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The official website of adventurer and author of It Takes Two To Tandem, Louise George. Louise currently resides in Adelaide, South Australia with her husband. The two regularly travel and undertake many adventures together, including riding travelling 880 miles through the United Kingdom, from John O’Groats to Lands End.


Filtering by Tag: Cycling South Korea

Jeju Island: Fantasy Bicycle Trail

Louise George

Certificate Registration Kiosks made good distances to aim for

Certificate Registration Kiosks made good distances to aim for

Jeju Island is a South Korean Autonomous Province off the south coast. It is visited by more than 13 million tourists each year, of which 80% are Chinese and the remainder mostly South Korean locals, although there has recently been an increase in the number of Middle Easterners visiting. The island is promoted as the Hawaii of South Korea, so we were hoping for a warmer climate. In reality, although we have never been to Hawaii, the only resemblance is likely to be that Jeju is also a volcanic island with black basalt rocks dominating the landscape and a stark contrast to white-sand beaches with turquoise ocean waters.

The following is how we rode an anticlockwise circumnavigation of Jeju Island following the Fantasy Bicycle Trail. It is recommended to take this direction because the coast is on the right, the same side as traffic drives.

If rewards are appealing to you then you can get the Korea’s Cross Country Cycling Road Tour Passport (sorry I don’t know where you can purchase this from on Jeju Island) and call in at the Certificate Registration kiosks along the way, for a passport stamp. We did this because we already had the passport from previous rides in South Korea and it gave reasonably spaced distances to cover and points of interest to aim for. If you are interested in reading about our ride from Seoul to Busan, following the 4 Rivers Trail, then click here, or the Seomjingan River and Yeongsangang River Trails, click here.

We travelled in late November, the last week of autumn, and tourism at that time was at a low ebb. Those who were about, were travelling on coach tours. We saw only a couple of other Korean cyclists out riding with a serious attitude, on bikes swifter than ours, and a handful of tourists on hire bikes, that looked like they were having a riding activity for a few hours. Few people sharing the cycle lane was a bonus. At key sightseeing destinations there were many free bus and car parks so clearly at this time there was also less traffic on the roads. If the cycle trail surface became particularly bumpy, or if a section involved much crossing of minor roads or lane-ways, we found it easier to keep a good pace by riding on the road. We got the occasional toot but It seemed more like a gentle ‘I’m a vehicle about to pass’ than a ‘there’s a cycle lane, you should be on it’. I expect that if you ride this course at peak tourist times, you would be expected to remain on the bike path and it would be somewhat slower as you dodge other riders, walkers oblivious to you as they have their faces peering at a screen, poorly parked vehicles, and at times an uneven surface. 

Our front panniers were left in Jeju City as we will not be using our camping equipment. Accommodation in the last week of November was very reasonably priced for a couple. We paid between $35 and $45 ($AUS) a night for clean double rooms with an en-suite. We like to store our bikes inside and this was always accommodated, albeit sometimes locked in the corner of a dining room.

Food-wise, Jeju is famous for seafood and pork, from their unique Black Pigs. We’ve been in South Korea almost a month and apart from Bibimbap, Gimbap and Seafood pancake, still struggle with meal choices. I don’t eat pork and the seafood, we thought was quite expensive. Many restaurants had the menu displayed on the walls in hanguel alphabet, so if they didn’t have pictures to point at, or if they had pictures but no price displayed, we looked elsewhere. There were some western foods, with a South Korean fusion, such as hamburgers and bakery food. We found the convenience stores had a range of sandwiches or rice triangles with filling such as tuna, that were good for lunches. Our preference is to be self sufficient for breakfast so we carry breakfast items: muesli, milk, yoghurt and bananas.

We had been told by South Koreans that Jeju Island used to be a beautiful island with a unique culture but it had, over the passed twenty years been spoiled by tourism. We had a Tourist Map that pinpointed more museums, parks, art galleries, theme parks and other man invented attractions than I have ever seen! There are also many geographical features that is where our attention will be directed. 

Day 1: Jeju City to Geumdeung-ri 74 kilometres 

I recommend you leave from Jeju City early enough to take time at scenic points along the way. The course weaves around the airport with a few little climbs and then follows the coast for a long way before leaving the city outskirts, so riding is at a casual pace. You’ll go by Iho Tewoo Beach, famous for having lighthouses in the form of horses and you’ll see the Gueom Salt Farm from the trail. Hyeopjae Beach is supposed to be one of the most beautiful on the island, but when we visited, the sand was covered in tarpaulin held down by rocks, almost as if the beach had been put to bed for the winter, and it was late afternoon on an overcast day, so the water was as grey as the sky rather than a sparkling blue. We like gardens and spent an enjoyable couple of hours at Hallim Park. Hallim Park has many different sections of gardens each devoted to a theme such as Subtropical Garden, that included interesting reptiles, a bird garden, folk village, Jeju Stone and Bonsai Garden, to name a few. A surprise was being able to walk through two lava tubes; Hyeopjae and Ssangyong Caves. 

Day 2: Geumdeung-ri to Seogwipo  52 km

A pretty ride with the sea and black basalt rocky coastline on our right and groups of black curved roofs of seafood farms and other buildings that appeared to be seafood factories on our left. Many busloads of tourists were walking towards Mt Songaksan, where there is a walking trail and luge ride. We watched but didn’t join them. The cycling route headed inland and there was some climbing for the remainder of the day. You might like to stop at the Jungman Maze Park, the Teddy Bear Museum, or the Museum of Sex and Health, but apart from walking in the forecourt garden of the latter, amongst some very interesting statuary, we headed straight for Cheonjeyeon Waterfall.

One section of the Cheonjeyeon Waterfall

One section of the Cheonjeyeon Waterfall

The Cheonjeyeon area is a picturesque forest walk, following the waterfall in three parts. By the time we had walked to view the waterfalls we were too late to see Jusangjeollidae Cliffs as they close at 5:20 p.m. We should have stayed the night in this area, close enough to take a look at Jungman Beach and the cliffs the next morning. It would have also made today’s distance more manageable. As it was we rode in darkness to accommodation at Seogwipo and didn’t get the opportunity to return to the sights we had missed. 

Jeongbang Waterfall

Jeongbang Waterfall

Day 3 Seogwipo 

In the morning we rode to Cheonjiyeon Waterfall, then Oedolgae Rock and across town to Jeongbang Waterfall, that flows into the ocean. After lunch we walked through Lee Jung Seop Culture Street and the Seogwipo Everyday Ollie Market where many vendors were selling seafood, Jeju Mandarins and chocolates of many varieties with centres of jelly made from Jeju citrus juices.

Day 4 Seogwipo to Seongsan Ilchulbong 62 km

Our lunch break was at Pyoseon Beach, a pretty white sand beach. We noticed a campground, the first we had seen, beside the Certificate Registration kiosk. We arrived at the Jeju Folk Village in time to see the 13:30 song and dance performances; the twirling dummer gave a dizzying performance. At the village there were many groups of homes clustered together in themes such as: Mountain Village, Hillside Village, Shamanism Village, and more. While I enjoyed the time off the bike, walking around the village on a pleasant afternoon, for me, having already seen the small cluster of homes at Hallim Park on day one, I felt I’d already had an overview of what homes were like in times past. 

The cycle path took us beside a yellow field of canola, where you could purchase a ticket and enter the field to take a photo; one that would be identical to a photo that graced the covers of tourist brochures promoting the merits of visiting Jeju Island. We had seen these ‘photo stops’ throughout South Korea; usually they have a theme frame, often a heart shape. People queue to take a photo through these frames when the scenery is just as beautiful without the ‘set-up’. Dusk accompanied us to Seongsan Ilchulbong and we saw the sun drop below the horizon as we arrived at our accommodation. 

The view that enticed us to Jeju Island; this is a photo of a poster displayed on a wall at the bottom of Sunset Peak

The view that enticed us to Jeju Island; this is a photo of a poster displayed on a wall at the bottom of Sunset Peak

Day 5 Seongsan Ilchulbong and Udo Island 11 km

It was a photograph, of the volcanic tuff of Seongsan Ilchulbong (also known as Sunset Peak) in the Qatar Airline Magazine, that prompted us to visit Jeju Island.  We were at the foot of the climbing trail at 6:15 a.m. as we understood the ticket office would be open one hour before sunrise. Actually you could only purchase a ticket from 7:30, pointless when sunrise would be at 7:15 a.m. We made our way up anyway. The track was well lit, mostly stair climbing, that took us 20 minutes. At the top there is stepped bench seating, enough to seat thousands of people, facing east. At this time of the year about 100 spaces were occupied. With an overcast sky we weren’t expecting a dramatic sunrise, and when there was just enough pink in the sky for us to see that a new day had dawned, we headed down. Our grey photos, with sun and wind browned grass, bore no resemblance to those in the magazine, taken by a drone from the sea looking towards land, of a crater lush with Spring grass, and the seating edited out.

Nev did the climb but he’d been unwell for a couple of days so we decided to have a second night in Seongsan Ilchulbong for him to recuperate, while I took my bike on the ferry to Udo Island, likened to a Scottish Isle. When purchasing a ticket, you need photo ID, such as passport and you complete a departure card to be allowed to board. The ferry runs often and is only 15 minutes travel time. Without my companion I found myself to be the only Westerner, amongst the other travellers sitting on the floor (there was no actual seating available), where at least I had a warm spot (the floor had underfloor heating) but I couldn’t even eavesdrop as I had no understanding of the languages spoken around me, and gained a new respect for the isolation that may be experienced by solo travellers. The volcanic islet of Udo is visited by 1000s of tourists and to help with traffic management there is a, mostly flat, one way circular route of about 11 kilometres. It seems to be the thing to do is hire a bicycle, tandem, 3-wheeler cart or another vehicle you may have never ridden/driven before and set off for a circuit with stops at key points: caves, white sand beaches (made of the carbonate fossils of red algae) grasslands, restaurants, peanut ice-cream sales. I was away from Nev for 3 hours and had taken the ferry across and return, ridden the circuit and taken my time over a shrimp burger lunch and later watched a group of Haenyeo come into shore from a dive, while I ate a peanut ice-cream. Haenyeo is the name given to women free-divers who for centuries have eked out a living diving for abalone, octopus, sea cucumber and seaweed. The occupation has been immortalised in basalt stone statues throughout the islands of Udo and Jeju. They were given a UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity designation and the South Korean government has given incentives for young women to take up the occupation, but numbers are declining. 

Day 6 Seongsan Ilchulbong to Jeju City 70km

The Jeju Cycle Trail finishes at Yongduam Rock in Jeju City and we decided we would complete that 70 kilometre distance in one day, with a detour to Manjanggul Cave. The route to Woljeongri Beach was the same as we had been riding recently; flat, hugging the coast with seafood farms on our left. In one bay we noticed about 40 Haenyeos diving, some quite a long way from shore. We turned inland at Woljeongri and rode for about 5 km up to the cave. When the stream of lava, erupted from the Gomun-Oreum crater to the shore, the Manjanggul Lava Tube was formed. The tube is 7,416 metres long and the public can walk through a one kilometre section and see all the classic features: flow line, stalactites, shelves, toes and a 7.6 metres high column, all formed by the flow of lava. 

Back on the bikes we picked up the course at Gimnyeong Beach and then hurried to complete the ride in daylight. Back at Jeju City, the route took us passed the Jeju National Museum and the Culture and Art Centre but it was the end of the day with buildings already closed. We arrived at Yongduam Rock, moments after sunset, just in time to get our final passport stamp, and completion certificate. Tomorrow we have a mountain to climb. Click here to read the Climbing Mt Hallasan blog.


South Korea: Cycling Seomjingan River Trail and Yeongsangang River Trail (313km)

Louise George

Sunset at Seomjingan River Trail Head

Sunset at Seomjingan River Trail Head

South Korea in late autumn: November. We had completed the 4 Rivers Trail (you can read about that ride here) and had five nights in Busan. We are not the best at following signage and we have read other blogs about linking these two river trails by riding many kilometres on a motorway, (that we would prefer not to do) so we imported a file from RidewithGPS to both Nev’s Komoot App and my Garmin so we wouldn’t go wrong, at least with navigational errors. We were relaxed about leaving Busan and getting to the Eastern bus station because we had already ridden from the suburb where the station is located, and confident that we knew where it was, and then pleased that our return ride to Sansong was straight forward. Navigation though, was clearly not the only aspect of touring we could get wrong!  A bus to Gwangyang was already at the terminal. Nev went in to purchase a ticket for the 11:00 bus to give us time to unload the bags and get the bikes ready for stowage in the luggage compartment. Nev returned to where I was waiting, with tickets for the 11:19 bus. He commented that it seemed an unusual time and showed me that the time space on the ticket showed 10:10. We decided that must be the time of purchase. We prepared for travel and waited. Another bus parked in Bay 25, due to depart at 11:00. By this time Nev had wandered off to the toilet but he was taking such a long time I knew he was nosing around the outdoor clothing outlet stalls. While Nev was gone the driver of this second bus to Gwangyang asked to look at my ticket. He pointed to 10:10 and said “time!” “Change!” I realised that what Nev thought was the departure time was actually today’s date written in the format 11:19! We should have been on the 10:10 bus, although that would have been impossible, because it departed moments after we purchased the tickets. Nev had still not returned to me when that second bus departed. By now we had actually missed two buses! Nev easily got the ticket changed to 12:20 p.m. By the time that bus arrived we had been standing at the station, in the cool shade, for 2 hours, presiding over our pile of gear. 

The two hours of bus travel to Gwangyang was luxurious, with plenty of leg room and a seat that could recline with leg support for those that enjoy that level of comfort. Because we had up to now been following rivers I thought the road route might offer different scenery, however apart from the absence of rivers it was much the same. Broad cultivated valleys punctuated by hill mounds covered in foliage that had gone beyond the autumn tones and now brazen, appeared to just need a strong breeze to float the remaining leaves to the ground.

Seomjingan River Trail

On the bikes we had 9 km to the trail starting point at the Seomjingang River mouth. We arrived at 3:30 and, as there was a camping area next to the trail-head, we decided to pitch our tent under a pergola to let it dry out thoroughly. I can’t say I’ve been excited about camping in South Korea and that has disappointed Nev, but it’s been very cold the two nights we had previously camped, and the nights are very long with darkness from 6:00pm to 7:00am. Also with no electricity or data , many hours of reading becomes the only entertainment. I agreed to camp rather than ride in the direction of Hadong, 20 km away, probably the nearest town with a Motel. The cold began to settle as soon as the sun dropped. Tonight rather than sit around in the cold we headed off to a restaurant we had located through, that was 2 km away on the other side of the river. There were a number of ‘fish’ restaurants and we chose the one with the brightest neon lights. It was only 6pm and we were the only patrons. We had no idea what to order and the only thing we could establish with any certainty was that the fish had to be purchased by the kilo, that at equivalent to $72AU, was way out of our budget! A soup on the menu was reasonably priced so we pointed to that picture. The bubbling hot dish was placed centre-table with the gas flame lit beneath it, keeping the broth at a fast boil. The spicy stock was full of delicate tiny eel, beef bones and many vegetables. On the table, surrounding the soup tureen, a bowl of hot rice each was placed, along with twelve small dishes of cold food, and one small whole fish. We sat awkwardly on the floor at the low table and tucked into the feast. One of the women working in the restaurant came over from time to time and watched, with a huge grin and sparkling eyes (clearly Westerner clients are a rare source of amusement),  to see how we were getting on. She wanted to chat but that was hopelessly funny, even using Google Translate. Later she kindly brought us a Persimmon, sliced for our dessert.

The night was as cold as I anticipated it would be. Our sleeping bags are summer weight and even with most of my clothes on, as well as my hat and scarf, the chill seemed to permeate my bones. At 7 am it was 2C.

Following our Meusli breakfast, the gear was packed quickly as the pergola overhead had kept everything dry. With the Seomjingan River as our guide, we set off. There wasn’t a breath of wind and as the day progressed we were able to strip off some layers of clothing. We’ve made a habit of stopping for coffee around the 20km point, but we were at 35km and still hadn’t come across a cafe or a shop selling food. We were beginning to wonder if we’d even get a lunch break when at 40km we came across a restaurant, about one kilometre before Nampo Bridge, with a few vans parked outside. We sat at the only table, along with some working men, and were served lunch. There was no menu; everyone was served the same: thick beef bone broth, rice and nine cold accompaniments, similar to last night’s meal. Men came and went as we ate the very hearty meal, with a lot of liquid for rehydration. 

It would be almost impossible to take a wrong direction on this trail as the course is marked with a solid blue line painted the entire length. Signage to checkpoints is also very good, so when we watched some cyclists turn onto our route, (the only ones we had seen today), with that distraction we overlooked that Namdo Bridge was our Certificate Registration spot. Two kilometres further there was a coffee van so we stopped for a cappuccino, and Nev realised the error. We’d discussed not double-backing for check-points when we’d missed some on the last river trail we rode, so continued on. One of our difficulties is that we are unable to interpret the many signs that show points of interest, and I assume also accommodation options along the route. The Korean, Naver Navigation App, would have been useful, as it shows the trail and also place names in Korean and English but data is needed to use it, and we do not have a Korean CIM card as we had not purchased a Tourist CIM in Seoul. The App, with South Korea downloaded, had helped us identify a town that had a Motel and we were happy to finish our day at Ace Motel in Yongjeong, having covered 70 kms. 

We had a late start to the day as Nev had been vomiting in the night. At 10:00 o’clock the morning chill had not lifted however we set off in 4C and it remained at that temperature for much of the time we were riding. At least the air was calm and dry. Nev had little energy and we decided to make the day a shorter distance, slowly covering a very pretty, but cold 46.2km. Just after the Hyanga Park checkpoint Tunnel we diverted 5km away from the course to find a Motel in Sunchang where Nev went to bed for the rest of the day.

Next day dawned with weak sunshine and with Nev feeling better, we set off without panniers. We had identified that the return route, linking Seomjingan and Yeongsangang Rivers, came to within a few kilometres on the other side of Sunchang city.  It seemed sensible to have a shorter day’s ride, with light bikes, and have two nights at Goldeun Motel. 

The trail continued beside the river that flowed and snaked through deep valleys. With less flat fertile areas the fields of rice and onions were much smaller. Occasionally a bright crop of red chillies added colour. At Janggunmok there was an area of wooden  platforms for campers. Across the river were some cabins and later we passed glamping tents. This appeared to be an area popular for summer river activities, and hiking trails, but at this time nothing was open. At  Seomjinggangdam, the final Certificate Registration on this river trail, we were delighted to see a Coffee sign, the first in 40km. Coffee with cake, served in a tiny cafe, where the heating was so intense that I stripped down to my first layer, was our chosen celebration on finishing Seomjingan River Trail. Back on the bikes we doubled back 5 km then took a more direct road route to Sunchang. What a difference a little sunshine makes. We were wearing just as many clothes as yesterday but the sun-bright high of 8C reached us around midday and with a few climbs we were soon stripping off some layers. We had just clocked 60 km on arriving back at our accommodation. 

Yeosangang River Trail

Tyres crunched the frost as they crossed the bridge but the sun held promise of warmth. The route not far from Sunchang-eup led us to a flight of concrete steps. At this point I was thinking ‘oh, here we go, this is the motorway that I’ve read about, and the course has brought us to it at this stepped side entrance point so we can’t see any ‘bicycles not allowed’ signs’. The bikes were unloaded, gear lugged up to the highway and then the bikes carried up in turn. Actually for six kilometres we rode on a dual carriageway, that had light traffic and a wide shoulder, so there was no difficulty. We left the highway and took a secondary road up to Damyangdam, our starting point for Yeongsangang bicycle path.

The first section of trail was on a rubberised surface similar to the protection under children’s play equipment at parks. The surface felt like it was gripping the tyres and slowing us down. Fortunately a stop-bank with a gravel path on top, travelled in the same direction so for a while we took that option. 

We found Yeosangang River Trail very easy to follow. The solid blue painted line continued, but with the bonus of directional signage being in both Korean and English. There were also two different types of signs, marking each kilometre. The trail lead us through Gaeksa-ri, a pretty tourist orientated town with many coffee shops, restaurants and a bamboo park. Our travel continued in the same vein as other river trails. The route was usually along the stop-bank that gave us views of the river on one side and acres of greenhouses shining as their coating of taut plastic glistened in the sun on the other. Occasionally there was a rice field or garlic crop that was planted in neat rows with their tops poked up through circles punched in plastic. The river had many bridge crossings, but we stayed on the left bank with the trail usually dropping beneath a bridge, so the path was continuous, punctuated with 7% descents to get below a bridge and then a 7% ascent to rise back to the path.

The river had trickled from the dam, but flow increased as tributaries entered. Occasionally a weir would reduce the flow to pools surrounded by grasses, habitats for birds, then later the river would broaden again. 

By Gwangju the river was very wide with the banks linked by many bridges. The city extended about 12km each side, beyond the river, with high-rise apartments jostling for river views. We wanted to split the trail into two days riding, so continued to a motel on the outskirts of Haksan-ri. Our odometer recorded 70 km for the day. As there were no shops nearby, we heated our packets of noodle meals and ate in the room.

Gwangju River Side

Gwangju River Side

There was the occasional spit of rain as we put our panniers on the bikes but by the time we’d ridden the 3km to seek out breakfast it was raining heavily. We drank our coffee at a cafe, then from the 7/11 brought food: hard-boiled eggs, tuna rice cakes and sandwiches, that we ate at the first pergola we came across, beside the river path. Our course continued along the stop-banks with a couple of very steep, but fortunately short, climbs adding riding challenge but little in the way of interest as our view was totally obscured by the rain and fog.


Fortunately the rain stopped later and we eventually dried out except for the pools in our shoes. I was hoping to knock-off the 67km today without a break but with only 20km to go, energy levels were low. We left the river path but continued riding parallel to our course, hoping to find a shop. We found ourselves riding through a rural setting of acres of rice paddies, that appeared to sprout green shoots before our eyes, as they soaked up the rainwater. Occasionally there was a cluster of implement sheds and houses, but no shops. Back at the river we stopped at a shelter and ate the last of our food supplies. Three slices of dry bread, that was three days old and had a slight coconut flavour, spread with crunchy peanut butter and topped with cherry tomatoes, one Persimmon, a handful of walnuts. Our ride into Makpo continued along the stop-bank of what was now a very broad river. We were joined by a cyclist from Newcastle, UK who had been working at Makpo for a few months in the shipping industry. He was delighted to have English speakers to converse with. Later when we stopped at the final Certification Registration kiosk, a Korean man, out walking with his family on the trail, stopped me for a chat. Later, when we stopped at a cafe, the man sitting at the table next to us happened to be a teacher of English and he struck up a conversation. We hadn’t spoken to anyone for over a week so this was a wonderful way to end our last day on mainland Korea. By the time we checked into a Motel near the port we had completed 80km. Tomorrow we take a ferry to Jeju Island. You can read about our circumnavigation of Jeju Island, following the Fantasy Bicycle Trail here.

South Korea: Cycling Four Rivers Trail from Seoul to Busan

Louise George


Our ride over this route took 10 days, covering 680 kilometres. We rode in late autumn; November. Rather than write a day by day blog, I decided to give an overall picture, both in the text content of this blog and in the grouping of pictures, rather than a chronological account, because anyone riding this route will be of varying abilities, have different amounts of gear and may choose to take a different amount of time. At the end of the blog I have listed our travel in days and distances.

We had five days of sightseeing in Seoul. The official starting point was Ara West Sea Lock and we didn’t want to ride there. We had established that bikes could be taken on the trains, only on the weekends and only in the first and last carriages that would be identified by a bicycle icon. It was Sunday and we envisaged the train and 40 km ride would only take the morning, leaving the afternoon for more sightseeing back in the city. I highly recommend you plan to enjoy just the cycling activity because in effect, that is all we achieved that day.

We decided to get the express train that goes to the airport from Seoul City Station as that train passes through, and also stops at Cheongna International City, the nearest station to the start of the trail. This journey was for us, by no means straightforward. We had difficulty finding elevators, at the stations, and when we did the space was sometimes small, so one bike (just as well without gear at this stage) would be taken at a time. The train we boarded stopped one station before Cheongna International City (not what we were expecting to happen) and wasn’t continuing. Maybe we’re a ‘bit thick’ as it took us ages to figure out how to get the next train in the direction we wanted; our efforts included riding with the bikes on an escalator (not recommended, and probably not allowed) and then being told by locals we couldn’t, with bikes, get on a train we were trying to board. Finally we went back to the platform we had initially arrived at, got the next train and disembarked at Cheongna International City.  A cycle path took us to Ara West Sea Lock, that was the trail head. Then we had difficulty finding where to purchase the Trail Passport. Coming from the trail head it’s from a reception area in the second large building beside the Ara waterway, the Ara Tower, Ground Floor. In Korea F1 is the Ground Floor. Look for the building, pictured in the next group of photos. From here you can get the Passport and also pick up a brochure about points of interest along the waterway.

We found Korea’s Cross Country Road Tour Passport useful as it gave us specific points to aim for, breaking the route into sections. Our first day we were having trouble finding the 3rd and 4th stamps (because we thought they were directly beside the trail, and these two weren’t) and started feeling like our ride was now becoming an Orienteering event; (a sporting activity we are not particularly good at), so we decided if we missed a stamp, it wasn’t so important that we would double back for it. The passport also came with a map of all the South Korean trails, and this became our only printed map. Only trouble was, the map was only in Hangul characters that Korean is written in.  We also hadn’t realised that some of the map trails were shown on different maps but some details overlapped, so at some points we were expected to have put two stamps in the passport, but on the different pages that applied to different trail sections. At one Passport kiosk (called Certification Centres) someone had taken the stamp. If that is the case, and a finishing medal is important to you, take a photo of yourself at the booth, as proof you were there. We found the person checking our passport at the end of the ride, took her job very seriously!

We found the ride back to Seoul, firstly on the Ara Waterway and then the first part of the Hagang Trail such a delight. We rode on the right bank and had a good view of the Ara Falls (Korea’s largest artificial waterfall) but were opposite the Ara Mary observatory (a circled glass floor, hanging 45m above the canal). Being a sunny autumn Sunday, there were hundreds of people out riding; family groups, wobbly new riders, many cyclists on ‘top-end’ titanium bikes. The path was dedicated for only cyclists and walkers, so three lanes with solid painted lines defining each lane. No one crossed out of their lane, no-one rode more than two abreast, most were single-file. The speed limit was 20kph and occasionally there was a pole beside the path with a fixed light that flashed red or blue to show your compliance, or not, with that regulation. We saw one policeman driving slowly on a motorscooter and two small electric trucks with workers equipped with broom and rubbish collecting items (not that we saw a single piece of litter). There were pop-up cafes, bicycle workshops, cycle retail outlets and occasionally a bike station featuring a pressurised air hose for blowing off dust, track pump, pergola and seats for relaxing, and water fountains to replenish water bottles. There were many toilet blocks, at a guess no more than 500 metres apart. There was always the river on one side and the other side of the path was sometimes wetlands, or nearer the city many parks for outdoor activities such as walking in nature, or fields for sports of many disciplines. Because everything about the trail culture was new to us, we took our time to enjoy this first day. We did wonder about the 20km speed limit but it appeared to be only a restriction on this waterway and through Seoul, and appeared again, only occasionally, where paths went through other large cities.


It was Tuesday when we headed off towards Busan, many days riding away. There were still many other cyclists on the trail for about 25km, the distance it took us to reach the edge of Seoul’s metropolitan area, and then we saw very few people until the next weekend. 

We continued to enjoy the autumn foliage but found the days cooler and shorter than we had expected. It was dark from 6p.m. to 7a.m. The trail is well suited to camping. Occasionally there are dedicated campsites with full facilities that there is probably a charge for, but we were under the impression from other blogs that camping beside the trail was acceptable. We had our first 2 nights free-camping, the first beside a wetlands walking path, on the outskirts of a town. The second night was more emergency camping because it had got dark, and we were nowhere near a town. We had just passed a restaurant that was open, and it had a toilet block outside the building. We ate at the restaurant and then pitched the tent opposite, tucked behind roadside shrubbery. Both nights the temperature dropped to 2C so we decided in future to find accommodation indoors. 

Most of the signage along the trail was in Korean, so we had no idea what towns we were passing or what might be a point of interest. Google Translate wasn’t very good at identifying Hangul characters displayed in colour, on wooden boards. Google Maps didn’t show all of the towns. We learned that the Koreans use the Naver Navigation App, that has places in Korean and English. The bicycle trails are also marked on Naver. We did download the Naver App, but the problem for us was that Naver needs data. We hadn’t purchased a Tourist CIM Card when we were in Seoul, as it cost about $50, (we should have purchased this) and at that time we were planning to be in Korea for only two weeks, and we also knew that in cities, free Wifi was available at most cafes, restaurants and sometimes public spots. We managed to find accommodation by using the App with South Korea (downloaded when we had free Wifi). Searching under the category Hotels would also display Motels, as a blue dot, and we would head in their direction. Often the trail bypassed towns so sometimes it meant just crossing the river to find accommodation and food. As a couple we found staying at ‘love motels’ very reasonably priced (and sometimes a bit quirky) but they were clean, and in addition to the bed were often furnished with a table and chairs, kettle provided so we could fix our own breakfast or heat noodles, and had an en-suite so they were very suitable. With underfloor heating a feature of the Korean lifestyle, staying overnight indoors was sometimes too warm for us, but really who’s complaining. An unexpected bonus was we could sometimes talk to other people, rather than just be the two of us camping in isolation. One day we were invited to join the motel manager as she attended morning prayers at a Buddhist Temple, high in the mountains, usually a two hour hike. This resulted in us taking tea, made from ginger flowers, with the resident Monk, and were each given a gift of a Korean face mask and bead bracelet. Another time we had an enthusiast manager invite a local member of the cycling association to meet us and he gave us some good tips. 

We found Koreans to be very generous as has already been mentioned, or occasionally we were given a piece of fruit by other cyclists or walkers. We also spent an evening as guests in a Korean home, in response to a generous invitation. Our knowledge of the Korean language is ziltch and outside large cities we often didn’t find English speakers, but we got by with hand gestures, Google Translate App downloaded, and pointing to pictures on the wall in restaurants. We were often asked ‘how old are you’ and found this to be in relation to Confucianism and respecting elders. While we found Korean people always respectful, additional respect was given to people older than themselves. This could be as simple as serving the eldest person first.

The trail surface was always sealed so easy riding in that respect. Most of the kilometres were flat, however many times each day there were the 7% ups and downs to access the top of a stop-bank or drop under a bridge. Korea certainly knows how to produce hills and threw a few into the mix. For us Day 3 had some road sections and with 234m ascent we gave our legs a bit more to do. Our first major climbing experience appeared on Day 5. There were two significant climbs that day, although the gradient and distance covered on the first section wasn’t too bad. The second climb was 5km of between 6-10%. We completed this ascent at the end of the day and night had fallen by the time we got to Ihwaryeong Rest Area checkpoint. We had a very cold, winding, downhill ride to Mungyeong in complete darkness. A good test for our lights. Day 6 gave us a couple of short sharp climbs and a memorable one with an unexpected 26% gradient (short and sharp) that was absolutely impossible to ride on loaded bikes. Climbs continued to feature, for us, between Daegu and Susan-Ri. After Daegu we were advised to check the trail map for when squiggles appeared, as this would identify a hilly section, and studying the map usually showed a section of road that offered an alternative, avoided the climbs and later linked to the trail. We didn’t heed this advice at the first squiggling we came across and ended up pushing 300 metres up a 15-20% incline. Where possible squiggling lines were avoided after that. There were a couple of big unavoidable climbs after Hajeong. The first included an 18% incline and the second appeared to go straight up for the short distance we could see, so we started pushing. The climb then eased to between 12-16% over 2 kilometres!

The trail infrastructure continued to amaze us. Toilet facilities were placed along the trail at regular intervals. Most were clean with toilet paper and hand washing facilities; some with music. A few toilets were squat over, porcelain pans over long-drops; usually in isolated places. Pagodas could usually be found at summits of hills or on a riverbend that had an outlook that was aesthetically pleasing; these offered shelter and lunch spots. Stainless steel fencing, extended for kilometres, even in isolated places whenever it was possible that someone might drop off the trail, if they weren’t paying attention. We were fascinated by the use of stainless steel in South Korea, for fencing, bollards, drink tumblers and even chopsticks (that I found to be very slippery) but the shiny steel gave a clean appearance.

Safety signs were prolific, in fact it was obvious the trail was treated the same as any highway with warnings as appropriate for such things as trail works, steep gradients, possibility of falling if leaving the trail (even though the boundary was usually fenced if there was any likelihood of a fall injury)! 

The theme of the trails was understandably bicycling. There were occasional art works, seats, even a toilet block, and many kilometres of stainless steel fencing that embraced cycling. At Dongam-dong there is the Sangju Bicycle Museum. 

We never tired of the scenery. It was autumn so some days were hazy all day, some were thick fog until late morning then clear in the afternoon, some were sunny with clear visibility and we had one day of stubborn rain so we called it off early. We were surprised that there was never anyone using the river. There are many weirs so there can be no through traffic such as Europe’s industrial waterways, but we never saw a small boat of any kind, nor fishermen on the riverside. 

The land beside the river had various uses, with walking tracks through wetlands, and sports fields being the most common near cities. Park Golf seemed popular, and it was at these up-sized putting greens that we saw large numbers of people. Adult outdoor gym equipment parks were plentiful, and occasionally we saw people making use of them. In rural areas there were kilometres of crops: turnips, onions and garlic, with daikon radishes and cabbages being harvested. Rice fields extended for kilometres; at this time the grain had been harvested and now the stalks were being cut and bailed in white plastic rolls. Greenhouses covered in taut plastic would stretch as far as the eye could see and change the view to one similar to glistening ripples of snow moguls. 

The mountains were often distant silhouettes, blurred by the weather, although we did get up close and personal with mountains, mid ride. There was always a cluster of high rise apartments in sight. We had no idea that South Korean urban populations would be so dense. Most people lived in an apartment in a high rise building that had a large number on the side. Groups of these buildings were called villages, and a number of villages formed a city. Closer to Busan we came across a few rural villages with clusters of small houses.

Mornings were sometimes very cold and we did make use of the face masks we were given. With the mask and a buff under our helmets we were pretty toasty but as the day warmed we removed these and other layers of clothing. We found it amusing that local cyclists, even when the temperature increased, would remain covered from head to toe in face mask, puffer jacket and long pants and imagined ourselves to be in a sweating lather if it was us riding in that attire. Sometimes we became aware of an approaching cyclist because we could hear music blasting from a speaker, surprisingly usually western songs. We also came across this sharing of music when we did some hikes, that we found annoying or not, depending on personal taste. 

This is possibly a generalisation, but it seemed that Korean cyclists did not have the knowledge, or the equipment to repair a puncture. On three occasions Nev stopped and fixed punctures, the person not having the means to repair, and many other cyclists would have also gone passed the person pushing their bike, and had not offered assistance. 


We very rarely rode on a street in South Korea, but when we did we rode defensively, as we would anywhere, but we didn’t feel confident that drivers would be looking out for riders, as so many cyclists ride on trails away from traffic. Apart from difficulty choosing food at some restaurants, language wasn’t an issue. We did find getting cash was a problem at times. A lot of ATMs wouldn’t accept a foreign card, and while 7/11 stores ATMs were okay they would only dispense a maximum 100,000 won, with high fees. 

Four Rivers Trail completed

Four Rivers Trail completed

Overall we enjoyed our 4 Rivers experience and decided to spend more time in South Korea, riding Seomjingan and Yeongsangang Rivers Trail (you can read about that ride here) and then riding the circumference of Jeju Island (you can read about that here).



Day 1: 47km: Ara Waterway, Hangang River to Seoul, stayed at Kimchee Hostel

Day sightseeing in Seoul 

Day 2: 74km: Seoul to Yangpyeong-gun; Free camp

Day 3: 76km: Yangpyeong-gun to ; Jocheon-ri; Free camp

Day 4: 30km; Jocheon-ri, to Mokaeng-dong; Damien Motel (shorter day because of torrential rain)

Day 5:, 914m ascent; Mokaeng-dong to Mungyeong; Sky Motel

Day 6: 77km, 357m ascent; Mungyeong to Nakdong-ri; Phoenix Motel, 

Day 7: 87.8km, 246m ascent; Nakdong-ri to Daegu; Hosted at a Warmshowers home

Day 8: 70.5km, 374m ascent; Daegu to Hapjeon on outskirts of Angjin-ri

Day 9: 63.5km, 519m ascent; Susan-ri, Princess Hours Motel

Day 10: 75.4km; to final check-point at Nakdonggang Estuary Park, then to our accommodation in Busan