Namhansanseong

I did a 60 mile ride to Namhansanseong (I cannot pronounce the third ‘n’. It comes out as an ‘m’) last Sunday. It began with a gentle ride south of Seoul down a river path frequented by thousands of freaky Koreans on bikes.

I turned off at Chukjeon and hit the road. I try to rehydrate every hour. I lost my water bottle recently and Korea (lacking any meaningful Free Trade Agreement with the West) does not stock appropriate water bottles.

I try to stop at one of the many Family Marts for a drink to rehydrate every hour or so. Unfortunately, there was a dearth of Family Marts on this route. I finally found a shop in Gwanju a city about 40 miles south east of Seoul and had a drink.

Presently, a pair of Koreans stood admiring my bike. They appeared to like the same uttering, “Niceuh bikey”. We then proceeded to have a stilited conversation in English about Park ji sung. My Korean extends to general pleasantries and oaths but when pushed my swear words only come out in English!

Still dehydrated I proceeded to Namhansanseong, one of Korea’s few remaining national treasures. A disaffected Korean burned down their number one national treasure earlier this year. The government had forcibly taken the land he had worked for all his life and offered him paltry compensation in return. Good on him.

The climb up Namhansanseong is about five or six miles long on a fairly consistent steep gradient. In 30 degree heat and being slightly overweight it is brutal but I made it to the top approximately 1,700 feet. My new Heart Rate Monitor GPS read some 26,000 feet altitude some 3,000 feet lower than Everest. I suspect it was a little inaccurate.

Unfortunately, Namhansanseong being a local beauty spot is popular with motorists. Koreans should not be allowed to use any form of vehicular transport. There are no manual cars because Koreans singularly lack the coordination and dexterity to drive anything other than automatics. This coupled with innate myopia is not a good combination for road safety.

On the way down, there was a rather unfortunate collision between a BMW (coming up) and a Hyundai (coming down). Please note that Hyundai is pronounced thus: he yun die. They get irritated by any other pronunciation.

Said Hyundai driver had somehow missed the hairpin bend of which there are at least twenty on the way down (apparently otherwise meaningfully engaged on his mobile phone) and collided head on into the oncoming BMW. Said BMW had failed to notice the errant driver (also otherwise engaged on his mobile phone).

I was amused both by the demise of one crap car and the ensuing chaos caused, not just by the wreckage on the road but the subsequent face saving argument! I deftly manouevred around the obstacle and proceeded to descend at close to 50mph. 

The ride back along the river path was largely uneventful, notable only by the abundance of freaky Koreans dressed in road bike cycling team outfits cycling on their mountain bikes.

As an aside, my antipathy towards Korean drivers comes from the numerous near misses I have had with motorists and cyclists alike. Not only have there been near misses but two recent ‘hits’ during which I was ‘side swiped’ by two Korean motorists simultanously both travelling on the left side of the road. They drive on the right. When I say they drive on the right, I mean they ought to drive on the right but it does not really matter.

After selfishly breaking one wing mirror and damaging another with my left arm which had remained rooted to my handlebars in an effort to avoid the collisions, both drivers got out and started shouting, presumably profanities at me. After my having given them the obligatory finger (which apparently winds them up even further), I left hastily to avoid being stitched up financially by the Koreans. Having white skin and being western is not a good combination in this country when seeking justice.

Its legal system (particularly the Police) which was stolen wholescale from the USA is entirely feudal when it comes to enforcement.

I enjoyed my ride to Namhansanseong. M

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