Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Channeling my Inner Lance Armstrong

Despite the fact that I've only been back at school for just over a month I was more than ready for another vacation, thank you Chuseok.  Recently, the language barrier has been getting to me, mostly for the fact that I can't fully express myself to people around me to whom I've grown fairly close. I sometimes feel like an idiot when I just have to nod or smile as the words aren't there for what I want to say. I know this is a problem that is up to me to fix, and trust me I'm working on it, but it's a slow going process.  Another tic to my annoyance were Chuseok plans themselves, I dropped the ball on planning ahead of time which left me frantically trying to throw something together.  Thankfully I had a few friends in the same boat, both of which were up for anything, and Wink travel had something that caught our eye.  Fast forward a few weeks until 4am Wednesday morning, September 18th and you'll find Sara and I sleeping on the floor of the Busan train station, a small preview of what was in store for us. 

Long story short, after trying to organize a girls trip down to Namhae island honestly what was I thinking? Sara, Caitlin and I shifted gears and instead signed up for an organized bike tour of Tsushima Island.  Normally i'm not one to join group travel (40 people together in small spaces for 5 days) but I also had a strong desire to NOT end up stranded in Gumi for 5 days.  Unfortunately Caitlin had to bail on the trip about a week before (another long story that i'll probably never tell) which left Sara and I to fend for ourselves, but hey - we're good at that. In order to save a few dollars we took the 2am train down to Busan the night before the ferry, figuring we'd catch a few hours of sleep in a Jimjilbang.  We were wrong, we did successfully locate such a place, but were turned away because we were not Korean - umm thanks.  Instead we found comfort on the cold, hard floor of Busan station for two hours before making our way to the ferry. 

Organization was somewhat at a loss for the day as 40 of us scrambled to get our tickets, select a bike, exchange currency and proceed to board the ferry.  I don't think it helped that most of us were running on little to no sleep.  Once successfully upon the ferry I promptly passed out, despite the rocking of the boat which sent many passengers rushing for the bathrooms (why are there vomit bags on airplanes but not high speed ferries?). Thankfully there was minimal biking required from us on the first day on the island, our only task was to find lunch and make it to the campsite.  I had a flash of panic when I realized I was in Japan and once again did not prepare myself for the language change, but was soon relieved as almost all the signs were also in Korean.  Never in a million years would I have guessed i'd one day be on a remote island of Japan and find comfort in recognizing a menu written in Korean, funny how life works out that way. 

Adam and his cars tent
The ten minute ride to the campsite included a lovely hill which brought me back to the reality of what I was about to get myself into.  I knew that i'd be riding somewhere around 50 miles over the course of the next three days but I tried to deny the fact that there'd be hills.  The night was spent making new friends, enjoying a few beers and relaxing, honestly the best part of it all was that not a single person was on their cell phone. 

The next morning Sara and I were up early, packed and ready to go, knowing that we had a long day ahead we wanted to get a fresh start.  William handed out maps and gave instructions to the next camp site before we were turned loose and on our own. We had planned to hit the mart on the way out of town for some biking snacks but to our dismay the store did not open until 9, not wanting to wait around for an hour we continued on our way, fingers crossed there'd be something along the way.  Although there were in fact many hills you couldn't deny the beauty to the coastal road we'd be following for the next few hours.  I quickly picked up on what the theme of our ride would be; completely exert yourself on the way up (eventually walking at a few points) before relishing in the downhill bliss which usually ended in a small fishing village.  If you were lucky the next corner would end with a tunnel instead of an uphill climb, yes tunnels became my best friend while in Japan, not only did they usually promise a flat course but also provided a brief reprieve from the sun and heat.  

Thankfully we did find a small shop along the way where we bought drinks and snacks (peanuts and sausage - the selection was not very large) as well as tried to chat with the friendly store owner.  I must give credit to Sara though, her Japanese skills were impressive, much better than my blank stares. A few hours into our ride the heat and hunger were getting the best of us so we decided to stop for a lunch break in one of the small fishing towns to enjoy our aforementioned snacks.  Although we were the first to leave camp that morning I was surprised that we had only come across two other bikers the whole morning, where were the rest of our biking companions?  

About five hours into our adventure hunger was once again under attack but we suspected we were nearing our destination.  Not only were we growing tired but apparently our bikes were doing the same, my rear brakes thought it'd be a good idea to tighten and drag on my back wheel while my front breaks just gave up, fun! Sara's bike on the other hand just continued to provide her with two measly low gears, not ideal for long distance, oh and plenty of squeaks as well.  When we reached our "fork in the road" which led to our campsite we decided to ask if a mart was nearby.  "Mart, 7/11, super...?" Ahhh supa!! 5k ---> Okay I can do another 5k, and so on we went. Between the heat, my hunger and my stupid bike I wasn't really amused by the cows on the side of the road or the hill that sat beside them, but I must admit it was all still beautiful. 
Somewhere after 킨 but before 니
Starting to feel a bit beaten
Alas, we arrived at the Super Value where we proceeded to wander with hungry eyes and growling stomachs. Although friends and students advised me not to eat the sushi due to the current nuclear and radiation issues in Japan I threw caution to the wind and dug in.  Seriously, did they think I was going to Japan, land of cheap, delicious easy to find sushi and not indulge!? Silly friends, and so yes I gorged myself on plenty of possibly radioactive, delicious sushi.

We figured it was time we get back on our bikes and figure out just where exactly we'd be staying that night.  In my morning stupor I made the mistake of not actually paying attention to Williams instructions so we realized that may prove to be more difficult than necessary.  I remembered the two turns but failed to listen to further details, including the name of our camp site, oops. When we saw a hill to our left leading to a temple we didn't think twice about turning that way, I think it was my subconscious refusing to believe another hill was in my future, we instead pushed on wards, only to find...nothing.  While standing on the side of the road contemplating which way to go, a friendly Japanese woman pulled up beside us and started rambling, when we heard the words help and camping we shrieked. Yes, yes, campsite - that's where we want to go! This woman was kind enough to drive slow as we pedaled our hearts out behind her.  We were headed back to where we had come from and yes, in fact up that hill I had previously dismissed.  If she had a bigger car i'm sure she would've insisted on driving but with the two of us and our bikes that wasn't an option so the slow tailgate and lots of giggling had to suffice. When we reached the campsite we were met by three others from our group (one of which we discovered actually got a ride from the same angel that led us there).  We sat around as others slowing joined us, some looking a bit worse than others and a few admitting that they had also hitchhiked their way there - cheaters. 

The night was spent similarly to the previous plus the added bonus of a gorgeous sunset a top a nearby observation deck (which no, we did not ride our bikes to).  Showers were enjoyed by all, a few grocery runs were made to fuel our empty stomachs and a nights worth of makeshift entertainment was had.  We shared stories of our days adventures, doubted what we had gotten ourselves into and eventually found entertainment in solving logic riddles, before calling it a night in order to regroup for the next day. 

Gorgeous sunset @ 신회의 마을 자연공원
and the moon

No comments:

Post a Comment