Km cycled: 88.5km, elevation gain: 714m

Stayed: Fou Motel, Jigyeongri, Songra-myeon, Buk-gu, Pohang City (not in Pohang!)

A bit more painted pavement, then paint-only road cycle path, then back to the water for a bit before it’s proper minor road cycling time again – lots of it by the beach. Actually really enjoyable! This is what we signed up for! Hell yeah. Even the blue signs are back and being helpful. You’re basically riding around the peninsula by now on the East Sea side, and this is honestly one of my favourite parts of the whole trip. Shame to miss it by starting in Pohang, honestly. Even the parts when away from the sea somehow feel more interesting – maybe now it’s a road to nowhere, it’s rather more quiet and fun. Plus, these feel more like interludes from beachfront riding rather than the main point of the day. Lots of port village cycling – working places, not touristy. Even the hills felt fun. So much narrow tarmac fun following the sea.

About ¾ of the way up the peninsula the road comes to an abrupt halt and it’s time to get off the bike to walk along a narrow pedestrian boardwalk around rocks below. I don’t care, it’s lovely. Steps, but not many. The road resumes at the other side. Damn, this is a nice cycle. Eventually the tip of the peninsula appears – a grasping hand rises from out of the water and another from the land, a lighthouse, and even a red stamping booth with no stamp (presumably, when they make the East Coast cycle path official down here, it will be featured). This was the first really touristy place I’d encountered on the cycle so far, but I liked it. A lot. Still, ever forward. More coastal riding across the top of the peninsula. Get lost in a car park, find the sign to avoid “crashed caution” (“추락주의”) and on we go. Kakao Maps depiction of the cycle route changes from blue to green, and I have no idea why. How can you not love this? Quiet, sea ahead and to your side, kilometre after kilometre. My god, this is fun.

Nothing lasts forever, of course. An eery tunnel. A steep curving ride up. Hooray, it’s a highway. (Prefectural Route 929 again, here wide and high from the water). Ok, less fun. Oppressive fence on one side, and steep drop to the sea on the other. Hills and bends, hills and bends. Forward, forward, forward. We hit sea-level riding again, and it is everything. No beach, just small concrete wedges and the water. This also means flat. Love it. Crush it. And then 929 is back into the hills. Every time the map shows you twists on a road not following the coast, you know what is coming. It’s steep in places, and not for the first time the pack over my back wheel laughs at my attempts to crank my high lowest gear. Walk, bike, walk, bike. Did I feel guilty walking on a bike trip? No, but the (minor) hit to my average speed hurt a little bit. Would I do it again? With this chain set? Ooh boy yes. Philosophy has nothing on lactic acid. Particularly liked the “steep section ahead” sign (well, 7%) a quarter of the way up one bloody hill. Chapeau, whoever put that up. Chap-bloody-eau.

Back down and to the coast again, another wee village. Military stuff, first time of noticing it on this ride. A ride away from the coast, then back towards it on a narrow farm track. Overtaken by a car I then get stuck behind. The arrogance prickles more than the heat, but it isn’t for long. I turn left over a tiny bridge, and coastal road stretches before me once again. No driver can enjoy this the way I can. Road 2490 gives way to the main road again, but it’s back to beachside so who cares? That doesn’t last of course. These roads are made for engines, not legs. Back up above the coastline, sweeping bends, motels and resorts. I enjoy it less than the morning. Soon, sharp right into a conference centre car park. Uh, ok. Cycle path out downhill, downhill, locked metal mesh gate. Oh - there’s a tiny person-sized door in it. Carefully lift bike through it. Cycle paths in Korea are certainly unique. And a small coastal road again, until a dedicated bike track appears to guide you into Pohang. A large Pohang car park, indeed! There are toilets.

The ride now on small side-streets. Dodging ajummas ambling in the middle of the roads. Then route 31, we meet again. Head of a T junction, cycle lane vanishes. Just head straight and pitch left at the last minute, then. (Or try to cycle hard right to the crossing behind a grassy traffic island, but since there is no footpath to wait on, you’d be crazy). Shared pavement - after a while I decide it’s not worth it. Wide road feels safe enough (4 lanes in my direction). I take a wrong turning, but same basic direction. Brings me out on an overly busy road, so I cross and take to the pavement. The East Coast path rejoins soon enough, and I follow to emart.

I emerge to rush hour, making road cycling impossible. The pavements aren’t great, but on we follow past the massive Posco works. At the entrance by the river, I am in a sea of bikes - themselves all dodging the workers finishing their shifts. Quickly though over the bridge and down to the river. The most exposed cycling so far: no barrier to the side, just a 90 degree angle where the tarmac falls away to the water – inviting me to do the same. I stick to the left except when someone has to pass. Round the harbour building, shared footpath by the sea again. Not for long – this is a peninsula, so we head inland and over a bridge, back to landmass. Narrow bike path painted onto the pavement, here. The first appearance of the nine painted dots, 3x3. Maybe for impromptu games of noughts and crosses. Soon the red paint becomes green, and we’re following water again, and back to red, and soon the city is fading away and red too fades to simple tarmac. This is what I expected: safe, quick, dedicated cycle path. It goes on, but I don’t: the path has us heading inland and I dutifully follow.

What should be a two-way cycle lane here is instead a car park. I catch myself surprised that this saddens me. A right turn and the lane becomes dedicated, and quick. Nervous to leave my bike unguarded in Pohang, I have waited to resupply and go to a petrol station to get water; none there, but the fishing shop next door has plenty. Lesson learnt. The cycle path doesn’t take the beach road here, so neither do I – still, the dedicated cycle lane is decent. It ends near a factory, where it becomes painted on the road beneath a hundred parked cars. I’ve not seen anything quite like it. Still, down to the sea. When you reach it, realise you were supposed to turn left earlier, but the on-road sign was probably under a parked car. Fucksticks. Still, the beach you reach by mistake is really quite nice. But back I go. The road is like a motorway now, but without the traffic. Blue signs make a welcome return, helping the navigation through the industry.

Soon three lanes becomes one, and it’s into the countryside again. Some nice beaches, but lots of trees lining the road too. Sometimes half a bike pictogram winks out from under the hedgerow at the side of the road, taunting you to try to cycle in the lane someone once thought you might appreciate. You don’t do either, of course. The sea is somewhere over there – wide sweep of the arm – and you want to get back to it. So on you go. The main road cycling isn’t as long today, and soon you’re back by the sea. Short stretch of main road, and back by the sea. These harbour towns start to run together, after a while. Not much local innovation in landing fish. Still, it far beats the highway. Back on to that, back off again.

I am in Wolpo. Morrissey starts to play in my head… “This is the coastal town, that they forgot to close down”. It’s low season, perhaps I’m being unfair. I thought about staying here, and decide I can’t bear to (and want to kill off some more km before bed). I press on. Beach. Razor wire. Road heads inland, route turns right to head back to the coast. Cute little town. I want to stay here. Pension closed, pension closed, pension closed. Maybe if I’d booked in advance? But I wouldn’t have known I would get here… Fuck, it’s almost dark. Lights on, push forward. Not having fun now. Eco lodge, lights on? Google it – 180k a night. No. Further. Turn right, farmyard track. If I were to meet an axe murderer, it’d be here, I think. Can’t see well, but on we go. The sea! More razor wire. Further, further. There’s a goddamn dual carriageway. Through the car park of a service station. Strange looking motorway hotel. Expensive. Full. I’m on the highway itself now (Route 7). This isn’t fun, though given this is apparently a two way cycle lane, very VERY glad I’m going with traffic and not against it.

Construction. Holy shit, almost headfirst into the sinkhole they left! Pension – closed. Motel – full. Shit. By now no residual daylight is left at all. Desperately searching on Naver Maps. Motel. One star reviews. I don’t care. Find it, machine check-in, bike in the lift, into the room (bike stored upside down as always). “Dinner” at the Ediya Coffee next door followed by cup noodles. I did not sleep well.

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Km cycled: 92.5km, elevation gain: 780m

Stayed: Motel Carpe Diem (I know, I know), Guryongpo

The day started a little later than expected (that comfortable bed!) and I realised the load on my bike was going to keep my speed down. Oh well. The immediate journey out of Ulsan was pretty nice – up to Taehwagang along quiet roads (perhaps a Covid reflection, but pavements were available) and then along a nice riverside dedicated path. This is what I imagined most of the route would be like. I know. Shoot me.

Over the Myeongchon Bridge and back under to the water, and I found the first East Coast Bike Path sign. At this point, these aren’t super reliable. Following the water West then North past the Costco was all very pleasant. Turning East was the first indication I wasn’t in Kansas (or the Seoul-Chuncheon delight) any more. Dedicated by-stream paths became narrow pavements on hills with a lot of traffic lights. Boring (and slow). Good convenience stores along this stretch though.

This doesn’t last too long (though it FELT a lot longer) before the shared pavement abruptly ends and there is a nice dedicated crossing to… well nowhere really, except the lobby of a restaurant. In any case, the route takes you up what I was to learn later was the Muryong Pass. Going up was a long, uninteresting slog – not all that steep (165m gain over 2.7km) at least. There’s a rest area on the way up, that I expect will later have a phone box stamp station in due course. Then a short plateau and a similar downhill run – this time with a painted bike lane on both sides. After a while there’s a small stream to follow, all the way to the coast. Hooray! Some nice riding mixed with roads by seafront car parks. Good places to buy seafood, too, and another rest centre with a sign. The towns were quiet, the cycling flat and easy. Signage could have been better, though – this was my first stupid wrong turn of the trip, going straight on (guided by signs and road markings saying to go straight on) when the route turned right over a bridge. Still, there was a nice wee stepped waterfall to see. And an angry yappy dog.

Onto a larger road with cycle lane on the pavement and the usual down-up-down-up of the kerbs. A few parked cars at junctions to weave around, but nicer than the Seoul equivalents. Lots of parked cars on the road too – but for ultimate posterior comfort, if it’s quiet the road would be better than the bike path. (This is a somewhat common theme on this route, I was to realise.)

Out of the town, into the country. The main road joins a highway, we get to ride closer to the coast – mostly shared roads now, beach to the side. The blue cycle paths signs continue to pop up, mostly offering reassurance of going the right way rather than navigational assistance, but you’d take it. The thin blue line by the side of the road, similarly. Villages, pensions and fishing boats. Suddenly a sharp left – to what? Yes, it’s the first cycle route I’ve been on to feature stairs. 걸어가시오 demands the sign in red. Frankly if anyone has cycled up this, they deserve a podium place. Kakao Maps doesn’t get this right, by the way, but Naver does. Gotta use both.

stairs and sign
This is cycle infrastructure.

Still, up we go. Now a dedicated cycle lane by the highway. Not for long, though, as the path takes us onto a slip road, down a hill, back up the hill, a few choice words along the way for whichever cucking funts made this particular choice. Now a small road with studs and a line to guide you to cycle in the dross by the kerb. Northbound looked nicer, I won’t lie – you grin smugly as you see the car lane brazenly cross the southbound cycle lane, only to let out another of those choice words as the northbound lane ends abruptly and throws you back into the road. Still, they’ve put up a red and yellow “자전거 주의” sign, so cars can prepare for exactly how to run you over. Cheers lads. At some point the lane reappears, then becomes a two-way cycle lane next to the road (rather than a lane on each side). And back to the water and road cycling. Another likely rest area. And on, and on. It’s not a bad ride, really, but not that memorable. Then a dedicated path for a bit, by the sea. Not for long, of course, but a nice respite. Then the route takes you away from what looks like a lovely path, left up a small hill and back to the road. Why are you doing this, cycle path, why? The road itself isn’t nice, with a cluster of motels and very little protection from the speeding bongo trucks as you slog on upwards. Some gas stations (not good places to buy drinks in this country), coffee shops (not cheap places to buy drinks in this country) complete what is a bit of a miserable stretch. Before long though the road is taking you down into another town and back to the small road, seafront riding. Nice parts, too! Some of the nicest riding of the day in fact. Until you get to the bloody nuclear power station.

Don’t get me wrong, I like electricity. But this is where you basically give up on the sea for a 15km trip through the countryside (the first 7km of which uphill, mostly gently, gaining 105m). Tarmac roads, pretty narrow for the first parts. It’s boring. It’s frustrating. It’s, ok, a bit pretty in some places (especially at 상라교 and the Gameunsaji Temple Site). There’s pretty much nowhere to buy water this entire stretch. Interestingly, going northbound for the “top” of this detour (actually east at this point but you know what I mean) was a whole separate lane that cyclists pretty much had to ourselves. Going the other way, you’re in the road. Eh. Since you’re on National Route 14 at this point, this might be a difference you care about. Anyway that goes away, but quickly there’s a crossroads with lights, where you have to go straight on over – much to the confusion of the drivers around you (you are crossing where the 14 meets Prefectural Route 929, and taking neither), BUT the sea is (kind of) in view! You’re now on a weird parallel route to the big 929 road. Pass a few bus stops that look rather inconvenient for the distant houses they presumably serve. The Temple Site is down here too.

The northbound and southbound route split at the end of this – northbound is a tunnel under the main road, and then yes – really – up the slip road (not the small farm track next to it) and onto the highway. Not for long though: the highway heads right across a bridge, and there’s a crossing (no lights) and another (with them) to get to the smaller road straight ahead where the bike route continues. Before long what looks like a dedicated cycle path appears (it’s not, it just points the way) and takes you sharply downhill, and back to a road-by-the-water-that-becomes-a-trip-through-a-village. The blue roadside line is essential here. One steep hill back to the road, but a nice dedicated cycle path then runs just long enough to ride you into the back of a parked car. Well, live with it. A bit more dedicated cycle path, back onto the road (though there’s more studs’n’paint in the opposite direction), and back following the road with another half-arsed attempt at pretending there’s a cycle lane, followed by yet more studs’n’paint. This is National Route 31, for what it’s worth, so it ain’t quiet. And you just kinda keep on this, thinking “what the fuck am I doing?”, but at least there’s a fuck-off massive Buddha to ride past. On Kakao Maps it is on the roof of the building, but when I passed it was on the pavement. Maybe he jumped off after seeing the pain of cycling this part of the route. Who knows.

Just before the last stretch on this road there’s an uphill section with a separated cycle lane along a boardwalk. Worth taking. The opposite direction looked sketchy as hell, to be honest, but no point being smug. It was a blessed relief to get off that road and onto another small coastal road, but then it is just a game of being off the main road, on the main road, etc., etc., rinse and repeat. The main road changes from National Route 31 to National Route 4 at some point, but you won’t care. Then the route veers off to the right (right after a “go straight on” blue cycle route sign, cheers for that eh) and it’s back to that “road through the village” cycling. There were times where you’re on a road that’s not the road by the sea – fair enough avoiding some hills and a bit more direct, but whether the route takes this choice or not seems entirely random. You’re not, at least, on major roads for most of this. Phew.

You rejoin 31 at the Zaza Motel. There’s a windmill opposite marking a camping and caravan site. Some of the up-hills had those half-arsed cycle lanes painted on the side of the road where drivers like to idle. Again some stretches of separated cycle lane northbound (only). You’re a little above sea level now, so some nice views but more up-and-down, more slog. Frankly I suspect when they make this part of the route official, they’ll move the cycle route away from 31 – depends how they feel about making you wade though. I guess that’s why they didn’t make the route follow 동해안로2714번길 (yet?). It looks like a bridge over the tidal water on the map, but it decidedly isn’t. Anyway. Sloggity sloggity slog slog, not feeling quite as exposed as previously but still often dull. A few stretches get you back to the water at least. Suck it up, until the “Pohang 35km” sign. If you are following the East Coast route, note carefully: THIS IS A LIE. Also, soon after this there is a sharp right turn with the sign hidden halfway up a telegraph pole behind a tree. Reader, I did not see it and bumbled uphill on the highway far too long before the expletives returned. Anyway at least fixing the mistake was downhill.

This is where I first saw the road markings for the path: “동해안 자전거길”. Unfortunately it is written vertically in two columns, and I had no idea what “동자 해전 안거 길” was on about. Worked it out (a lot) later. This is also about where the blue signs become a lot more scarce, as does the blue paint. So worth knowing. I actually really liked this bit – road number 3936. Then back to 31, same old. Worth saying that at the Sea Palace Penion turnoff, there’s a very nice looking shared cycle path/footpath off to the west, that I think could take you straight to Pohang and miss out the peninsula to come. But we’re not here for that, so onward! Soon back off 31 and by the water for a surprisingly nice tour around the run in to Guryongpo. The motel had parking bays with garage doors and direct access to the room (one staircase per parking bay!), but no machine check-in and (as far as I could work out) no way to leave the room once inside but keep the garage door locked. So um, yeah. Liked it, wish I’d eaten first. The whirlpool spa bath was bloody awesome though.



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Stayed: Ulsan City Hotel

I took a luxury bus from the Gosok Terminal to Ulsan. It being a Sunday meant I just got the subway there, saving a good half-hour vs. cycling from home. There aren’t THAT many buses to Ulsan – about every 1.5-2 hours in the late afternoon – and I’d just missed one, so had Burger King to cheer myself up. There’s a decent Daiso in the terminal where I picked up some cheap headphones for the bus, having forgotten mine. Bike stands outside, lockers at the entrances make waiting around along pretty ok.

Bus was about 4 hours, with one bathroom stop. 2-1 seat layout (more expensive) but heaps of space for a bike underneath – albeit with quite narrow compartments, which meant the bike wouldn’t come out again with the front wheel on. Oops.

The hotel was a mere block and a half from the bus station, and was definitely the nicest hotel I stayed in during my trip (and not even the most expensive). They had no issues with me keeping the bike in my room, and the bed was really comfortable. There was also a No Brand a short walk away, where I stocked up on cereal bars and sunscreen the next morning.

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I thought I’d write up my trip from Ulsan to Sokcho in case anyone finds it useful. I did South to North but overall it felt much of a muchness – a couple of places the uphill separation was better in one direction than the other, but perhaps the key difference was cycling along slip roads by highways – going northbound meant I was with traffic, but southbound you might find yourself against it, and that might not be fun.

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