Monthly Archives: July 2014

Custom message from SPOT Sophie

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Sophie
Latitude:37.49267
Longitude:129.12511
GPS location Date/Time:07/25/2014 22:29:20 PDT

Message:Random place of interest along my route….

Click the link below to see where I am located.
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Sophie

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Beach anyone?

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Here’s the beach up near the border. Some kind soul put some concrete piles in, just made for singing a hammock from. The wind was amazing, very gusty.

In the morning a truck load of soldiers arrived. I thought they might have come to move is along, but they just waved and walked along the fence. I think they must check it every day for signs of incursion.

I’m not usually a beach fan, but I kind of like this one. It’s certainly atmospheric!

Three abreast at the peace dam.

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More amazing roads and scenery today. It was all twisty bends climbing up into the mountains, running down the other side or long tunnels in between. The bike sounds fantastic in the tunnels, as Chip and Ken both commented over dinner. Cool!

We crossed the new peace dam, spectacular views worthy of a moment. The dam looks almost complete, so I it won’t be long before the one side gets flooded. A rare chance to see what will be submerged for the next 100 years or so.

Were camping on the beach tonight, next to the barbed wire fencing keeping people from going too far north up the beach. The local restaurant gave us an interesting meal. Fish jerky, some unidentified gelatinous product and a very spicy calamari. Half way through the calamari, I pointed out that there were bones in it. Turns out we were eating chicken’s feet!!

The beer was nice though!

Tank traps.

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The roads across country today took us very close to the border. This was evident by the numerous checkpoints and army barracks. You can’t get closer to the border as there are no roads running north from here.

In the picture is one of the tank traps we passed. There are lots of these, all looking like they could be deployed immediately should the need arise. The idea is that an explosive charge blows apart the small concrete support for the larger concrete blocks. This large block then falls into the road, making it impossible to pass – even in a tank. Time it right and the tank is immobilised at the same time.

During the war the south Koreans had no answer to the soviet T.38 tanks. Many lives were lost in the struggle to stop them. I think lessons have been learned. Even though the republic has its own tanks, this first line if defence still remains very active.

Met Chip and Ken.

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My agent Wendy mailed to tell me there were two guys arriving in Seoul. They were heading to Vladivostok on the same ferry as me, planning to ride their bikes across to Europe and then the UK. She was going to meet them and would I like to come?

Sure, sounds like fun and I might even get to do some of the ride with company. The hand of fate is a curious thing isn’t it? I went along and met with Chip and Ken, they seem like nice blokes. They’re riding older BMWs, with long range tanks which is important.

We rode well together through Seoul and out to the country yesterday. They’re easy to get along with and don’t seem to mind having me along. I did check that over dinner, as I didn’t want to intrude. At this stage I’ve no idea how long our respective journeys will impinge, but there’s a good chance will be together for a while yet.

And why not!

Sun’s out!

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After we stopped and I had my donut, the sun came out and all was right with the world again! It’s amazing what a huge difference it makes to everything, from the scenery to the people. Everything!

We rode to Chuncheon over some fast dual carriageway, across the hills and around huge lakes on raised roads. The scenery was fantastic, while at the same time being a testament to the Korean infrastructure. Big bridges again, long tunnels and a train line that must be a treat to ride on. I stopped to take a picture of this dam, one of several in the area and no doubt the smallest.

I didn’t have time to fully dry out, but enough to get mostly dry. I’m hoping for a dry start tomorrow at least. Without a cloud in the sky I was all set to wild camp, but I’ve found some traveling buddies and the consensus was a dry room. £20 a night is quite reasonable, and there’s free WiFi.

Definitely a day of two halves today!!

Monsoon season.

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I didn’t realise the monsoon season here is now. I always had September in my mind. If I’d done any research and checked beforehand, I’d have probably had the bike freighted straight to Russia. But that would have been a shame, as I’d have missed some great experiences.

Today for example, it rained. A lot. I decided not to put my waterproofs on when I left, because the sky didn’t look too bad. They’re also hot, and they leak! Getting through Seoul and out the other side took almost 3hrs in the traffic. All of that time it trained. Once we’d found the outskirts we stopped for a coffee and I was actually cold!!

The owner of the Family Tuna restaurant have is the coffee for nothing, which was very generous. I needed a snack so I bought a donut, one of the few recognisable items on sale. It turned out to be a chicken curry donut (as opposed to jam!). Strange, but quite tasty all the same.

I just hope the weather is better in Russia!

Public protests and demonstrations.

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The foreign office advice for travelers, while generally erring on the side of caution, has standard advice applicable to most destinations. Things like “observe local customs”. One of these is to “avoid public demonstrations and protests”.

The past few days there have been a few protests in Seoul. This one I had to walk through to get back to my hotel. Behind where I took the photo there was every police man in Seoul. Literally hundreds, some in full riot gear. The speaker was shouting into the mic, meanwhile I’m picking my day through. ” excuse me, sorry, thank you ” etc..

Thankfully it was all peaceful. I asked a few people what it was about. It’s not easy to find English speakers, but from what I can tell the protest was about the sinking of the Sewol. (The Sewol was a passenger ferry that sunk in April, with the loss of 294 lives). I think the people want an inquest, but don’t quote me on that.

The yellow tags you see are all around the city. They are remembrance tags with writing on, presumably names. Most of the victims were school kids, it was a real tragedy. I met up with a couple of people in Incheon last night, which is where the ship sailed from.

The War Memorial of Korea.

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A very interesting place. Like many others, worthy of a whole day to look around rather than a couple of hours.

I met a nice French chap called Yael on the tour. He’s actually going to the other side next week! Taking the same tour, but the North Korean version. I asked him about visas etc. and it sounded quite straightforward, all matter of fact. I was starting to think this man has no fear, then he said “my mum doesn’t know though”.

Behind every brave man there’s a mother he doesn’t want to find out!!

Crossing the border.

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After being searched and having our passports checked, we were escorted onto military buses by American soldiers. These took us for a briefing on security, specifically that we weren’t too make gestures to the North Korean soldiers. (Me? As if I would!)

In the picture you can see the standoff, with the Republic soldiers facing away to the North and the Korean People’s Army soldiers staring then down. The grey buildings are North Korean, with the one in the centre being their visitor centre. You can just make out a Korean People’s Army officer looking at us through binoculars, standing in the doorway.

The actual border was marked and runs through the centre of the blue buildings. These are conference rooms where peace talks take place. We were allowed in for 2 minutes, where I boldly stood on the North Korean side! It’s hardly rock and roll and I don’t have a passport stamp to prove it, but at least I can say I’ve been to North Korea.