Tuesday 16 April, 2019
Day 9 / Sokcho to Geojin via DMZ
[Missed Day 8? Read the previous post here]
Today is the day we hit our DMZ checkpoint! We’ve done so much research and preparation leading up to today but I still feel like we’re a bit under prepared. Will go into that a bit later.
We set off to complete our final four stamps in our passbooks:
STAMP 1 Yeonggeumjeong 3.8km
STAMP 2 Bongpo Beach 7.4km
STAMP 3 Bukcheon Railroad Bridge 34.3km
STAMP 4 Myeongpa / DMZ 52.9km
It’s a beautiful sunny day for a ride along the coast and we pass by a few photo ops.
We hit our first two stamp stops Yeonggeumjeong and Bongpo Beach pretty quickly.
The barbed wire we’ve been seeing over the past few days continues. So much barbed wire!
There are lots of unexpected turn offs where we have to get off our bikes to climbs stairs and walk across sand and gravel.
Our next stop is 27km away which passes by quite a few more beaches, all of them surrounded by barbed wire fencing.
We continue on and come across a few army blockades which are big and it’s fascinating to think that countries are still currently at war.
About 20km into this leg we start seeing lots of signs posted along the road for Square Root Café. Eventually, and almost out of nowhere, we see this huge square building overlooking the beach just off the road. We decide to pull in for a break.
We wander in and it’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about bread. The range isn’t huge but the quality of bread is amazing. I spend ages trying to figure out what to order but knowing that we will probably return the following day on our way back to Sokcho makes my decision a bit easier.
I eventually decide on the cheese and onion bread and Cheye gets a fig and walnut loaf plus a hot chocolate.
The café backs out onto a beach, also surrounded by barbed wire.
As we’re enjoying our baked goods, I can hear an alarm going off and discover it’s coming from my phone. I think it had been going off for a while but as I generally have no phone reception when travelling overseas I kinda ignored it. I was shocked to see a whole bunch of emergency alerts on my phone. All in Korean of course.
At first I panic before trying to figure out what the emergency is. After a quick online search I realise messages are being sent out to warn about extreme droughts in the area, I’m assuming as a result from the recent fires. I find it fascinating but a bit unsettling that locals receive warnings like this on their phones.
We decide to continue on regardless as we’re not far from our last two stops.
We hadn’t really passed any other cyclists today but always say hello to any we do come across.
We thought the final stamp stop would be difficult to find but it was literally on the side of the road and closer than we realised.
I’d read reports that despite being called ‘Unification Observatory’ and the maps showing that the final certification stop is beyond the military checkpoint, the actual stamp stop is about 8km short of this in Myeongpa.
Cyclists are unable to access the observatory tower and you’ll be stopped by military officials if you try. We would have liked to have gone all the way to the border but have heard from other cyclists that they don’t allow bikes through, only cars.
We cycle the 13 or so km back to Geojin.
On the way back we stop to look at a giant rock climbing wall on the side of the road that we had noticed on the way to the check point. It’s massive and I wish I have my climbing gear to have a go! We spot another cyclist having a rest by the giant wall.
Before you know it we’ve made it back to Geojin and commence the search for somewhere to stay the night. We’ve marked out a few places that appear on the maps and also spot a few along the streets that aren’t. We check out one or two places before we actually find one that’s open.
The town is pretty quiet this evening and there aren’t many people out and about but we do spot one or two police cars cruising along.
After checking into our motel and cranking up the floor heater we go for a walk around Geojin and notice lots of seafood (fish and cuttlefish) being dried outside shop.
It’s quite warm as we wander and we suss out what our dinner options are. There are three different pizza shops but not much else. Cheye picks the shop and we ask the pizza lady if she can make us a vegetarian pizza. She says yes and starts pulling out some mushrooms, capsicum and onion.
We sit and watch as she throws it together and while it’s cooking Cheye starts telling her about our cycling adventures so far and previous trips to South Korea while I watch some quality Korea TV.
The woman boxes up the pizza and as we pay she gives us a bottle of Coke as a small gift which we gratefully accept. Unfortunately neither of us drinks Coke so we end up leaving it in the motel fridge for the next person.
We walk the pizzas back to the hotel and chow down as we discover some more quality Korean TV in the form of the Happy Dogs channel. Apparently it’s a 24 hour channel for dogs that are home alone.
I also think this channel can be the cure for depression. Look at the all doggies!
Distance cycled: 70km, mostly paved coastal paths with some gravel and sand
Accommodation: Dongnim Motel (40,000 won)
Lunch: Square Root Café
Dinner: Pizza Shop