
Back on the bikes, we whizzed down the hill with Jonno achieving a maximum speed of around 65 kph, the rest of us a little slower. As we turned off into a side road, we spotted a little village with a waterfall cascading at its centre. This was no natural phenomenon, and the water must have been pumped up to the top. Sure enough, it seems that the village of Maewabi has created artificial falls as a tourist attraction. We spied a coffee shop with waterfall views, and took the opportunity to warm up with some good coffee. We were very impressed with the artificial flower display near the toilets. Perhaps another tourist attraction?
Fake waterfall at Maewabi village
Artificial flower display near the toilets
We enjoyed a gradual downhill gradient through stunning countryside, passing through little villages along a very scenic river. The Naesorak high tracking bike path was sensational.
Village along the valley
Rice fields among the hills
Naesorak high tracking bike path
We stopped for lunch at Livingstone bridge, named after the American soldier who had funded the original bridge in his will, after he and most of his troops were killed in the Korean war due to advancing North Koreans and a flooding river. We continued on through Inje, which appeared to have a brand new cycle path. I was a little surprised that we had passed through Inje as our original plan had us turning off earlier.
Having had such an amazing morning ride, we were keen to avoid the freeway ahead of us, and set off on an alternative route that would eliminate 9 kilometres of highway riding. It turned out to be a walking track, and for those of us not really into mountain biking, walk we did. It was very tough and steep in parts. Even Jonno had to walk some of it. I would have happily turned back and taken the highway, but Jonno was far ahead, so we persevered. We eventually caught up to Jonno who had suffered a puncture, but by this stage it was easier to keep going. It took us well over an hour to cover the 8 kilometres, meaning that we were unlikely to get to Yanggu in daylight.
The start of the mistake
Grate views along our dirt track
We travelled a little further down the highway, detouring where possible, and ended up in the little town of Sinnan just before 5pm, with Yanggu still some 27 kilometres further on. We decided we had travelled far enough, and would make up the difference with an early start tomorrow. We looked at one motel but it was very tired, had an old CRT television and no air conditioning. A second option round the corner was much more appealing and we got a big room for 50,000 won with enough bedding for everyone. The old lady running the motel didn't speak any English, but Google translate and sign language worked well, and we even ended up with a storeroom for our bikes.
Once settled, we checked out our route for tomorrow and realised that we had not followed our original route as planned. In our excitement of finding such a good bike path we had not turned off towards Yanngu early enough. Still, we had a nice room and lots of dinner options, so all good.
We found a likely looking restaurant with a few patrons and some photos out the front. As we were using Google translate to decipher the menu, help arrived, and a lovely lady talked us through the options. We chose a variety of dishes including bibimibap, udon noodles, pork cutlet and fried rice. All very tasty. Then the owner gave us a plate of vegetable sushi on the house. We picked up some ice creams from the 7 eleven, getting the buy two get one free option and returned to our room.
Turns out we had locked the wrong door and our key wouldn't work so we had to seek the old lady's help to let us in. Definitely time for bed!