An ocean always seems like a fitting place for an ending. And of course there isn’t really anywhere else to go once you reach one, on bike at least.
Today had a good bit and a bad bit. The good was making it to Busan. The bad was Busan.
I had the earliest start yet, and was out on my bike by 7.45. I navigated out of the park as the sun was still rising and passed through a small village nearby which had an array of nice bike related murals (street art seems the wrong term when you feel in the middle of nowhere). I stuttered through the first hour, losing a front pannier three times by cycling into bollards, trying to cross a bridge meant soley for a train, and losing my chain for around the fifth time in two days. Probably a result of hacking off that piece of plastic which prevents it from being sucked down behind the cassette on the rear wheel. I was still tired and over keen just to make up the last 30 miles or so to Busan.
Very quickly the route flattened out into some of the fastest and most enjoyable cycling of the last week. I breezed through parks then meet a wooden track which curves along the mountain and riverside to a dam, the last certification point before the city. The tracks started to become dotted with riders probably heading out then back to Busan before lunchtime, the flat riding suiting these quick morning or afternoon rides.
Soon i’m seeing signs of big city. Huge tower blocks, criss-crossing bridges carrying the morning traffic, some things still in construction. I get some smiles, head glances and nods from riders leaving the city as I make my approach, I get the feeling they know i’ve come a long way to get here.
The cycle track joins a pedestrian walkway framed by hundreds of cheery blossom trees. They have flowered here more than they had in Seoul and form a pink roof for several miles. But my highlight is seeing a cat being carried in the front basket of a bike by an old man who I stop and ask to photograph.
I spot a sign for the final certification spot and it’s just one bridge and a couple of miles between me and the finish. I cross the water and count down the numbered sections of the dam along the way. Quickly enough I pull into the start/finish area, there’s a 7-11, a K-Water building, the final stamp booth, and a large monument of some kind. I stamp my passport then spot the couple from Seattle i’d crossed paths with a few times. They give me a doughnut and we all feel the same way about finishing, happy to have made it but also feeling a sense of anticlimax, which could have been predicted. Having such a finite end point like this definitely drives you along the way, but leaves you slightly empty once you reach the end, where as a more personal goal would perhaps feel harder to obtain. I get a photo taken of me and say goodbye to the Americans then enter the K-Water to building to try and obtain a medal and stickers for the distance i’ve covered. I’m not hopeful but despite clearly missing some checkpoints the guy behind the desk certifies everything and in about a month or two I should have a medal, in a wooden presentation box, waiting for me back at home. It will be a nice memento i’m sure, along with the 3D-printed version of myself I got in Seoul.
I lay down on the deck in the sun outside 7-11 and try and work out a route to Haeundae beach where i’ll be staying this week. It’s 16 miles or so across the city. I reluncantly begin, trying to avoid the main streets by taking small side streets and alleys. I don’t have a good first impression of the city. It feels cramped and loud and not as clean or as friendly as Seoul.
It takes every last piece of my energy to cross the city, most of that spent purely on concentrating on not getting run over . The roads are full of big lorries, probably heading to the port, and impatient taxis and buses. I lose track of the miles. For some of the way I find a cycle path down by the waters edge but it’s often blocked, ignored, or tapers out into nowhere.
It’s strange to suddenly find a beach and the sea at the edge of this sprawling mess and it calms my mood. I carry on round the coast to Haeundae beach. An area which I thought would feel like a cool little beachside town but instead is defined by towering buildings of polished metal, brightly lit car dealerships, and TGI Friday’s and steak restaurants.
I find the hostel, heave my bike up three floors to the roof and dump my stuff on the roof. I’d cycled an extra 18 miles or so to get from the end point to here. It has drained me but there is some satisfaction in knowing I got entirely from point A to B with my own energy and willpower.
I walk slowly down to the beach around dusk after showering and trying to scrub the oil off my hands. There’s something special about the strange collision of beach and city, sand and water and metal and glass, even if I haven’t got off on the right foot with Busan as a whole.
I’m drawn down to the water’s edge. My body is aching and my mind is tired but I walk alongside the breaking waves and the sound of them on the shore fills some kind of void in me left by the conclusion of this short adventure.