This year I plan on taking weekly bicycling/hiking + camping adventures around Korea with my trusty sidekick Holly. For the first trip I decided on Namyangju which is a city located about 35-40 km east of Seoul. I chose this place mostly because I wanted to go somewhere familiar on our maiden voyage so it would be easy to find a place to camp. Namyangju, and the Doomoolmeori area in particular, is a place where I’ve spent a lot of time. In the pictured trailer (and a small backpack that I wear whilst riding) I can pack Holly, my tent, sleeping bag, stove, and all the gear and food we need for a couple days.
After waking up early and setting up/packing the trailer we were finally on the road at about 9 am. We left from my house, which is located pretty close to the Han River, and got on the river bike trail heading east. Along the way, we stopped several times at parks located right on the trail, to give Holly a chance to run around and release some anxiety (and eat some snacks). Then we would go another 10-15 km, and stop again. The Han River path is extremely nice and takes us all the way out to Namyangju (and beyond), which makes things really easy to plan for. Besides the extra weight behind me, I didn’t experience any problems along the way.
When we got to Namyangju, instead of going to the Doomoolmeori area mentioned above I thought “The Garden of Water” (물의정원) would be quieter and a better place to set up camp. Upon arriving, I set up the tent and made camp.
There is a lot of open area here so I took Holly out for another session of fetch, and then broke out my stove and boiled up some water to make instant noodles and coffee. Everything was going quite smoothly, but I could tell at around 7-8 pm that we were going to be in for a cold one. I checked the forecast and it showed a low of -4 C, or about 25 F. Not too bad, but a little colder than I expected. Anyway, I brought plenty of warm gear and we hunkered down for the evening.
During the night I was very proud of Holly. I was worried about her as she is generally quite sensitive to temperature extremes, but she handled the cold better than I did!
After sleeping for a couple hours we were awakened by a middle-aged couple walking on the path about 15 feet from the tent. They continued and sat in a wooden swing that was about 30 feet away, and had a conversation. I could hear their voices, but couldn’t make out exactly what they were saying. They were not being particularly loud or annoying at all, surprisingly, and I was able to get back to sleep. A few minutes later I heard the creak of the swing as they got up and started to exit the park. This time they noticed my bike and tent, stopped, and had this conversation:
Woman – What a nice looking bike and tent.
Man – Yes, it really is, a nice setup. I wonder if there is a person in there.
W – Of course there is.
M – I don’t think there is.
W – Sure, there is.
M – I really don’t think there is.
A few moments later I could hear tuff guy ajeossi approaching my tent, and he shook the top lightly back and forth a few times. I didn’t make a peep, but Holly let out a slight but convincing growl plus snore mix, and they just walked off under the moonlight like nothing unusual had just happened. I drifted off to sleep thinking about the amazing diversity in humans – as this is probably the last thing I would ever do.
Anyway…the rest of the evening was fine, and despite the cold we actually slept for about 9 hours! I guess it was all that biking. We woke up at about 6, made a quick cup of coffee, then headed over to the river to enjoy the peaceful morning twilight, reflections, and sunrise.
Shortly after sunrise the temperature quickly rose from -4 to -3, and we got back on the path heading back to Seoul. Namyangju is a very biker-friendly area as there are several restaurants, cafes, and bicycle gear shops right on the path. I stopped and got a nice bibimbap before continuing on to Seoul.
Our next and last major stop was in the Gwangjin (광진) area which is one of the easternmost districts of Seoul. We got out, had some coffee and run around time, and took some pictures. I love the midday reflections on the river and traveling by bicycle lets me get to see many areas that I would otherwise overlook. This bridge area by the river is so nice.
After a relaxing break here, we carried on for a few more hours and eventually made it home. For the first trip I would call it a major success as we had a lot of fun, and saw some beautiful sights along the way. It was nice to test out some new gear and get a better feel for how it works. Camping is a lot like photography in that way, you have to go out there and see what works or doesn’t work for you and make adjustments from there. They always say that you pack your fears, and mine was water going into this trip. I brought about 4 liters, and it was great to see how far that would get us. I am also thinking about bringing my camera gear in the future. Maybe not though, the iPhone does just fine for about 95% of situations and is obviously much lighter.
We are looking forward to our next camping in Korea adeventure. If the weather holds out we will head to Ganghwado tomorrow, bike around and hopefully camp. Hope you enjoyed it, and if you want to follow our trips more regularly I will be posting updates on Instagram. See you next time!
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