Bike tours are like children: the more you have, the less you worry about them. Or something like that.
This is our fourth long distance tour after the Rhine River, Burma, and Northern Ireland, and over the years, we've learned a thing or two. The most important lesson is that nothing is ever as bad as it seems, because we have already been through worse. Tandem threaten to break in two on top of a deserted mountain in a jungle while guerillas scuffle around us? Check. Ride 75 kilometres through a non-stop freezing cold downpour? Check. Have a mental breakdown next to a sheer cliff in the middle of nowhere and contemplate throwing yourself and the bike off it? Check.
Obviously, surviving these experiences only makes us keener to put ourselves in harm's way, so with our flights booked, gear packed, and dog safely packed off to canine summer camp, South Korea awaits us on Thursday.
Deciding when to head to Korea is a delicate balance. Winters are bitterly cold, summers are punishingly hot and humid. Between the end of spring and the start of summer, the monsoon turns up and it pours down for weeks. We plumped for mid-May to mid-June in the hope of avoiding the worst excesses of the weather. It should be pretty pleasant, so light kit is the order of the day, with a long-sleeve top or two just in case.
It's a running joke in our house that Koreans do everything like normal people, but just a bit better. Ever since they got the cycling bug, they've built a series of cycle routes which by all accounts are the envy of the world. The word is that our planned route along the Four Rivers Trail (more on that later) has great facilities at the rest stops. Towns appear regularly enough that we're not too worried about being able to obtain any parts we might need along the way.
So in the interest of space and weight, our gear inventory is (at least compared with Burma) fairly minimal: multitool, spare inner tubes, lubricants, a 15mm wrench for our pedals, spare cables, and a rear chain (this bit was only added at the last minute when we took our freshly-serviced tandem out for its final test ride and the brand-new chain snapped before we got out of the garage).
We've also splashed out on new shoes with SPD cleats - after ruining our road bike shoes in Northern Ireland because of all the pushing we had to do, we decided to get something with a bit more grip. It should also make it easier to jump off the bike and do a spot of sightseeing along the way.
We're bringing our sleeping bags with us, as is customary, but don't really foresee using them because this is our honeymoon after all. We've scrimped and saved over the last two years to pay for both this and our wedding, so we will be travelling in more style than is the norm for cycle tourists. That shouldn't mean breaking the bank either, as Korea is renowned for its "love hotels", which, despite the seediness that the name evokes, offer cheap, cheerful, and (most importantly) clean accommodation in just about every town in the land.
The rest, we'll figure out as we go along, as per usual.