Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cold Hard Riding

By conservative estimates we had traveled a 177 mile loop this past weekend. (Dare devil note: New speed record has been set on our 125 cc hog; 118 kph. Thats about 73 mph).

We had fallen victim to our ambitions. Our plan to ride to Geoje Island Saturday morning, then to Jinhae on Sunday morning and catch a 8:30am ferry to Da Dalk Island for rock climbing was almost fulfilled. Let me explain...

It started regrettably with a brief phone conversation with Dong Il Friday night and an even briefer glance at the map. "Ok, see you Sunday morning at the ferry terminal 8 30, Right Yup Bye." Map? Yea Okay, I know the way.

So we set off in earnest Saturday morning. Did I say I knew the way? Well a bit of cussing and back tracking between Sacheon and Goseon and we were in the right direction. All in all 40 minutes lost. On the bright side, our modified route had taken us on a lovely country road that extended through villages, windy November farmscapes, and the typical modest Korean mountainsides. I had positioned my mirrors to appreciate the passing colored humps in the sun.

Finally through Goseon and Tong Yeong over the blustery bridge onto Geoje island, "The Blue Island" as it states on a huge sign in english. (still sporting a summer vibe despite the brisk air). We rode through the main city and stopped by a stream to figure out just what exactly we were going to do now that we had arrived.
The sun had warmed the road. We peeled off our layers, ate clementines, tuna sandwiches, and pondered the map. The sun was really working its magic and even the sailing gulls seemed high on motorcycle freedom.

Given the proximity to Ga Dalk Island we decided to continue on Rt. 14 around the eastern coast and check into some town and see if there were any ferries. We rode on around the loopy road and took on all that cold air again, and it was back to the 'head down weather the storm' riding position where your mind is a distant planet obeying only the vibrations of the engine.

We stopped in a town right off of 14 and followed a boating sign. We turned into a parking lot full of question marks and were corralled into a dusty corner by a shoving old man. Turned out to be pleasure boats only for two off shore sites near the island. Oedo Island, which is this botanical garden and Hae Gum Gang; a huge rock island that more resembled a city block of old stone buildings. Without any luck finding a ferry to Ga Dalk or any real plans, we decided to buy some tickets for the pleasure boat. 12 45 - 3 45 was the scheduled endeavor. We'd be back in time for a sunset and some dinner, and it'll give our butts a rest from the bike.

On the boat we grumbled at all the indoor seating. There weren't any two seats together. A women kindly offered us a spot in the aisle next to her, but I'd be damned to sit on the floor inside while I was supposed to be having a boating experience. We headed out the back and sat on a coil of ropes attached to the anchor outside. We got some funny looks, but thats nothing new here.

As we set out the sky filled with gray clouds and though the rain never came it really affected me. I was not sad, but very much in need of the sun at that moment.

We made it to the first sight, a cluster of stone towers known as Hae Gum Gang. The outer deck suddenly filled with the other passengers who were toting cameras like rifles ready to shoot an elephant. Suddenly we didn't look so silly for sitting out in the cold with our comfortable center position. I had the elephant in my sights. So did Ana. We shot the beast.

The boat narrowly passed through some inner corridors of the stone walled city. The water was a splendid greenish blue and oddly transparent. Looking up I noticed our channel was becoming a mere crack. The tour guide was chattering away over a megaphone and working us into a frenzy. People started clapping and the boat just stubbornly rammed into the crack. The worn tires and foam surrounding the boat absorbed the shock and the people said Whhaa!

I watched the turmoil in the water below. The greenish bath water was frothing. Barnacles we had scraped off the wall were floating in it. The rumble of the boat was bouncing off the rocks inches from our faces.

I lent myself a fishes eye and observed from a safe distance this big dumb animal above me churning backwards out of the crack. I swam with my fellow fish back to the open water and waved the dark creature goodbye.

Meanwhile, aboard our monster boat Cap'n spotted another crack, this one just a surface crack without any dramatic channel leading up to it, so the boat was positioned, the camera's were aimed, and we went forward, wedging into the crack. Whaaa!

After these soft thrills (thrills nonetheless) we were back in the open waters. The sun had shone a little bit through the clouds in the distance and the sky now looked like an oil painting.
The sun shine was enough for the sea to sparkle. Snap Snap. Some more pictures. Smiling. Posturing for the camera. Ana pretending to fall overboard for one shot and being candidly photographed by a laughing passenger inside through her window. Whilst our sighs Oedo Island, Botanical Paradise, was on the horizon.

Moments later we were milling up the stairs at the entrance to the island. What! another 16,000 won to walk around this place? Well it beats sitting on the concrete slab waiting for our the next boat out.

Strolling around this exotic flowery island, I realized how many gardeners it must take to keep this place sharp. They deserve some good pay. Didn't feel too bad about paying for the experience any more. We just snapped away more photos and followed the path. There was this 'ultra hip' group of stylish boys running around posturing with their cameras, acting like the beatles on the set of "Hard Days Night." They were easy to laugh at. There were also some delightfully perverted sculptures of little children doing curious things to each other. The whole Oedo Island was easy to laugh at with its big funny trees and quirks.

Back on the boat I closed my eyes inside and Ana sat out side again. My head slumped down as that maniacal tour guide kept up on his loud speaker and eventually fell into this half sleep where I noticed a voice reading something very clear and logical in my head. I came to and it all turned to dust. We had arrived back at the wharf.

On the bike we rode to the southern end of the island, caught the sunset on a rock outcrop in the sea, made a little night excursion for more gas, ATM and dinner back in the previous town and headed back to a Motel across from the rock outcrops and goats.

At the hotel room our TV was on. The map was on the bed and we pondered it once more. We realized this trip to Jinhae the next morning was a little longer than we figured and to get there for a 8 30 am ferry to Ga Dalk meant perhaps leaving at about 6 am.

Needless to say that didn't happen. We were close though. By 6 30 we were out on the road in the purple darkness. It was really beautiful. We stopped to reassure ourselves on the map because we were bisecting the island from a different road this time, and took some pictures of the purple and pink sky. It was extremely cold in the wind. By 7 we had finally approached Geoje's exit. We had realized, with Tong Yeong, Goseong, Masan, and Jinhae cities to pass through still, there was no way we would be on the ferry by 8 30. None the less we rode on without any contact with Dong il or true knowledge of this ferry terminal.

This cold mindless riding is the interplanetary turf I mentioned before. Negotiating with other furious drivers passing through cities. The time passes in white and yellow strips. Jaws are clenching and your wrist is sore from pulling on the throttle. Occasional red lights give you time to flap your arms, massage your hands, and say "goddam!"

Finally the sun was starting to warm around 8 15 as we approached a huge bridge clearing the bay skirting the outside of Masan. Glad to avoid that industrial port city mess. On the bridge there were signs suddenly forbidding motorbike travel, and to our surprise there was a toll booth at the other end of the bridge. We stopped a good 50 yards ahead of the booth and looked at the map. The toll woman stuck her torso out of the window and made an X with her fore arms at us. I walked up to her flapping the map and tried out the language. She laughed at the frustrations. She was kind and said the exit 300 meters past the booth will get us there. Well it didn't. We spent an hour driving around this fishing town scratching our heads. We spit and got back on that forbidden road and it was a breeze straight through to Jinhae.

At this point we stopped in Jinhae right near the Yeong Wa Port. But we didn't know where the heck this boat was. There was still no contact with Dong Il. We had realized that there just wouldn't be time enough to board, find the Crag get our gear straight and climb. All this riding for nothing?

We ambled back into town to get some lunch. It was 11am. We got some food at this restaurant/ house. The husband was walking around brushing his teeth and his wife (assumed) made us our Deul Saut Bibimbap and Hae Mul Pajong. Tasty, tasty. During lunch we had contact with Dong Il. A climber had fallen setting up the top rope and was being boated out to a hospital by the coast guard. The climbing had stopped. That had put the nail in the coffin.

The Restauranteur was a little shocked we had scarfed down all the food and all the kimchi side dishes. "Kimchi Sarong Heyo!" (Kimchi I love you) I hooted, and she had a good laugh.

We sat outside by the bike after that and laughed at our situation. Well it was still early. We figured we could get back into Jinju and still have our Sunday. Luckily this now was a straight shot on Rt. 2 after Masan.

Going through Masan was a little tricky as we did not take the bridge this time (should have) and danced through the traffic. (Masan, not as industrial and dirty as I imagined). Finally we got on two Rt 2 and almost immediately hit traffic. Fortunately being light footed on bike we cut up an hour wait into about a 15 minute slow down and opened up on 2 and cranked full throttle all the way back to Jinju. This is where we hit our top speed of about 118 kph on a straight away slightly declined. It was something new.

Back in Jinju we napped, walked Samjin, went grocery shopping, and had some friends over for dinner. Dale had 17 fresh stitches on his forehead to show from his weekend in Ulsan. Not from fighting a 40 year old drunk American, but from playing in a soccer tournament. (Head butting a teamate as they both attempted to head the same ball. Ouch!) Kevin, his teamate got 28 over his right eye! That'll be great explaining that to the classroom for a month on end. Everybody had some type of story from the weekend and we all delighted in them over Garlic bread, home made pizza, Salad, and Wine on our kitchen floor like humble monks.

The trip was a wonderful disaster full of desire for that old coot called 'Go', and it had ended in a feast. The bitter mid November wind and dwindling leaf count mark the end of Autumn. And so it is, I'm glad we had breathed in all that air.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the very interesting account of your adventures and the beautiful pics. Glad that overall it was a good trip. Hope the guy that fell was ok. Makes me nervous! Love Ya MAW