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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With a whole month to do whatever we like, in a country with great public transport, there are any number of ways we can tackle this one. On our previous tours, facilities were much more limited, so we weren't quite used to the freedom that this one gave us.
Bike tours are like children: the more you have, the less you worry about them. Or something like that.
Northern Ireland was recently named Lonely Planet's #1 Region for 2018, and the folks at Discover Northern Ireland decided to make a video of this beautiful country in tribute. They put out a call for submissions for people's favourites experiences. of which they received thousands, and our clip of a band playing live tunes at Blakes of the Hollow in Enniskillen made the final cut!
Well, hot damn. It's been a while since we posted on here. With good reason - at the successful conclusion of our Northern Ireland tour back in September 2016, we rashly committed ourselves to getting married, so we've been quite busy making that happen. Happily, we made it to the aisle in one piece, give or take, and in August 2017, we were joined in holy matrimony by the best Fake Priest, supported by the Hand of the Bride and the Second Best Man (long story).
We left Northern Ireland in the wee hours on Sunday, September 25.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another easy day awaited us when we woke up in the morning. It was 40-odd kilometres again from here until Newcastle, so we got up a bit later, ate a bit later, and set off a bit later than usual. These final stages are more laid back, so we've settled into a relaxed rhythm which allows us to languish longer over our bacon and beans, reading the morning papers aloud to each other like a pair of wrinklies.
Warrenpoint is a small seaside town located at the very tip of Carlingford Lough. It is separated from the Republic of Ireland by a narrow strait, and is charmingly picturesque with its promenade and waterfront hotels. It was in one such bed and breakfast that we would stay for the night, and as we cycled to The Lough and Quay (a fantastic pun if you pronounce it correctly, which obviously Jess the American did not), we felt like we were somewhere in the French riviera, minus the warmth.
Today was our last inland ride, as we were finally headed back to the coast where the Irish Sea awaited us. We timed our departure from Armagh for just after lunchtime, so as to avoid the worst of this small but busy city's traffic. It didn't really work out that way.
The first thing we thought when we rode into Armagh was, "Oh no. Not again."
This was the longest stretch in the saddle so far and one we originally anticipated as being the worst. Not because it went on all day, but because it was through a good chunk of the country. With bugger all between here and Armagh to break up the journey, that, along with the inevitable accursed drumlins, meant it looked like another chore of a ride, with nothing much to look at besides the usual fields of cows.