Korea and the 4 Rivers Cycleway 31 Aug – 27 Sep

Friday 31st August

Busan port to Songdo Beach

Daily Total 62.39 km

Trip Total 24220.6 km

We arrive in South Korea at 6pm.  We get through Immigration and then are wondering where our trikes will be when a shipping agent comes over and asks us if we are the trike owners. (We’re probably the only European foreigners on the boat!) he takes us into a back room and then over several baggage conveyor belts and down a long metal staircase. Our trikes are sitting at the bottom, safe and sound. But then he tells us our bags need scanning so we take them off the trikes and put them on the conveyor belt and up they go to a scanning room. In the meantime our trikes are taken around to another part of the building. Finally we take our baggage on a trolley back down through an underground carpark and to our trikes. Daz pops back up to the arrival Hall and withdraws some Korean Won (1500 to the pound approx) from an ATM.

At last we cycle out into the evening gloom.  We’re heading about 7km south of the port to a beach where we think we might be able to camp. On route we pass through a bar area with lots of Russian people about and bars with Cyrillic writing on their signs. Then through a busy shopping boulevard and finally through the main fishmarket with stalls of fish still being sold despite the lateness of the day and there’s people in small restaurants eating the daily catch!

We get a lot of attention and numerous greetings. I think the Koreans are more outgoing than the Japanese. As we near our destination it starts raining and we decide to check out a few motels and hotels as we’re too tired and not sure about camping in the area. Fortunately there are a number of cheap motels and we book into one. We head out to find some food later and spot a pizza joint with a wood fired oven, bliss! Our first Korean meal, pizza, but it’s marvellous and so tasty! We think it’s our first ‘real’ pizza in about 8 months.  Bloody fantastic.


Saturday 1st to Monday 3rd September

Songdo Beach

Well last night there was torrential rain and a huge thunderstorm and when we wake on Saturday morning and it’s still raining cats and dogs! We decide to stay another day in the hotel. Then on Sunday and Monday I refuse to move so we just hide away in our motel.  In my defence the weather is pretty awful with frequent rain showers. For 3 days we enjoy the comfort of our hotel, good WiFi and loads of shit TV. There’s also the blog and Internet research to do but it’s a fabulous long weekend with a second visit to the delicious pizza joint.  We also have a Korean barbecue meal which is pretty good with our own personal burn pit in the middle of our table. The delights of Korean cycling can wait until tomorrow!


Tuesday 4th September

Songdo Beach to Songji-ri

Daily Total 58.69 km

Trip Total 24286.56 km


Finally the weather has brightened and we decide it’s high time we skeddadled and got on the road. And boy, what a road! We have about 10 kilometers to get to the start of the 4 Rivers Cycleway, our intended route to Seoul – approximately 650km of dedicated cycleways, but it’s an immediate climb out of our touristy beach area. Not only that but most of the pavements are at odd cambers but we’re too scared to be on the main road.  Korean drivers are much faster than those in Japan and they drive on the wrong side of the road – the right! Traffic in Busan is chaotic too and we actually feel pretty intimidated – not surprising when we’ve already experienced crazy drivers passing us at Mach 10 who barely give us any space. Finally we cross a large river, the Nakdonggang. On the otherside is the Waterways Cultural Hall where the 4 Rivers Cycleway begins. We go in and purchase a passport for 4500 Won. Along the river there are waystations where we can stamp our passport and then we’ll get a certificate at the end.  Passport stamped we recross the river and turn up onto the cycleway. The day passes in a relaxed fashion. The crossings over the main roads are problematic as I struggle to work out where the cars will come from and when we do need a detour on the roads I find myself staying left – not a safe bet when the cars drive on the right. We reach our intended destination where we plan to buy dinner provisions and we’re so fortunate that at this point there’s a rest station; toilets, water and even a covered pagoda. There’s even several fitness machines but we’ve already seen numerous machines along this trail – it’s like a huge trim trail.  

(Apologies, there are no photos here, we lost a whole load of pictures from today and the next !)

Wednesday 5th September

Songji-ri to Nanji

Daily Total 53.45 km

Trip Total 24340.01 km

Our covered pagoda was comfortable if a little noisy with the motorway bridge close by. We are rudely awakened by the sun at 7am and it soon kicks us out of bed. Breakfast of porridge and we’re on our way again,  following the cyclepath. We are soon heading up a tributory for quite a few kilometres before crossing a bridge and retracing our path on the other bank to the main river. Must send a note, ‘Need new bridge!’ The day soon warms up and by 1 pm we’ve done 40 km and seen hardly a soul on this cycleway.  We divert off to find lunch and still the countryside is quiet and empty. We find a small hamlet with a store and a small family restaurant. There’s only 2 tables and they’re both full with workers from the local farms. We’re shown into a seperate room with one low table but then all the other diners depart so we move back into the main room. Mom n Pop bring us out a tray with various dishes, the main 2 being rice and a meat stew (we’ve no idea what the meat was!). It’s quite delicious and we only get charged 12,000 won, about 8 quid.

Back on the trail we cross the river, (again!) and roll into a small town. The supermarket seems quite expensive and it’s difficult deciding what to buy especially as Daz is having a spazzy moment and doesn’t know what he wants for tea. He’s fixated on the fact we’re running low on cooking fuel and we haven’t found a source yet in Korea.  His fault for not getting any in Busan city! Just out of town we spot a sports’ area with pretty gardens and more covered pagodas, that’s us for the day. We’re not convinced about this cycleway, it’s lovely to be away from traffic but the route is a bit monotonous and there’s a complete dearth of shops and restaurants. There are toilets along the route but these are deep trench latrines without running water. So despite being beside the longest river in Korea finding water for cooking, washing and drinking isn’t so easy. This is certainly a step back from Japan where there were convenience stores every 100m and each had a toilet with a heated seat and 3 different jet functions.

Thursday 6th and 7th September

Nanji to Geumnam-ri

Daily Total 126.52 km

Trip Total 24466.53 km

The epic that is the 4 Rivers Cycleway continues.  However now I’m cycling alone. So basically Daz and I have fallen out big style (really not surprising when we’ve been together 24/7 for the last 3.5years).   Initially I just wanted to cycle alone for the day but by early afternoon Daz is so fed up that I keep taking wrong turns (yup he’s still stalking me from behind at this point) that we wants his sleeping bag and mat off me.  This then leads to a complete division of kit. Since there’s only one cooker and one tent, he gets them because I don’t want to carry extra and I know I’ll never find fuel for the cooker. My bike computer isn’t working 100% so I’m missing mileage and my MapsMe on my notebook refuses to locate my position.   So I manage to lose the cycleway repeatedly and night 1 is spent sleeping under a porch. Unfortunately it starts raining and since I don’t want to ruin my gear I start cycling about 5am. So I’ve probably only had 3 hours sleep and I don’t know exactly where I am but by 1pm I find a pagoda and stop for the day.  I’m soon fast asleep but my rest is disturbed when I’m joined by 4 very loud locals. First they talk, then one goes foraging along the hedgerows and comes back with a load of foliage with some berries and seed pods. Clearly there’s some edible plants here and they share some of the spoils with me.

My chatty visitors grew to a gang of 6 and I felt severely outnumbered but around 5.30pm the chinwag finally ended and they all went their separate ways.  At last some peace.


Saturday 8th September

Geumnam-ri to Gunggi-ri

Daily Total 63.11 km

Trip Total 24529.64 km

A good night last night but still I’m cycling by 6.30am.  I’m starting to realise that just making and drinking cups of tea/coffee is quite time consuming and without the cooker there’s no reason to dally.  I see Daz just 4km down the road, he’s just coming out of his sleeping hole. I cycle on alone. Another beautiful day along the river. I almost stay ‘on track’ today – only 2 detours – you’d think it would be easy with all the signposts……. but it isn’t.   On one detour I find a poor stray undernourished kitten. I share some of my food and try to catch him but he’s determined to stay hidden under a car. Eventually I leave him but I’m sad to leave him in such a sorry state. I do my mileage and then find a pagoda by a golf cum croquet course.  Numerous people come to play and study me with curious eyes. I’ve discovered if I lay my Notepad out for about 10 minutes it’ll find my location and now I’m using the cycleway markers to work out my mileage. No sign of Daz since early this morning but I assume he went ahead when I made my wrong turns.

Sunday 9th September

Gunggi-ri to Hapung-ri

Daily Total 46.56 km

Trip Total 24576.2 km

No rain last night but instead a thick river fog.  Everything is wet – my sleeping bag, my ground sheet and my bed sheet.  Arghhhhh! Golf cum croquet starts at 6am despite the thick fog. I plan to try and stick it out until the fog burns off but I give up when the passing pedestrian traffic becomes too much. I continue along the main river and even become embroiled in an MTB event – I think I gave them a run for their money.

Late afternoon I turn off the main cyclepath to Seoul and follow the river to the Andong Dam.   In a tiny hamlet I find a cyclists’ toilet stop and there’s a building with a covered entrance and a hosepipe for a wash. Luxury.


Monday 10th September

Hapung-ri to Maae-ri via Andong Dam

Daily Total 88 km

Trip Total 24664.2 km

Today I follow the cycleway to the dam.  There’s some killer hills but eventually I arrive at the dam.  It’s pretty impressive with some nice sights along the way. So I guess I now need to head back the way I came.  

Unfortunately all the possible campsites I’d considered on the way up are dismissed for various reasons; no water, too public, no shelter, or already occupied.  The result is a return of 25km before I find a decent spot – it’s some kind of office but again with a covered entrance. It’ll have to do – it’s nearly 7pm and I started at 6.30am this morning! Bloody hell – still no sign of Daz.  I thought he was in front of me but I should have passed him doubling back from the dam.


Tuesday 11th September

Maae-ri to Gudam-ri

Daily Total 19.47 km

Trip Total 24683.67 km

I was determined to have a lie in this morning after my epic 88km yesterday but at 7.30am a car parks up and a guy gets out and goes into the office.  You’ve got to love this – there’s a weird woman sleeping on his office porch and he doesn’t bat an eyelid. In fact he brings me a coffee. I feel it’s only polite to get up and start packing away but then feel cheated when a few minutes later he locks up his office.  I think he’s leaving but actually he starts preparing his bushwacking gear in the nearby shed. Then another guy pulls up and he goes into the office and then brings me a coffee – and yes my kit is still all over his office porch. Then he gives me a bottle of water and a bottle of fizzy pop.  Within 5 minutes he’s headed off again in his car and the first guy is strimming and I’m left to pack up.

A lovely start to the day but I just wish it had been 2 hours later – who arrives at the office at 7.30am?????? So I head off and within 2 km guess who I meet – yes Darren. Blimey he’s like 54km behind me as he’s still heading up to the dam.  We have a long chat and he makes me a cup of coffee then he heads off to the dam whilst I head the other way.

I’m tired from yesterday so I’m not planning to go far. Also I want to keep Daz relatively near because I don’t have any tools to fix my trike, not even a puncture! When we went solo we thought there was sufficient passing traffic ie other cyclists, cars and locals to help out but honestly this cycleway is miles from anything and often I don’t see anyone for hours.   So the upshot, I only do 20km stopping to having a super impressive korean lunch – it was some sort of lentil and tofu stew but when it arrived it was literally on a full rolling boil. But it cames with rice and loads of very tasty side dishes.

Not long after I find myself a pagoda for the night. I’m going to have a lie down and relax and read my book. Next thing I know Daz is startling me awake. Wow he’s been up to the dam (well almost) and back. And now I can return to the pleasure of cups of tea, coffee and a pancake dinner cooked by Daz – very nice.


Wednesday 12th September

Gudam-ri to Deoktong-ri

Daily Total 41.84 km

Trip Total 24725.51 km

This morning I think I might take a day off but Daz pushes on.  I’m just relaxing, reading my book when there’s a pile up on the cyclepath.   I think the first guy in a group of 3 stopped, considering a rest in my pagoda, and cyclist 2 was probably looking at my trike and didn’t notice that the guy in front had stopped and by the time he noticed, he panic braked and went over his handlebars.  Result: he’s spreadeagled across the track on his back. Oh dear! He limps in to the pagoda. I’m feeling responsible although perhaps he was looking elsewhere! After a couple of hours I decide I’ll take a leisurely cycle in Daz’s wake. The first 30km is just retracing my route from Sunday before crossing the Nakdonggang and taking a new route north towards Seoul and now handrailing the Saejae River.  After 40km odd kilometers I join Daz in his pagoda. Omlette for dinner – there’s definitely perks to being close to the cooker……. and the chef.

Thursday 13th September

Deoktong-ri to Mungyeong-si

Daily Total 5.37 km

Trip Total 24730.88 km

There’s a really cute puppy running around the campsite so he obviously needs to be spoilt by us for as long as possible.  

 I’ve done 5 nights on my own and been without a tent, cooker and repair kit and it’s really not a sensible course of action.  The night’s have been OK but in Daz’s company for the last 2 nights I’ve slept 10-12 hours. Alone I slept about 6. I don’t lie there worrying something will happen but after a few hours sleep something will disturb me and then I can’t drop off again.  And without sleep or cooking to occupy my time there’s just too many hours in a day to fill. So I’m going to stick with Daz. We eventually set off but rain soon stops play. We sit around for a few hours under a pagoda but we’ve attracted the local eccentric.   He wants to sing YMCA and the Green Green Grass of Home. He does disappear for awhile but comes back with loads of snacks which he shares with us and his buddies.

We decide to retreat into a nearby coffee shop. That wastes another 4 hours. The forecast isn’t looking good for the next few days so we’re going to stay here tonight.  We find another pagoda away from our new buddy and tonight we actually put up the tent.

Friday 14th September


We stay in our pagoda another day because the rain continues.   Our new special friend brings us a new tarpaulin because he’s not happy that our trikes are getting wet.  Initially we just cover the trikes but later we use it to close off the windward side of our pagoda because the wind picks up and blows in the rain.  Our friend visits us frequently throughout the day often bringing drinks or snacks. He talks to us constantly but of course we don’t understand a word but often he just talks to himself.  


Mid afternoon we find a restaurant for lunch but the remainder of the day we stay in our pagoda. We have several visitors and also enjoy watching a fisherman who has 12 rods deployed in a very short span of river bank.  He’s been there since we arrived yesterday and his rods are left out all day and throughout the night. We don’t see him catch a single fish!!! Thank God I rejoined Daz when I did – I’d have been up shit street in this weather without the tent – I’d probably have resorted to a motel.  Fortunately our brief separation gave us some much needed breathing space and we’re finding pleasure in our trip which has been missing for awhile.


Saturday 15th September

Mungyeong-si to Suanbo

Daily Total 52.75 km

Trip Total 24783.63 km

Today we push on and our friend escorts us 5km on his moped.  The scenery is definitely improving as we come north and today we switch to our third river – Yeongang.  

There’s a big climb today and at the top we meet a touring cyclist from Taiwan – he’s got hardly any gear on his bike yet it includes a tent, cooker and sleeping bag – a very light traveller.

 Along the route we see paddy fields almost ready for harvest, chilli fields, apple and peach orchards, sweet cheshnuts and so much more. It must almost be harvest time in this bountiful area.

After about 50km we see a sports’ complex with water, toilets, shelter and an adjacent golf/croquet pitch.  We think this’ll do for the night and I head on to the golf (?) course and borrow a club and play 2 holes.

There isn’t a shop or restaurant nearby so we finally decide to push on to Suanbo – it’s only another 2km. In Suanbo there’s loads of restaurants and shops and we’ve just had dinner and decided to camp under the town’s covered amphitheatre when a Korean cyclist comes passed.  We say hello and he tells us we should stay at the spa with him. He explains that this is the most popular hot spring town in Korea and that in the hotel we can get an onsen and a bed for 10000 (£7)won each. So we follow him. He’s Kim, a 76 year old from Seoul, and he’s cycling Seoul to Busan for the 4th time. At the spa we eventually work out that the bathing rooms are downstairs and that there’s also one large communal room with bed mats where everyone can sleep.  We’re given towels and bedwear – shorts and a T-shirt and sent on our way. Daz heads off to his bathing room and me to mine. It’s pretty much like the Japanese onsen except it’s really popular. There must be at least 20 women already at the scrub down points or relaxing in the hot pools. Feeling super clean and relaxed I’m ready for bed but Kim wants to show us some Korean hospitality. He takes us out and we have beers and sochi (rice spirit) and he orders dinner even though we’ve eaten.  We chat about our cycle ride, his family, Seoul and discover he’s a retired musician – a trombone player. He wants to see us in Seoul and be our guide. Soon it’s time for bed but we agree to share a genuine Korean breakfast – our treat since he pays for our dinner and beer.

Sunday 16th September

Suanbo to Mokhaeng-dong

Daily Total 34.46 km

Trip Total 24818.09 km

Well our communal night wasn’t that restful because of the snoring, chatting, farting, TV and early morning alarms.  Kim finds us a Korean breakfast joint and orders meat and veg soup and rice, along with an assortment of pickled and spiced veg – it’s hot, hot, hot.  It’s incredibly spicy and there’s so much to eat that it’s rather overwhelming for breakfast. Kim refuses to let us pay despite last night’s agreement – although he was a bit tiddly.  Wow we’re so glad we decided to push on yesterday otherwise we would have completely missed Kim and our ‘chimjilbang’ – spa with sleeping room. Apparently they’re in most towns and cities.  

We say goodbye and head off. After a morning of cycling in the rain we reach Chungju where we spot a football tournament going on. It’s part of the World Firefighter Games being held here this year. We get another stamp in our passport then speak to one of the official guides and he mentions he is doing the water point for the orienteering event. Wow, really!! Of course being the ace orienteerers that we are we’re super excited and decide to head over to the start arena to see some action.  The start is on top of a large wooded hill to the side of the river and sports complex. We cycle half way up then ditch the bikes at the roadside and walk the rest of the way. There’s already been one event this morning, a line event but it looks like were in time for the start of the afternoons score event. Whilst waiting to see the start we get chatting to some Australian firefighters, they’re all novices at orienteering so Daz decides to give them a quick lesson on the orienteering map and some tips. The runners are being set off by country and just before the Aussies head out Daz speaks to the organisers and manages to get a competition map. We’re going to go for a walk and see how we get on!  There are 30 controls and a one hour time limit. I’m soon dashing into the woods and finding controls, it brings back great memories. Then we spot an Indian firefighter lady wandering around aimlessly, we take her under our wing and she walks around the course with us as we help her with her map reading… well basically I keep taking her dibber and running off into the woods and getting the hard ones at the bottom of ravines or up steep banks! After a good walk/jog round we send her off back towards the finish as she is running out of time whilst we go and get a few more in before heading back. Well, at prize giving the Aussie ladies take a couple of gold medals, must have been Daz’s tactical briefing, and the Indian lady gets a silver in her age category!!  We feel very proud although totally cheesed off when the Indian lady completely ignores us. She obviously can’t afford to let on that she had some help but just a nod in our direction would’ve been nice!! Thanks for nothing!!

Prize giving over we head out and soon find our campsite for the night. There’s a covered pagoda, waterpoint and toilets but unfortunately a lot of mossies so we are soon in our tent having eaten and washed. There’s also a bridge nearby that’s quite noisy, but hopefully the traffic will fall off later! Nite all!!


Monday 17th September

Mokhaeng-dong to Beopcheon

Daily Total 41.24 km

Trip Total 24859.33 km

Today we follow the Hangang River and we meet Luke from Bristol.  He’s a touring cyclist who must have left England early this year.  He has a 2 year plan to cycle the world. It’s ages since we’ve had a good chat with another Brit so it’s really nice to meet him.  

We stop in a small town for lunch and for the first time ever our tactic of just pointing out the cheapest meal – 8000 won backfires.   It’s some disgusting chewy, fatty meat in what looks like used washing up water – bleughhhhh – gross. Daz guesses that the horrible meat is offal – and that’s my meal over.  The local restaurants often don’t have a paper menu but instead have it written on the wall – often not more than 10 items ranging from 6/8000 won to 45000. So we either pick the cheapest or if the staff are helpful and engage with us we take their recommendation.  So obviously our meal selection is a total lottery – living life on the edge!!! Tonight’s campsite is a small park just before the town of Beopcheon.

Tuesday 18th September

Beopcheon to Yeojubo

Daily Total 28.86 km

Trip Total 24888.19 km

Well not much progress today.  We stopped to chat to 2 Korean touring cyclists and had to examine all their amazing gear; they had single man tents, mini helinox chairs, a bag shower and about 8 pristine cooking pots.  They had actually cycled the Korean Grand Slam – that’s all the dedicated cycleways in South Korea but they’ve also cycled Taiwan and SE Asia. Then later we spot another couple of tourers -this time Brits, Sam and Kerry.  They’ve only just started their trip with a flight to Seoul and now they plan to cycle for 6 months before heading to Wellington in New Zealand where they plan to settle. So today a lot of gossiping and not much cycling – tomorrow we must do BETTER!

Wednesday 19th September

Yeojubo to Geumnam

Daily Total 59.83 km

Trip Total 24948.02 km

Yesterday evening we met Nick from Staffordshire – he’s just cycled from Greece through Europe, Central Asia and then flown to Seoul.  His last country will be Japan. He’s a really lovely guy and we were both hoping he’d pitch his tent with us but unfortunately his tent and bed mat went missing on his flight from Almaty.  So he needs to find a motel in town.

Today we’re determined – well I am – to do a decent day’s cycling especially after Darren told me yesterday that I need to buck up! Only one distraction today – an Australian couple Steven and Cathy who are in South Korea and Japan for a month’s cycling holiday.  I like their style – no camping or camping cookers allowed. Cathy says she’s too old to camp and I’m pretty sure I’ve been too old since I turned 30!! Anyway these guys have cycled all over Europe and they tell us cycling in Australia is a really bad idea – apparently the drivers are crazy and then there’s the heat, the spiders, snakes and the massive distances – they say “don’t do it” – so of course Daz wants to fly there immediately – there’s nothing he loves more than a challenge.   I’m definitely more focused today and the cycleway is definitely getting more interesting and actually passes through several small towns.

Before today I’d only seen 2 Korean towns – Busan and Andong! At the point where the Hangang River meets the Bukhangang River we leave the Seoul cycleway and head up the Bukhangang River. Apparently this river valley is supposed to be really beautiful – it better be because it’s a 70km detour to the head of the valley! Unfortunately there’s even fewer pagodas and toilet blocks than usual so we decide to camp in a pretty little park by the river. There are toilets and water but no shelter.   

Thursday 20th September


Last night it started raining about midnight and didn’t let up until about 2pm this afternoon.  We decided to stay where we were because we were near a convenience store and some restaurants so we were able to feed ourselves! It proved to be a really dumb move when the rain set in again around 8pm and again continued until 2pm the next day,  only now even heavier. The tent is waterproof but the problem is it becomes uncomfortable lying in bed for such long periods – our inflatable sleeping mats are great but not so good over prolonged periods.


Friday 21st September

Geumnam to Daeseong

Daily Total 7.89 km

Trip Total 24955.91 km


When the rain peters off at 2pm we decide to try and push on and get some mileage done, but almost immediately a light drizzle starts. We cycle along the river and after about 7 km we spot a really fancy golf / croquet course. We’ve considered having a game before but never bothered but today’s the day. That’s all thoughts of cycling gone out of Daz’s head even though 5 minutes ago he was suggesting we push on for 30 to 40km! We pull over and ask if we can play, and they actually have clubs and balls we can borrow. The course consists of four, 9 hole courses. The ball is about twice the size of a golf ball and the club is a cut down solid looking driver/putter.  The course has many undulations, plateaus, ditches and water hazards (big puddles from the rain). It’s great fun and unlike normal golf it’s very easy to play. It’s also very evenly matched, our first 9 holes is a draw, then Daz wins the next two with me winning the all important final one! Thoroughly satisfied we decide to camp the night here too. There are toilets and a covered pagoda for us to sleep on. Bonus!

Saturday 22nd September

Daeseong to Daesunglee

Daily Total 62.66 km

Trip Total 25018.57 km

Today the sun is going to shine – well once the mist burns off.  We had planned to head up to the end of the cycleway at Chuncheon but we decide we can’t be bothered and initially stop at Gapyeong where we have lunch and try and decide on a new plan.  There’s a very popular tourist spot nearby, Nami Island and there’s even a zip wire ride. Unfortunately when we check it out the next available slot isn’t until 5pm. We decide to head back the way we’ve come but instead of retracing our steps on the cyclepath we handrail the river.  Well it’s not a particularly good decision with plenty of holiday traffic, hills and absolutely no camping pagodas. We go on and on and on. I realise that my right brake which has been a problem for awhile is actually sticking on so I’m often cycling with my right brake slightly engaged and I also notice my left tyre has blue patches – this means it’s starting to seriously wear already so my tracking must be out!     Finally after a long tough afternoon we finally rejoin the cycleway and immediately spot a possible camping spot in a car park/ boat yard ; there’s no overhead cover but there are toilets and water.

 There’s also a couple already there having a picnic. We pull in and immediately the couple come over to investigate. They’re a Korean couple from Seoul, Lee hyun hee and her boyfriend Choi Jin hwan. Well Choi photographs and videos our every move; putting up the tent, making a coffee, preparing our beds etc.  We show them our cool gear ie our collapsible mugs, our flatpack bowls and our solar panel and they are totally impressed – more wows and ahhhhhs than even Gordon Ramsey produces in one episode of Masterchef USA. They invite us over to join their picnic where Choi proceeds to light a woodfire using a butane blow torch – how cool is that. We spend the evening with them drinking and eating and even foolishly become involved in a karaoke-off. This is beyond ridiculous because Choi is a serious musician and Lee hyun hee has an incredible voice whilst our duets are remarkable only by the awfulness of my voice – possibly not dissimilar to a cat being skinned alive.  However I’ve had a beer or 2 now so I think I’m the next Beyoncé.

Sunday 23rd September

Daesunglee to Songchun

Daily Total 20.95 km

Trip Total 25039.52 km


Over the last week or so we’ve seen so many waterskiers and wakeboarders out on the river and I’ve been reminiscing about my first posting in the Army to Cyprus when I became a regular at the Dhekelia water skiing club and eventually became a proficient mono skier – only 25 years ago!  Well last night I told Choi I wanted to have a bash. Choi is a skier and reckons he’s good but who knows? So obviously I threw down the gauntlet last night. This morning with a slightly thick head I’m totally regretting the water skiing challenge but I’m quietly confident when there’s no mention of it.  Daz checks my brakes and tracking, Choi cooks some incredibly spicy hot noodles,we pack and drink coffee and make plans to meet in Seoul and several hours pass.

It’s about 12.30pm and we’re ready to head off when suddenly Choi says ‘so let’s ski!’. What he actually meant was “let’s watch you give it a go because it’s too cold for me”.  It just so happens that beside us on the river are 2 wakeboard / water-ski businesses but there are dozens along this river. So off we go and descend on the water-ski concession . With Choi as translater I am soon kitted out in a figure hugging wetsuit and wondering what I have let myself in for, I mean, 25 years was a long time ago. Choi even provides some coaching on a deep water start with one ski.  Daz, Choi and Lee all get on the speedboat to encourage / film me. Unfortunately it’s been too long and I fail to get up on one ski but we’d agreed that I’d try 3 times and then my final 2 attempts would be with 2 skis. And I’m up staight away. It’s fabulous and I thoroughly enjoy zigzagging behind the boat cutting in and out of its wake. Daz reckons my grin is ear to ear!

After skiing we say goodbye to Choi and Lee and cycle on.  We stop for another short game of mini golf and then soon call it a day, finding a spot to camp. The moon comes up and it’s almost a full moon shining down on the river – it’s a beautiful sight.

Monday 24th September

Songchun to Gangnam Spa, Seoul

Daily Total 39.69 km

Trip Total 25079.21 km

Today it’s the last leg of the 4 Rivers Cycleway for us as we’re cycling into Seoul not Incheon where the cycleway ends.   As we get closer to Seoul we can see the city growing on the left bank. It’s so cool to look at a capital city from across the Hangang River and from the safety of a cycleway.   Then we cross a bridge and we’re in Seoul. Our first stop is Lotte Tower where we buy tickets for tomorrow night and then we head to Gangnam where we’re meeting Choi and Lee.

We stop at Choi’s Samsung office and we have a few beers and show them some games; Spoof, cereal box pick-up, the beer can challenge and ‘who am I’.  It’s soon time to say our farewells and we head to Gangnam Chimgilbang (sauna) for the night.

Tuesday 25th September

Gangnam Spa to Jongno-gu

Daily Distance: 15.29km

Total Distance: 25094.5km

Our night in the ‘chingilbang’ was cheap but they kept the lights on in the communal room and it was really hot so it’s a relief to get out into the fresh air.  First task of the day, laundry. Second task is to cycle to Jongno-gu where the British Defence Attaché lives. Huw has kindly agreed to look after our trikes for the next 6 months until we return with a Chinese visa ready to take on China, well that’s the plan anyway.  We find his house without a problem although cycling on the roads has been a little fraught and this is Seoul at its quietest, it’s the Thanksgiving Holiday. Huw lives in a lovely part of Seoul and he and his wife Linda have thoroughly enjoyed their time out here. We sit and enjoy a lovely cup of tea and discover we’ve failed to appreciate how lucky we’ve been with the weather. September and May are the best months of the year with the remainder being too hot and humid, bitterly cold or shrouded in smog. It’s soon time to abandon our trikes and head to the centre of Seoul and a hostel for the next 2 nights.  

Having dumped our gear it’s back out the door and over to Lotte Tower and our nighttime view of Seoul. The Observation Deck at Lotte Tower is over half a kilometer into the sky. It dominates and leaves all other buildings far below. The double decker elevator is the fastest and travels further than any other elevator of its type in the world. There’s no view going up, but after clearing our ears we arrive on the 3 observation decks and terraces. The city is beautifully lit up beneath us and the Hangang River glides through like a dark snake amongst the lights. It’s pretty awe inspiring, but maybe we would have enjoyed it more with daylight views!!

Wednesday and Thursday


Wednesday is a relaxation day – yup time for shit TV and sleeping.   Thursday we visit Nandaemun market, Dongdaemun History and Culture park including the amazing Design Plaza building (reminiscent of the Bullring in Birmingham), watch the changing of the guard at the Gyeongbokgung palace,  walk down arty Insadong road and visit the war memorial which is unfortunately shut for restoration however we do witness the Korean Armed Forces practicing and getting ready for an Armed Forces day show in a couple of days. There’s some very future tech wesponry and defence systems on display alongside the Museums fleet of tanks planes and ships.

We’re flying out of Seoul at 0330hrs Friday morning so once our sightseeing is done we head to Incheon International Airport.   Since we dumped our trikes we’ve been using the metro. The Seoul metro is clean, the trains spacious and we haven’t witnessed the severe overcrowding you find on London underground.  But this metro is particularly cool because there’s an app that will work out the best possible route from a to b; there are specific places to queue on the platform which align precisely with the doors of the train when it comes into a station, and each entry point has a number and the app will tell you the ideal entry number so you’re best positioned for a transfer at a subsequent station.  This might sound overly complicated but the Seoul Underground network is considerably more complex than London and almost impossible to read let alone find correct stations and work out a route.


So we’re into our last few hours in Korea, but we’ll be back next year and hopefully meet up with the Korean friends we have made. And perhaps see some of the sights we’ve missed like the Demilitarised Zone in the Buffer zone and City Walls of Seoul.  We probably did Korea an injustice by sticking solely to the cycleway but in one month we received amazing acts of generosity from so many people.  Korea is  beautiful and the people have all been wonderful and generous. It’s places like this that make our trip so special. See you again Korea!!


Cycling again, the end of Japan 9 Aug – 31 Aug

Friday 10th August

Mimasaka to Kori

Daily Total 58.22 km

Trip Total 23376.92 km

And we’re back on the trikes, cycling again. It’s been a fab workaway but time to move on.

It’s an uneventful ride as we retrace our previous tracks back towards the coast. However we do make one slight detour. Remember the nice man who picked us up outside Okayama one night, took pity on us and drove us all the way back to Mimasaka?  Well we dropped off a small thank you gift on his doorstep. We were overwhelmed by his generosity and kindness and wanted to let him know that we really appreciated his help. For us it was a 42km ride from Crip’s house, so for him an 84km round trip to help out 2 stranded Brits!. Unfortunately there was no-one home so we dropped it off on his doorstep with a thank you note. Job done we cycle back to the same camping spot we used on the way up, with the added bonus of finding a porta-shower at a nearby building! Good news my new rear shock means I’m not bouncing up and down like Zebedee!   Bad news – today I snapped my right brake cable.

Sunday 12th August

Kori to Takamatsu

Daily Total 35.18 km

Trip Total 23412.1 km

Yesterday we stayed in our park.  We had a shower and relative comfort and our Takamatsu Festival doesn’t start until this afternoon.  So better to stay here where we know we won’t be moved on. Our ride to Takamatsu along the lanes beside the river is pleasant and we stop to watch the fishing nets being raised.  Sadly only tiddlers in the net which is really disappointing because we’ve seen some large fish hurling themselves out of the water to catch insects.

We continue to Uno and catch the ferry to Takamatsu – I think this is our third visit.  Our first stop is the Garlic festival where we watch some musical artistes. They’re pretty crap but it’s entertaining.

Then we head to Chuo Park and the ‘real festival’. This is more like it. It’s packed with people, food stalls and there’s some performances.   We watch Miss Takamatsu – unfortunately lacking somewhat when we don’t understand any of the judges’ questions but we can assume it revolves around world peace and saving the planet. We move on to some performing dance groups and then a singer who really has the crowd going.

 Finally we decide to call it a night and head to our designated camp spot. We’re camping on a bit of parkland out on a spit, west of the ferry harbour. We’re setting up and notice people taping down tarpaulins along the promenade facing the Seto sea. They’re marking their territory for tomorrow’s fireworks display.   Apparently it’s Numero Uno display on Shikoku – one of one perhaps????? But purportedly 8000 fireworks!

Monday 13th August


This morning we’re driven from our tent by 7am.  It’s already unbelievably hot and we’ve had a pretty tough night dealing with the heat and mosquitoes.   We wake up in the early hours (2, 3 and 4am) drenched in sweat. It’s relentless. This morning the promenade is busy with people marking their territory for tonight’s fireworks so we do the same!  Daz uses our tent groundsheet and duct tape to fix our spot!

We spend the morning trying to sleep on the benches in the park shelter and whilst I have some success Daz is too busy chatting to anyone that even happens to glance at our trikes.  

At 11am I grudgingly leave the shelter to watch the arrival of the huge cruise ship MS Asuka II. A welcome committee has been arranged with several dance routines. An odd way to greet a cruise ship but we enjoy it. In the afternoon Daz forces me out of my shelter again.  

I’m only going because I need food. My sensitive skin that’s been hidden by full coverage coveralls for the last 5 weeks is punishing me for my sunblock oversight. Day 2 of cycling and I burnt my legs and 30 minutes out in the searing sunshine watching the cruise ship and I’m paying the penalty of wearing a T-shirt.   Apart from food we also find a great bike shop where both my brake cables are replaced. The right cable had frayed so badly it had snapped whilst the left brake cable sheath had split preventing smooth running of the cable. This explains why my brakes needed the strength of 10 men to apply but had minimal stopping power.  

When we return to our shelter and the promenade it’s already filling up with the crowds.  There are 2 hours still to wait until the fireworks display but we decide to sit with the crowds and enjoy some quality people watching.  Just off the promenade there are 2 barges at anchor loaded with the 8000 fireworks. And as we wait various pleasure boats anchor a safe distance from the barges to enjoy the display.

 At last it’s time for the display to start. For the next 50 minutes we watch an absolutely incredible display. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such a long display. And the crowd goes crazy with their expressions of awe.  

 After the display we sit around, after all this is our camping spot. The crowds start to disperse religiously picking up their rubbish. In the UK we think it would be left for the council to pick up! We wander over to last night’s campspot.  Unfortunately it’s still overrun by people but also totally illuminated by the moored cruise liner. We decide to recce another park and when we find it’s dark, has toilets and no people we pitch our tent. Our big oversight – there’s absolutely no breeze and there’s swarms of mosquitoes.   We zip ourselves into our tent and proceed to lose our bodyweight in sweat. Another rough night is brought to a premature close when I hear shuffling and look out my window to meet the gaze of some itinerant bag-man who proceeds to shuffle around the tent looking in and muttering to himself.  Freaky! He even picks up our flag for closer examination. He’s happy to examine us in our tent but when we get up he stays in the far corner of the park with his bike and numerous bags. I reckon a few more years and we’ll look like him!

Tuesday 14th August


So after a few horrendous nights I decide it’s time to find a hotel.  With the festival in town there aren’t many rooms available but we finally find something reasonable – well £70 with breakfast. (Hotels are expensive in Japan!) Fortunately it’s a relatively early check in – 2 pm but we turn up at 12.30pm and he lets us into our rooms.  OMG air-conditioning and a bathroom. At last I can stop sweating. Time for a nap and laundry. Over the last few days we’ve been overwhelmed by our sour stench. When you can smell yourself and it’s enough to turn your stomach the situation has hit an all time low. This is the first time on our trip (yup 4 years) that we’ve produced this vile odour and it coincided with our workaway.   The only reasonable theory I can think of is that the washing powder / water at Crip’s reacts with our sweat to produce this vomit inducing smell. Within minutes of donning a freshly laundered article of clothing and sweating, we produce this noxious odour. And so not only do we smell bad but so does our tent because of our pillow cases and our liner sheet as we sweat into it copiously during the hot nights.

As evening approaches we head out to watch the dancing element of the Festival.   The main street has been closed off and 75 dance groups parade passed us, entertaining us with their dance routines.  Most of the routines are pretty basic and it’s not the impressive display of the top Festival in Tokoshima but it’s fun nonetheless.

  After 2 hours all the groups are done and it’s time for the prize giving. Those awarded a prize do a second routine on stage, more sophisticated than their street dance.  Award ceremony over and it’s time for bed.

Wednesday 15th August

Takamatsu to Oonohara

Daily Total 67.83 km

Trip Total 23479.93 km

Well our hotel was great.  We’re well rested and smell much better and we even have the opportunity to stuff our faces at the buffet breakfast.   Then it’s time to hit the road and another treat is in store. The temperature had dropped by over 10 degrees and it’s only 27 deg C. It’s overcast and soon the rain comes.  The rain remains all day but I’m perfectly content to cycle in the warm rain. The route is uninspiring but we find a free campsite for the night with a sheltered area we can pitch the tent and coin operated showers.  

Thursday 16th August

Oonohara to Saijo

Daily Total 53.44 km

Trip Total 23533.37 km

Disappointingly when I went for my shower the shower block was locked so it was another bucket wash.  We were joined in our shelter by 2 Japanese motorcyclists. I took great delight in watching them erect their tent, it took 2 of them about triple the time it takes me to put up ours. Bizarrely they’d laid a ground sheet and then placed the tent so it wasn’t sitting entirely on the sheet – I can only assume they were trainee tent pitchers!  They were also up until 2 am and then up at 7am – definitely NOT the neighbours I need. Today another pretty uninspiring day but being so long out of the saddle it’s tough summoning the energy for a day’s cycling. We were expecting rain today but the torrential downpour didn’t materialise until our last hour so once again we’re completely soaked.  Our campsite tonight is on a sports park. Unfortunately there’s only covered seating area but not enough cover for our tent so we’re forced to use the fly so it’ll be another swelteringly hot night.

Friday 17th August

Saijo to Shitadami

Setouchi Shimanami Cycleway.

Daily Total 43.39 km

Trip Total 23576.76 km


Well it rained quite a bit throughout the night but cleverly I pitched the tent so the front door was sheltered by the covered seating area so although the rain fell on the back of the tent we could still have the front door open to get some breeze.

We cycle up towards Imabari, the town before the start of the Setouchi Shimanami Cycleway. The cycleway connects Imabari on Shikoku to Onomichi on Honshu via 6 islands, 6 bridges and 1 ferry crossing (the last bridge isn’t open to cycle traffic). With stunning views of the islands, the Seto Sea and the bridges themselves it’s purported to be one of the world’s most beautiful cycling routes and one of the top cycle destinations in Japan.

Not much happens enroute to Imabari although I do witness my first car accident which was probably caused by us! One car rear ended another car which had slowed because it was waiting to overtake Daz and was probably watching me and not the car infront.  Oh dear I feel dreadful but I don’t hang around to see what happens. We also see our first example of the rice harvest! Mini combine harvesters darting around the small dried paddy fields and unloading into tiny trucks. It’s like harvesting on a toy scale!

We can see the first bridge as we get closer. It’s Kurushima-Kaikyo bridge which is actually 3 joined suspension bridges measuring 4,105 m in length. It’s very high up, but the ingenious Japanese have built a separate ramp which spirals up just for cyclists and pedestrians making it a slow but easy climb to bridge level.  The views from the bridge are gorgeous. The blue seas and green island masses juxtaposed against the backdrop of a setting sun in a cloudless sky! Brilliant.

We drop down another ramp on the otherside to the first island, Oshima. There’s a Michi-no-eki just around the corner. Sitting on the coast looking back towards the bridge it’s an ideal camping spot for the night.

Saturday 18th August

Shitadami to Setado Sunset Beach

Daily Total 34.19 km

Trip Total 23610.95 km

Last night’s camping spot was a real treat.  As night fell we could see the impressive suspension bridge illuminated and set against a clear moonlit night.  And we also had a good wash down with the hosepipe left in the handicapped toilets but we were wary to disturbing the huge spider that was living there.

 This morning we cycle across Oshima Island, cross Hakata-Oshima Bridge – another suspension bridge 1,165m long, to Hakatajima Island.

We stop at the Dolphin farm.  There are numerous visitors paying £35 to swim with the dolphins. I was expecting huge pools and an exciting swimming experience but these poor guys are in such small enclosures and one poor Narwhale looks really depressed!  

Our next bridge is Omishima Bridge, a short 328m arch bridge crossing to Omishima Island. We could take the advanced route around this island but we settle for the shortened recommended route to Tatara Bridge, a 1,480m cable stayed bridge.   We’ve just crossed the bridge to Ikuchima Island and stop for a drink when we spot a touring cyclist, Maria, from Switzerland. We stop and chat. She’s an incredible young lady. Five years ago she cycled from her home across Europe, Central Asia to her destination which was a volunteer job with a family in a Tibetan village in Nepal.  This time her destination is The Himalayan High mountain trail (a 5 month trek) but before that there’s 11 months cycling – her warm up!!!

We chat for ages and we decide we might as well find a campsite. Just 2 kms down the road there’s Setado Sunset Beach and there’s a festival and fireworks. So we settle down to enjoy the festivities, swapping stories and comparing notes.   Maria is a cycling marvel – she’s knocking out over 100km a day and once when all her gear was soaking wet pushed out a mammoth 230km to reach a hostel in Sapporo so she could dry out. After the fireworks we proceed to find somewhere to pitch our tents.

We thought this would be so simple. First we’re told by a festival official that we can’t camp. Eventually he relents but he wants 1000 yen per tent.  We pack our tents away – we’re not paying that! But it’s after 10pm and dark and we’re not prepared to cycle off to find another spot. Instead we simply put out our bed mats and sleeping bags. No tent, no fee – well that’s our logic.

Sunday 19th August

Setado Sunset Beach to Mukaishima and return to Tatara Bridge rest area.

Daily Total 53.76 km

Trip Total 23664.71 km

This morning we’re up by 7am.  Without a tent there’s absolutely no barrier to the bright sunlight or the nosey locals so there’s no chance of a lie-in.  After a coffee we’re driven away by the festival official who didn’t want us here last night.

We cycle the remainder of Ikuchima Island cross to Innoshima Island via the cable stayed Ikuchi Bridge. We’re still cycling with Maria and I’m enjoying a good natter.  She’s a radio DJ back in Switzerland and has been working hard these past 4 years saving for her trip. As we near the end of Innoshima Island we decide to stop for breakfast at a beach. We’ve stumbled across a training session of huge rowing boats, there’s maybe 14 rowers,  2 abreast and one guy on a drum beating the time. At times they go hell for leather and practically skim across the water, very impressive.

We’re at the last bridge, over to Mukaishima island, this is another suspended bridge but this time the cycleway is underneath the main road. It’s here that we say farewell to Maria, she’s continuing on to Hiroshima, before heading to Kagoshima and a ferry to Okinawa. We’ve had a fab time with her, she so upbeat, and we are amazed by her feats. We hope to see her again sometime in the future.

Meanwhile Daz and I are heading back across the bridge and retracing our steps. We’re going to explore the island parts that we missed on the way over.  We obtained a great map at the beginning, and it shows the recommended, Intermediate and advanced routes. So we will be trying some of the other routes out. It still means we end up crossing all the bridges again! By the time we’ve crossed Innoshima and Ikuchijima island we’re ready to call it a day. We climb up to cross Tatara Bridge and just before the span there’s a view point with a waterfountain, camping spot found. Daz still has energy and proceeds to wash some of our stinking clothes before preparing dinner of sauted potatoes with onion and fried Goyza dumplings… yum!


Monday 20th August

Tatara Bridge rest area to Shitadami Michi-no-eki

Daily Total 48.32 km

Trip Total 23713.03 km

Today we cross Tatara Bridge and then take a longer route around Omishima Island and see Oyamazumi Shrine.  Then it’s back over Omishima Bridge and Hakata-Oshima Bridge and we return to the Michi-no-eki at Shitadami where we spent our first night.

It’s been a great couple of days cycling this route and whilst the roads on the islands aren’t dedicated cycleways there’s so little traffic that it’s still a pleasure to cycle.  There are at least another 10 islands that we could have visited and whilst they’re not linked by these incredible bridges they are just a ferry boat away. So there’s scope to spend many days here exploring but we have plans and a ferry to Korea to catch.

Tuesday 21st August

Shitadami Michi-no-eki to Iyo

Daily Total 66.14 km

Trip Total 23779.17 km

This morning we’re just having breakfast when we spot a tandem and we flag them down for a chat.  It’s Quentin and Florine from Switzerland and they’re cycling a normal tandem. They’ve only been on the road for 20 days, they flew from Switzerland to Narita, Tokyo.

 After a chat they head off and we return to our breakfast. Eventually we set off. After about 30km we spot the Swiss couple again and then we cycle together for the rest of the day before finding a sports’ park to camp. We compare everything, from our cooking kit to tents, it’s great fun!  A beer or two later and it’s party central!!

Wednesday 22nd August

Iyo to Usuki

Daily Total 54.6 km

Trip Total 23833.77 km


This morning we say goodbye to our Swiss friends. But 20km down the road we see them again! We’re all heading for Kyushu but we plan to take different ferries but it’s nearly the same route. Then we check the Internet and find our ferry has been cancelled today and tomorrow due to the typhoon so now we need the same ferry port. We know there’s a ferry at 1pm – it’s the ferry to Beppu, and it’s going to be tight to do the 27km in time, but we push hard. So hard I’m almost sick and I have repeated outbreaks of goosebumps which I don’t consider a good sign.  Daz is trying to draught me but can’t keep up. Unfortunately we arrive just as the ferry is due to sail, but wait… it’s been cancelled, noooo! We’re then told that there’s 1 more ferry running, not to Beppu our original destination but to Usuki 50km down the coast. With the prospect of all ferries being cancelled for the next day or two we decide to buy tickets and jump on. The ticket lady tells us that the Swiss caught the 1245pm ferry – shit they must’ve been motoring.

Blimey it’s a rough 3 hour crossing and Daz is just about holding the seasickness at bay!  In Usuki having looked at the parks and possible camping spots, we settle for a sheltered area behind the information centre. Admittedly an unusual spot but the kind lady in the information centre said we could use it. So we’ll just have to wait and see what the typhoon brings. Quentin and Florine have taken the luxury option and are staying in a Ryokan – a wise decision and a lovely treat.

Thursday 23rd August

Usuki to Haraji Falls

Daily Total 48.02 km

Trip Total 23881.85 km


Even with the typhoon winds buffeting our tent we were still sweltering.  The latent heat from the concrete pad we were pitched on radiating through the tent. Even with both doors open the heat was suffocating. So during the night we were either awake from the heat or the tent blustering over us! You couldn’t make it up!  This morning the winds have calmed although a further typhoon is expected to hit us this afternoon . Two in quick succession and numbers 18 and 19 for the season. We decide to cycle on and see what happens. We’re following Route 502 uphill towards Mt Aso which is about 90km away so we won’t make it there today. On the way out of Usuki we stop at the Stone Buddha park. There are about 4 groups of ancient carvings of Buddha and other figures on a hillside. The Japanese have lovingly restored and enshrined them in open faced wooden buildings. With the surrounding forest and paddy fields below it’s quite a charming spot.

Onwards we cycle, and although there’s a typhoon due nobody has told the sun! The temperature hits 42 degrees and Daz is feeling it again today. We need to drink more… much more! Finally after nearly 5 hours in the heat we stumble across a rest area next to Haraji Waterfall.  This semicircular waterfall on a tributory of the Ano river sits in a quaint valley with easy access for visitors. It’s still only 3pm so we lay about on some rocks and a park bench reading, oh and checking out the waterfall of course! The waters are refreshingly cold if a little murky. As evening settles we move over to the closed Michi-no-eki rest stop and cook dinner before getting our tired sweaty heads down for the night. There’s still no sign of a typhoon so we’re going without a tent in a bid to get a cooler nights sleep!

Friday 24th August

Haraji Falls to Aso Michi-no-eki

Daily Total 42.14  km

Trip Total 23923.99 km

We had a great night sleeping out on a restaurant floor with overhead cover but a breeze coming down the river Gorge.  We’ve had 2 tough days and today proves to be equally tough. We climb all day. And it’s hot! After about 5km Quentin and Florine catch us.  They camped in the village a couple of kilometers behind us last night. They are heading to a warmshower host south of Aso and we’re taking the northern route so we bid farewell.  We may well see them again as they are heading to Korea before flying to China at the end of September. The tough day is improved 100% when a family flags us down. The 2 boys present us with drinks and flavoured ice – what a wonderful treat.

 We push on and we stop at a Michi-no-eki and get chatting to a guy from Hawaii. He’s spent 17 years working in Thailand – I think volunteer work for the church/mission. He’s been resting here for 3 days and avoiding the bad weather – he’s found some sort of covered stage in an amphitheatre.   He tells us we’re almost at the top and then there’s a plateau before the descent. We only have 8km to push but it’s so hard until we finally break out of the trees and see the Aso mountain range ahead and then there’s a huge descent into Aso.

We cycle to the far side of Aso and stop at a Michi-no-eki.   It’s a hive of activity – not typical of most Michi-no-eki. I think it’s the starting point for treks up to Aso and the caldera. There are several camper vans already here for the night and there’s a festival ready to kick off at 6pm and there’s also a train station. It’s so busy that I’m not sure a night here is workable.  There are only 2 viable covered areas: the first is right outside the public toilets and the second is the electric scooter recharging point. We decide the latter is our only hope for some peace and quiet. I’ve checked out the festival and nearby area and noticed an onsen and a launderette. Time for a much needed scrub-up! My clothes are stiff with sweat and salt and are wretchedly stinky.  We head to the onsen – it’s 1100 yen for a family room our first experience of such a thing. The guy watches us prepare – I don’t mean stripping off but going through our panniers for wash-kit and clean clothes. God knows what he thinks of us but he sold us our bath ticket so having smelt us he’s probably worrying about fumigating the bath room we use. Finally we’re ready and he shows us the our bathroom.   There’s a changing room and then the hot tub room with a deep concrete basin and a washpoint against the wall. We scrub ourselves clean and then sink into the hot tub and relax. It’s hot and we return to the shower point repeatedly, dousing ourselves in cold water, then sinking back into the tub. We have an hour’s session but the heat is overwhelming so we don’t last.

Once outside we gather our stinky clothes and throw them into the wash.  Time now to watch the festivities. These Japanese festivals are amazing it’s just a shame that we don’t understand the meaning of the dances or the lyrics of the songs. We’re soon adopted by a Japanese family who want to know all about us. Fortunately Daz can show them photos of our recent adventures! The final show of the night is a magic act. Now this is excellent as it requires no language skills and it involves 3 young, sexily dressed, attractive women.  They are the magicians not the assistants – a far cry from Paul Daniels and his assistant.

The show is over and we head for bed. We just lay out the sleeping mats in the charging-station and we’re asleep in seconds. Unfortunately it’s not a quiet night – there’s a car alarm, a baby crying and a dog yapping all at suitable intervals to disrupt our night to the max but happily no one has come along demanding that we move. It’s strange that no matter how rough we look or smell the Japanese only offer us kindness, help and massive curiosity.   

Saturday 25th August

Mt Aso

Daily Total 0 km

Trip Total 23923.99 km


Yes!! A no cycling day. But instead we’ve decided to walk up Mt Aso to see the steaming Nakadate lake in the inner caldera. Nakadate is one of the most active craters in the world. The lake is normally about 60 degrees Celsius and emits about 1000 tons of sulphur dioxide a day! It has regular cycles through mud eruptions, red glow phenomenon,  Strombolian eruption and phreatomagmatic explosions before returning to a bright green lake again! Fortunately it’s just a lake today but warning signs everywhere mention the sulphur in the air and people with asphma, heart disease and bronchitis should go home! We actually take a bus from the Michi-no-eki to the bottom of the caldera so it’s only about an hour’s walk to see the lake rather than an 18km walk from the bottom.  In the distance we can see the outer caldera of Aso, it’s the biggest in the world at 18km by 25 km! So yesterday evening our steep descent was actually down into the massive caldera – how surreal! The whole area is a beautiful sea of green and this is possibly the most beautiful landscape we’ve seen in Japan.

We return to the Michi-no-eki and decide to have a day off from cycling. So we laze about and read, bit of admin and that’s the day done. Tomorrow we will have to climb out of the caldera and then descend to the coast. Normally we could cycle out via the only gap in the caldera, but in 2016 there was a huge earthquake in the region which destroyed the main road (and alot more damage besides!) and they’re still rebuilding it. So it’s another climb tomorrow!!


Sunday 26th August

Mt Aso to Tairamachi

Daily Total 74.23 km

Trip Total 23998.22 km

We both had a good night last night and sleeping out without the tent is proving so much cooler.  Today I’m determined to have an early start and we’re actually on the road for 7.30am. It’s pretty easy going until we hit the steep climb out of the caldera but the views are incredible and I’m actually glad we were forced into this climb.  

From the top of the caldera it’s a long ride to the ferry – it’s the Kumamoto ferry but it’s about 15km beyond Kumamoto. We only just make the 1pm sailing and 30 minutes later we’re in Shimabara.

There’s a debate as to whether we should stop or push on.  Daz has his eye on a Michi-no-eki but it’s 4km in the wrong direction so I’d rather pootle off in the right direction and see what we find. Our find is a shaded area by the seawall where there’s a good breeze. An added bonus is a hosepipe – wow an ensuite shower at last!  We even have a dip in the sea.

Monday 27th August

Tairamachi to Nagasaki

Daily Total 52.22 km

Trip Total 24050.44 km


Wow I’ve just had one of my worst nights ever.  I kept waking feeling things crawling along my feet and arms.  As I knocked then away they felt all wet. Finally I put my head torch on and already they’re are a few casualties near my bed –  like a giant woodlouse with numerous legs and large antenna. Revolting – they look like this!


And there’s more circling to attack.  I kill all the ones I can see but every 10 minutes I check the area for new advancing insects.  As a result I hardly get any sleep until it gets light and then I can’t get up because I’m trying to snooze so we don’t start until 10.30am and the ride to Nagasaki is bloody tough.  It’s hot and hilly but not one long decent hill but short up, short down and repeat and repeat until I think if I see one more climb I’m going to cry or vomit or both. And of course there’s not just one more climb but many.  It’s a killer! Finally we’re in Nagasaki – all thoughts to find a camping spot are discarded and it’s a Love Hotel for tonight. These hotels are for adults only – designed for a romantic tryst and supposedly anonymous. You can even book by the hour. But these hotels are cheaper with better facilities than most hostels – ensuite bathroom,  TV, aircon and real beds.


Tuesday 28th August

Nagasaki to Saikai

Daily Total 44.21 km

Trip Total 24094.65 km

What a pleasure to have a real bed and air conditioning and a special treat – some TV – an episode of Castlerock and one of celebrity Masterchef.  Today it’s a whistestop tour of Nagasaki; the monument to the 26 martyrs, the one-legged Torii gate and then the Atomic Bomb museum and the Peace Park.  We were told that compared to Hiroshima this memorial to the Atom Bomb is grittier and displays more graphically the horrendous consequences of the bomb.   And it’s true but I found the Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum touched me more. The volume of visitors to Nagasaki is a fraction of those visiting Hiroshima – it’s a considerable distance from the main tourist attractions and as a result the memorial is on a much smaller scale.

 Sightseeing done we headed north dreading a repeat of yesterday’s hills but fortunately it’s been much easier. We have the Omura-wan Bay, another inland sea, to our right and we’re often treated to some very pretty sea views. Unfortunately this Highway seems popular with large articulated trucks and there’re several occasions where they’re determined to squeeze passed despite oncoming traffic. Tonight we camp by the water’s edge.  

Wednesday 29th August

Saikai to Karatsu Sports’ Ground

Daily Total 63.56 km

Trip Total 24158.21 km

Last night at around 1am we were rudely awoken by raindrops falling on our heads.   We dashed into the toilets with all our kit debating whether to put up the fly but the rain shower had stopped before a conclusion had been reached.  We decided to risk another ‘open-air’ session with our fly and poles ready for rapid deployment should more showers follow. But thankfully it remained dry.  Today we continued north. This area is very beautiful and we were told the western coastline was unmissable. But we’ve got the bit between our teeth and the end in sight so we just push on.  Tomorrow Fukuoka and buying tickets for a ferry crossing to Busan. We haven’t bothered pre-booking but hope we don’t pay top dollar.


Thursday 30th August

Karatsu Rowing Club to Fukuoka

Daily Total 62.39 km

Trip Total 24220.6 km

Last night we were told we couldn’t sleep in the Sports’ Grounds we’d originally settled in.  We used their showers and cooked our dinner before relocating under a bridge near the sailing club where there was a fabulous breeze blowing down the river.   A group of kids from the rowing club came over to say Hi and tried out our trikes. Later they returned with a box of icecreams. It was an interesting night. First of all I punctured my mattress on a piece of glass and later we woke to a thunderstorm.   We had cover from the bridge but the wind was still blowing rain on us so we had to put our fly out.

Our last day of cycling in Japan was blessed by some beautiful sea views with sandy beaches and clear blue waters. In Fukuoka we discover there were no cheap ferry tickets until 3rd September and since we don’t want to wait we have to pay 9000 yen each plus 1000 per trike plus taxes.  But we will sail tomorrow. Our last night in Japan – what shall we do? Well we stopped at a street food stall sat and ate uterus (yes really!) and started chatting to a guy and drank too many beers and Saki!

Friday 31st August

Fukuoka to Busan

Daily Total 62.39 km

Trip Total 24220.6 km


We’re on board the ferry! But our trikes boarded separately!  Weirdly when we bought our ticket they first asked us to take our ‘bikes’ with us upstairs to immigration and from there we would take them onboard with all the other foot passengers.  When we told them they were too big they still persisted for a while but once they saw our trikes they had a lightbulb moment. We were escorted around to the side of the building and our trikes were loaded onto a cargo truck to take onto the ferry. We then joined the rest if the passengers as normal.  

In a little while we will be setting off for Korea. The crossing takes 5 hours and 30 minutes so we will be in Korea at 6pm today!


So 5 months in Japan to the day. It’s been a fabulous journey all over the country. The four main islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku, Kyushu and even Okinawa!  Spring was in the air when we arrived and the cherry blossom was spectacular, now as we leave summer is nearly over and we won’t forget the heat and humidity in a hurry!  Another thing we won’t forget is the Japanese people, so polite, generous and always smiling when they see us. Japan has been incredible and we highly recommend it to all our friends! Next stop South Korea!



Final days of workaway and Climbing Mt Fuji 28 July to 8 August

Saturday 28th July

Last night, returning from Okinawa, when our coach pulled in at Minasaka we’d been unable to reach Kuzumi and get a lift home but within 5 minutes we’d managed to hitch a lift.   Over the next 4 days we do various chores including weeding, masking and sealing walls the walls in the house and other various chores. We catch the tail end of another typhoon with some high winds and torrential rains. To Crip’s surprise I quite like weeding in these conditions, it’s cooler and the ground isn’t as hard as concrete and it’s actually relatively easy removing the weeds.

 Tuesday evening we pick up our hire car, we’re going to drive to Mt Fuji and climb it.

Wednesday 1st August.


How easy that last sentence sounded. In reality it’s much different.  We decided that we would drive the purported 550km distance to Kawaguchiko, our jump off point for climbing Mt Fuji. This would be cheaper than getting the multiple trains or coaches but only if we stay clear of the Expressway system which has high tolls. Crip had recommended we head to the north coast and then head East. There’s less urbanisation on this coast so hopefully less traffic and fewer traffic lights. Well that was the theory.  We also decided to drive up during the night, or as far as possible before we needed to rest. All sounds great. But unfortunately the back roads, even with lighter traffic and less stopping were still just as slow. When we got caught behind a slow vehicle, or someone observing the speed limits (ridiculously low in Japan) then we were sometimes lucky to make 40 kilometers in an hour. Having set off at 7pm we called it quits having covered 490km by 3am, an average of just over 60 kmph. Oh and that 550 purported distance? Well with our northerly route and not using expressways, it was looking more like 800 km to reach our destination!  Frustrating, especially as the map reading was very difficult too. We’d even had a sodding puncture after 130kilometers and had driven the remaining night on a spare wheel that looked like it had come off a wheelbarrow!

We got about 3 hours sleep before the baking sun forced us out of our tent. Then the local geriatric callisthenetics group and playing children made us realise we should push on. We grabbed a coffee in a convenience store and later some lunch. We get the tyre sorted, unfortunately it was a hole in the sidewall, so it’s can’t be fixed and we end up having to pay for a new tyre! We are still following a convoluted route through Japan’s northern Alps and it’s not until 3pm we reach our destination. Just as a vigorous thunderstorm decided to unleash itself overhead. We retreat to a restaurant and decide plan B.  Plan A would have seen us climbing Mt Fuji tonight for a morning (sunrise) summit. But we are too tired and with only 2 hours sleep under our belts, another sleepless night seems reckless. And the weather is pants. We decide we’ll camp tonight in a local park by the lake then after a restday climb tomorrow night instead.

We come out of the restaurant and it’s stopped raining so we drive over to the local amusement park. We had cycled passed this place on our previous visit and decided against trying some of the rides. But now we wanted to try the “big one”. After 50 minutes in a queue we were strapped into our revolving chairs, the process of locking us down and attaching the safety belts told us we were in for a good ride! Oh boy, I’ve never been thrown, spun, swivelled and tormented by rotational forces so much! It was great, even if I was squealing a bit at the end!

Suitably impressed we head for our camping spot. There’s a covered bandstand so that’s where we pitch our tent incase of more rain and we sit on the lakeside having a quiet drink and some snacks.  Mt Fuji looms ominously in the background, waiting for us quietly. After retiring for the evening at an early 7pm we start to doze off. That is until a horde of kids with fireworks, waterpistols and waterbombs descends on the park!!

Thursday 2nd – Friday 3rd August

Mt Fuji

Remember that bandstand we are camped on? Well the brass band turned up at 7am this morning for band practice,  I kid you not!! A youth orchestra with trumpets, tubas and trombones troubled our sleep for the next 2 hours! Fortunately they eventually bugger off and we are left in relative peace for the rest of the day.

We read and snooze, knowing we will be up all night climbing. After a shop for provisions and a late lunch we head to the bus station to catch the bus up to the bottom station of Mt Fuji, cunningly called the 5th Station!

 It takes 50 minutes and drops us at the station, which is at 2300 meters. It’s now 8pm and dark. The bus was full, and there’s still more people at the 5th Station waiting to climb. We’ve been told it’ll take about 7 hours to summit, and with sunrise at 440am we don’t want to set off to early, but by 840pm we are chomping at the bit and decide to take a slow walk up! Over the next 2 km the terrain is gently undulating as the path goes sideways alongside the mountain base. We pass several people coming back down. Hobbling and grimacing, in one case an older lady being piggybacked down. That’ll probably be us tomorrow! The trail is volcanic gravel and fortunately we have head torches to light our way. By the time we reach the 6th station the trail starts heading upwards.  

There are a number of ‘stations’ on the mountainside, each has a shop selling water, food, clothes and souvenirs. You can even buy cans of oxygen, which we see several people using during the course of the night. There are also lodges where you can rest and have a meal, all at a premium of course. A stay with 2 meals costs about 50 pounds each. Many people have bought a walking staff at the tourist shops along the way, for an extra payment you can get a symbol burned into the wood at each station and at the summit to show you have climbed Mt Fuji. Most have bells and flags on too, their ringing can be heard up and down the mountain. We keep ascending, the terrain now very rocky and at times we are having to scramble up the volcanic rock outcrops using our hands, and even knees in my case,  to make headway. There are quite a lot of people on the mountain and when the trail is narrow we end up waiting as people infront climb the next obstacle. We stop at the 7th station for a little snack and drink, but after about 10 minutes the wind makes it too chilly to sit around. We are climbing in shorts and t-shirts and at the outset we couldn’t believe the amount of clothing and gear most people were wearing. Full gortex and long trousers in the late evening heat, with physical exertion… they must be melting! We do have warm clothing in our daysack for later, but it seems barking to wear it all now. Oh and we get quite a few sideways looks and comments on our footwear, yep Crocs to climb Mt Fuji!

By the 8th station the amount of people on the trail is getting ludicrously heavy. Numerous tour groups of 15 maybe 20 people being taken up by light baton wealding ‘guide leaders’ are everywhere!  The going is amazingly slow, and we take to walking, climbing and scrambling passed the long lines whenever we can get by on the tight trail. The trail is now just a zig zag of lights up into the distance.  Even with all the holdups and logjams we have been making better time than we thought. If we continue at this pace we’ll reach the summit about 3 hours before sunrise! We decide to take a rest and don our warm clothing and jackets. By now it’s down to about 5 degrees and the windchill makes it colder. We snuggle up on a bench and try to snooze. We’re at the final station and we watch people coming by.  There’s obviously lots of Japanese, but also many foreigners climbing. Two young Canadian lads sit next to us for a while, they only have shorts and long sleeve tops, no coats or cold weather gear and their funny banter and antics to keep warm makes us laugh. There are people climbing in jeans and trainers, but who are we to criticise in our Crocs. We chat with a few of the foreign climbers, a man from Wolverhampton and his two sons, a girl from Hinckley climbing with 2 Americans.  Daz is in a Midlands revival meeting! We are amazed now by the numbers walking passed us. After 2 hours rest we decide to continue. OMG, we round the last of the buildings on this terrace and are met by a queue, not for the toilet, but a queue of people waiting to climb the next section. We look up the mountain and it is ablaze with lights. The trail is now full, 2 to 3 people wide, filling the track as it snakes up the mountain. Progress is slow. Very very slow. Amazingly people wait patiently, shuffling forward slowly over the loose rocks and deep volcanic gravel. Daz doesn’t even bother with his headtorch any longer there’s so much ambient light from everyone elses! We push around along the edges of the trail whenever we can. It seems people are happy to wait to climb the centre of the well worn trail rather than the more precarious edges. Not us!

As we near the top, the thousands of climbers are being encouraged on by officials with bullhorns standing along the trail, they call out in Japanese,  and we’re told they are asking slow climbers to keep right! But in the dark and with so many people jammed in it’s impossible! Groups of climbers are sat along the trail edge, resting before the final push making it even harder to get passed. Finally at 4am we pass through a shrine gate and find ourselves at the summit of the volcano rim. Again there are food and lodges here and a huge crowd. The sky is lightening in the East but sunrise is still 45 minutes away so we find a place to sit on the edge of the crater and wait. Everywhere, left and right the summit trail is now packed. Finally the sun rises majestically above the clouds that are below and off to the East. We made it, and it’s beautiful. We can see some of the lakes in the near distance. Below us people are still coming up through the Shrine gate but the majority of our fellow climbers have also made it in time to see the sunrise.

We get up and join the throngs of people now getting ready for the descent. We decide to take a walk around the crater before heading down.  Everywhere people are taking pictures against the rising sun or over the craters edge.

There’s a different trail to follow for the descent and weirdly this is much wider than the ascent trail but made up of very loose, deep gravel.  No rocks to climb over like on the way up! Unfortunately this is where our Crocs cause us trouble, not from the loose grip, but from the amount of sharp volcanic gravel that gets into them. We have to stop continously to empty them! As we near the bottom we are passed by a couple of bobcat tracked vehicles taking water bowsers up the mountain, that’s how wide the trail is.

Finally after only 2 and a half hours we cross back over onto the trail we had climbed yesterday and continue around to the 5th station. We are just in time to get a drink before catching the first bus back down to Kawaguchiko at 8am!

We return to our bandstand, intent on getting some well deserved sleep. For once there’s no band, and we manage to sleep for a few hours, then doze as the heat builds. By 430pm we call it quits.  Our plan is to drive overnight again. This time we are going to take a more direct route but still stay off the expressways. Apart from a brain fart around Nagoya where Daz takes the wrong turn and puts us the wrongside of an estuary the route isn’t too bad, there’s even a few bypasses we hit that are dual carriageway.  Finally just after midnight we pull into a Michi-no-eki and put our tent up by some trees.

Saturday 4th August

Hurrah!!  Our camping spot is shielded from the mornings blazing sun by the trees and we manage to sleep until 10am. We must have been tired as we slept like the proverbial logs last night.  On we drive, and again the going is slow. Finally, 8 hours later, about 6pm we arrive back in Mimasaka. So the one lesson we can give you if you ever come to Japan… save up and use the Expressways!! It’s been a surreal experience climbing Mt Fuji. We are glad we did it, but driving was tough and perhaps flying to Tokyo would’ve been comparable on cost but that didn’t even occur to us.  We were amazed by the number of people who were climbing it; old people on oxygen, babes in arms, children, all nationalities, equipped, ill-equipped. It had it all. We suppose that the short climbing season, 1st July to 10th September forces these phenomenal numbers to climb each day. But hey, the sunrise was marvellous!

Sunday 5th to Wednesday 8th August

Mimasaka Workaway

Crips, Kazumi and Emma are off on a road trip. They are leaving us to housesit for the next 4 days whilst they pootle off on a little holiday. There’s talk of swimming with dolphins and visiting Rabbit islands. Fortunately (or unfortunately) they leave us with a list of jobs that need doing so we won’t be too bored!! Weeding, strimming and watering in the organic gardens and more painting walls with sealant at the house. The walls in the house are covered in a sand textured plasterboard between all the wooden uprights and dados. Crip wants to get this all painted, but it needs sealing first, one to stop the sand rubbing off and two to save the cost of the paint as it would soak up copious amounts unsealed.  The biggest pain is taping, there’s so much exposed woodwork it takes ages. Once taped it needs two coats of sealant, then remove all the tape and floor plastic. At some point it will need re-taping and floor covering prior to painting… thankfully we will be long gone!!!

Up at the farm whilst Daz gets on with the sealing I carry on weeding and watering. It’s a mammoth task, especially as the ground has dried up after the rains. The grass and weeds have grown vigorously in this tropical climate and it’s hard going.  I weed the peanuts, courgette, okra, beans and a multitude of other veggies I don’t recognise. I hope I haven’t pulled up any proper plants inadvertently. Daz lends a hand with some strimming and also finishes off the steps to the garden using some huge sleeper logs!

In the evenings we raid the fridge and cook up a storm, it’s great having a kitchen to cook in rather than our camping one pot. We’ve made no end of crumbles, a few curries, plenty of salads and flatbreads, frittata and banana cake to name but a few.  Our workaway is nearing it’s end and in a few days we will be cycling towards Nagasaki then Fukuoka and the ferry to Korea. We are also hoping to pick up a festival or two over the Japanese August holiday of Obon. Fingers crossed.