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The Town: Namji-eup

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The Town: Namji-eup

After all that unexpected extra time in the saddle, we were even more famished than usual when we rolled into Namji-eup, and stopped in front of the first restaurant we could find. Beggars can’t be choosers, and in this case, a fast food joint just inside the city limits would have to do.

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The Ride: Hyeonpung to Namji-eup

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The Ride: Hyeonpung to Namji-eup

What a bloody bastard of a day.

Where to begin?

The morning started off innocently enough as we made our way out of town onto the bike trail. Normally, this would be the start of our day’s adventures, but as we had deliberately picked a hotel that was just off the path, getting back onto it wasn’t such a big deal. That’s about the only good thing that happened today.

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The Town: Hyeonpung

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The Town: Hyeonpung

Hyeonpung is a tiny town - perhaps the smallest we’ve stayed in yet. There’s not much going on except for a bus terminal, some restaurants along a main road, and the obligatory convenience stores. With Mt. Biseul soaring in the background, everything seems dwarfed in comparison. This isn’t a place that you make a specific trip out for, but it was in the right spot when we needed it, so here we are.

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The Ride: Gumi to Hyeonpung

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The Ride: Gumi to Hyeonpung

As we mentioned before, the ride into Gumi was annoying as hell. The ride out wasn’t any better. The city just kept dragging on, the industrial traffic was heavy, and it really wasn’t a pleasant start to the morning. In hindsight, it would have been best if we had ridden just a bit further and stayed at Chilgok, as it’s a bit more established and less grimy. If you’ve got the legs for it, by all means do so.

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The Ride: Mungyeong to Gumi

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The Ride: Mungyeong to Gumi

We woke up bright and early to get on the road as soon as possible, for today was going to be a near 100 kilometre ride. Super-organised Jess insisted on packing our bags the night before, which made getting on the road this morning a breeze. After a breakfast of CU’s finest, we were rolling for 9:20 AM (which might not seem early for some of you, but it’s an achievement for us). It was already hot and the temperature would only rise as the day went on.

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The Town: Andong

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The Town: Andong

A big reason why we’re staying in Mungyeong is due to its proximity to Andong, the capital of the North Gyeongsang Province. Andong is known as a centre of culture and folk traditions, particularly the Hahoe Folk Village.

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The Town: Mungyeong

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The Town: Mungyeong

It was only 4 PM when we arrived in Mungyeong, and we felt like we were on top of the world. It had been a ride of contrasts, from the tough grind up the hill in the morning, to the neverending descent in the afternoon. Finishing our day a couple of hours earlier than normal made us feel invincible. Spirits were high as we sailed into town.

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The Ride: Suanbo to Mungyeong

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The Ride: Suanbo to Mungyeong

Today was the day. The dreaded climb up the mountain. The biggest climb we’d encounter between Seoul and Busan.

Obviously, Jess had hyped this up in her head to be as tall as Mount Everest, so she was nervous and shaky as we ate the free breakfast of toast and cereal that the Suanbo Saipan Hot Springs Hotel offered. Neil, annoyingly unflappable as ever, just shrugged and shuffled off to pinch another loaf. Perhaps he had just seen the clock on the wall that gave relevant advice for the day ahead.

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The Ride: Chungju to Suanbo

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The Ride: Chungju to Suanbo

We slept in until a luxurious 10:30 AM because we knew today would be a short ride. Jess set the alarm for 8 AM mostly out of habit, but we kept snoozing it, and the light was streaming through the curtains by the time we finally roused ourselves. It was a rare treat.

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The Town: Chungju

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The Town: Chungju

Our day on the bike was over, but our evening off the bike was just beginning.

It was 6 PM and the town was lit up like a disco roller derby at Christmas. Everywhere we looked, buildings were screaming their wares and offerings with flashing neon signs and bright lights, and our first impressions of Chungju were that of a Las Vegas strip with its fair share of travelling businessmen. Seedy but (mostly) harmless.

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The Ride: Yeoju to Chungju

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The Ride: Yeoju to Chungju

Oh, the endless faff.

We were supposed to wake up early this morning to ride to Suanbo, a tiny hot springs resort 90 kilometres south of Yeoju, but after yesterday’s unexpected additional exertions, we were seriously flegging this morning.

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The Town: Yeoju

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The Town: Yeoju

The sun was dangerously low when we rolled into Yeoju.

Adding 20 additional kilometres to our ride (in tandem terms, about 1.5-2 more hours) really didn’t help to keep our spirits high, and by the time we reached civilisation, we were so annoyed and tired that we did the bare minimum to find accommodation. That meant stopping in front of the closest motel that looked open, which in this town at this time, meant that there wasn’t many.

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The Ride: Seoul to Yeoju

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The Ride: Seoul to Yeoju

What a long day.

We set off from Seoul bright and early at 9 AM today, after enjoying a breakfast of toast, fried egg, and tea by Mr. Kim at the Haemil Guesthouse. The kitchen is small but cosy and functional, and we shared it with a few other people who looked completely bewildered at the sight of two loonies in lycra.

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The Town: Seoul

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The Town: Seoul

Seoul is the capital city of South Korea, and the 4th largest metropolitan economy in the world. Larger than London and Paris, the wider Seoul area houses roughly half of the country’s population. Like the country as a whole, it has developed into an economic powerhouse at breakneck speed in the time since the Korean War.

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The Ride: Incheon to Seoul

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The Ride: Incheon to Seoul

What’s the last thing you want to do the day before embarking on a 14 hour long-distance flight?

Spend 5 hours deconstructing everything on your balcony and roof terrace for the builders who will be renovating them during your vacation.

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The Ride: Portaferry to Belfast

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The Ride: Portaferry to Belfast

Today was our last day.

By the time the sun came down, we would have done a loop of the whole country and ended up back where we started in Belfast. As is usually the case, we were too busy thinking about what still lay ahead to reminisce. No time for nostalgia just yet.

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The Town: Portaferry

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The Town: Portaferry

Today's short ride and fair weather got us to Portaferry with enough time left in the day to visit the Exploris Aquarium. Whilst that might sound like some sort of 80s disco rave with cheesy pop and bad cocaine, it's actually home to almost 75% of all marine species found in Northern Ireland, living in careful facsimiles of their natural habitat.

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The Ride: Newcastle to Portaferry

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The Ride: Newcastle to Portaferry

Continuing our trend of easy last rides, today was no exception. We woke up to a calm sea and the sun shining its rays into our window. The storm had finally passed and it looked like today's journey would be smooth sailing. Or so we hoped.

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The Town: Newcastle

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The Town: Newcastle

They say that it never rains, but it pours. In Northern Ireland, this isn't quite true: it always rains. In Newcastle, however, it pours.

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