Arriving in Tōhokuj

After two days resting in Hakodate and taking the ferry to Aomori, I was back on wheels. In Aomori I did couchsurfinig for the first time in the trip as days were turning colder and cities bigger.

From Aomori I departed in the morning and did not have time to wander around town. I headed to Hirosaki, a famous castle town in Tohōku region. I visited the castle and the gardens which were beautifully colored due to the changing to autumn. There was also autumn flower festival were I had the chance to meet one of the workers who spoke spanish and is a teacher of Japanese in Argentina, so I asked her for a class of Japanese in exchange of a coffee. It was my firs real contact with the language from an educational point and was very useful as I got to understand the grammar a little bit and started to make an effort in learning the language.

From Hirosaki I had to cross the mountain range to arrive in the Kosaka region where I had my second flat tire of the trip just because not stoping to check problems. I put too much air in the tire to reduce friction and gain some speed but the bad condition of some of the parts of the bike paths pushed the inside of the tire out of this one and eventually flattened. After repairing I kept going until the next town, where I camp in the grounds of a temple in Hachimantai.

The next day I arrived in Morioka where I was doing couchsurfing again, but the host was busy until midnight so I had to wait until then. I decided to busk a little bit to kill time and was extremely good as shortly after I started a woman and her daughter just stoped by and ask me if I liked sushi and ended up in high class sushi restaurant having a really good time and sharing good moments. They also invited me to have lunch next day in their place which was in my way down. After dinner I went busking again and after making some good money a guy came and told me to go for some beers so again I took the offer and went for beers with him until midnight, that I met the host unfortunately not for long as next morning he had to study because it was exam period.

As promised the day before, I stopped by Koko’s house taking the invitation for lunch from the previous night. The weather was pretty bad that day and they invited me to stay one night so I did. Koko is a teacher of sushi (the one that have drawings inside) so she taught me some sushi and we shared some chatting with her family and friends along with some delicious food!



Enjoying Hokkaido and its people

So next day after Chiba’s farm, the knee was not doing pretty good but the day was kind of short, only 74km. And I was staying in Yoshi’s farm, another host from warm showers. So I could rest my knee a bit. But Yoshi’s family turned to be the most kind and welcoming thing that happened to me so far in the trip that I decided to stay 3 days in the dairy farm helping them milking and enjoying with this nice family. We shared some good food and stories and learn one from each other. Was magical! I went playing volleyball with Yoshi in the local meeting and cook some spanish tortilla for them. We made some fixing and improved the bike (Good Mama) placing a new handle bar and new seat bar. I got pretty good memories from here.

One of the days I went to Kussharo-ko (ko=lake) a beautiful place with some natural spa (onsen) I went skinny dipping in the onsen and in the lake. Was an incredible atmosphere of the mountains with the snow and and the lake with the onsen.

I went hitch hiking so I met some very nice people in the way there and back. The last person, Yukata, a farmer for wine and dairy, took me all the way back to Yoshi’s farm.

Pretty good days where I could heel my knee a bit and meeting some amazing people before keep going.

The next day continued my way to Kushiro already in the south coast where I could camp in a local park. Next day was not very good. I started the day with a flat tire. I spent half morning fixing and finally buying a new tire. After there I kept going this time with face wind which slowed me more than expected and ended up camping in the middle of a storm half way where I planed to arrive. Next day I could finish the section and get to Hiroo where I found an abandoned camping (at least for the season) with wood and fireplaces. Despite the wood being quite wet from the storm my desire of making a fire was bigger so after a while I got my perfect campsite set up, tent and fire where I also took the chance to cook.

The next two days where not so bad except for the face wind which made the days pretty slow and long until I made it to Tomakomai, only 4 days away from Hakodate if everything goes well.


The lonely north of the north.

Back from Rishiri in Wakkanai, I spent the night in a camping close to the city center. Next morning I packed early as usual and headed to the northernmost point of Japan, Soyamisaki (Misaki=cape). I was lucky as I got some back wind that helped me get up north. Then I started going southeast following the coast along the route 238 that runs all the way to Abashiri. This road it’s supposed to be one the loneliest roads on Japan so the ride was very quite and enjoyable. Also the sun helped! It took me 3 days to complete this section of 296km. First day I made it to Hamatombetsu from Wakkanai. I was very fortunate with the weather and got a beautiful sunset by a lake I also met some campers who gave me grapes and baptized the bike with the name of Mama chari which is commonly used in japan for really old city bikes. After a while I started to call her “good mama”. The second day I got again some wind blowing in the back so I could make the record distance so far of 131km. I went up to Tombetsu where I found one this covered bus stops very modern and cozy. It was that nice that I even played some music!! The third day was the worst as I got the typhoon blowing and poring pretty much all day so I made it to Tokoro just 20km away from Abashiri.

The day after I made it to Abashiri really early in the morning and kept going up to a farm in Koshimizu where Chiba a host from Wharmshowers let me a place to sleep and some good feed for the night. He is 62 and been riding all over the world for 40 years so we exchanged many stories and he gave me some advice about touring. I also helped him and his brother to collect some beet in the farm which was quite fun.

After the last few days of many kilometers, my knee was quite sore. So I think I will try to keep it easy the next few days so I don’t break apart.


Hello Japan, I came to ride you!

So after arriving in Sapporo, my first destination in Japan, I started to run the plan. Buying a bike and ride around Japan, one of the few ways to survive with the budget I have per month. First things solved, the accommodation. As I learned a little bit of esperanto for the congress in Seoul I decided to use the Pasporta Servo which is a hosting community for people who speak Esperanto. So I managed to stay in the house of a very friendly man which not only invited me some food but even came with me to help me in my quest of finding a bike to ride Japan.

I had many options but no much money As I spent most in Korea and the flight ticket.

So that left me with of course second hand and very little variety, basically Holland style bikes. After thinking and trying many I decided to buy the cheapest one 3500¥ and fix it my self. I bought some tools some parts and a few extras like touring packs and an odometer. The only problem of buying a bike that cheap, is that all the things you buy are much expensive than the bike itself, for example the touring packs 5000¥ second hand.

So The first plan that came to my mind was to go around Hokkaido island following the coastline. People was saying that was a bit latte for a bike trip in Hokkaido as the weather is becoming so cold but I had literally no choice if I did not want to come in spring. So I will walk on the line starting my trip in half October just before the snow hits in.

New tent, bike and life just starting. For the next few months my home will be my tent and my transportation the bike.

The first few days were quite hard a cold wave just hit Hokkaido and the temperatures were very low. My hands were freezing so bad that I had to buy warm pouches and placed them in my gloves. Took me 4 days to get to Wakkanai in the north part of Hokkaido island where I took a ferry to Rishiri island to climb the mountain and enjoy the island.

Rishiri must be nice in summer as in October the only good thing was that there was little people in the road and in the mountain. I decided to clim up for sunrise to Rishiri-zan, the mountain, so I started walking around 3am for a great rewarding peak (almost) sunrise. Already good packed in snow but just in the edge of needing equipment to go up the top.

I need to rush otherwise the snow will caught me and will be pretty hard to continue with the bike!


Relatos del Baekdu Daegan

Después del famoso parque Jirisan y unos expléndidos días, la realidad volvió a golpearnos y nos dejo como era de esperar el amargor típico de las castañas crudas, el del otoño. Despues de contemplar un amanecer con bastante viento, la lluvia entró en escena y nos acompaña despues de dos largos días.

Los días parecen mas largos aunque en realidad se acortan y después de caminar bajo la lluvia apenas sin provisiones para los próximos días, llegamos a un pequeño poblado que es la única civilización que veremos en varios días. No habiendo ningún lugar para aprovisionarnos decidimos usar la clásica técnica de alzar el dedo para ir al siguiente pueblo dónde poder comprar algunos víveres.

Conseguida la misión decidimos darnos el placer de comer en un restaurante algo caliente (y sin gastar gas) así que decidimos preguntar a los habitantes de la zona por un restaurante que se ajuste a nuestras necesidades, barato, con mucha comida y que este bueno, lo típico. Después de mucho preguntar aparece una de las personas que nos había ayudado en su flamante coche y nos invita a llevarnos a uno de esos lugares.

La persona, un monje, budista, de un templo coreano acaba uniéndose al festín y haciendo de anfitrión perfecto, ya que después de la comida nos invita a un café en un lugar famoso de la zona y nos acerca de nuevo al poblado donde habíamos dejado la ruta.

Después de haber disfrutado del placer de un lugar cubierto, volver a la lluvia y el frio no nos alienta nada a seguir el camino a pesar de estar bien aprovisionados y con el estomago lleno. Buscamos una Jeonja, lugar de recreo coreano que consiste en un tablado de madera con un tejado. Finalmente al pasar por el centro del poblado se vislumbra la construcción en un montículo del núcleo urbano. Nos parece sin duda uno de los mejores hasta entonces ya que esta cerrado por ventanas y tiene puntos de luz, y hasta wifi, un autentico sitio para el “glamping”(del ingles glamorous camping). Tras unos minutos aparece una de las señoras del pueblo hablando coreano de pueblo, por razones obvias, y nos hace una cruz con los brazos para indicarnos que de dormir en la Jeonja “nanai”. Con un tono un tanto agitado y cogiéndonos del brazo con firmeza nos lleva hasta una calle y nos señala una casa. Pareciera como si tuviéramos que dar parte a la justicia por haber hecho un mal uso de esa estructura. Finalmente un hombre de mediana edad sale de la casa tras llamar a la puerta y tras explicarle que hace frio esta lloviendo y solo queremos pasar allí una noche, nos acompaña a lo que intuimos como el “ayuntamiento” del pueblo o mas bien la casa de la cultura. Sin mediar muchas palabras y con algún que otro gesto nos abre una de las salas y nos señala el suelo para indicarnos que pasemos la noche allí. Tras asearnos y acomodarnos, aparece el hijo de una de las vecinas de la localidad para ofrecernos comida y Soju, licor típico coreano, charlamos con el y pasamos un buen rato mientras acabábamos de llenar el gaznate.

A la mañana siguiente nos ponemos en marcha con menos diligencia de la esperada ya que siempre cuesta mas trabajo dejar la comodidad de una morada que el frío y húmedo entorno de una tienda. La niebla se une al camino y pronto la lluvia hace lo mismo. La marcha se vuelve tediosa de nuevo. Las montañas de corea, que ocupan el setenta por ciento de la superficie del país, parecen estar dispuestas aleatoriamente, como si un cubo de canicas hubiera caído del cielo para formar innumerables picos por todo el país. El andar por la espina dorsal de estos no ayuda nada tampoco. Como si de un subibaja se tratase, vamos cruzando todos los picos que nos encontramos. No existen los tramos llanos en este camino.

Tras varias horas de camino, llegamos a una pequeña aldea donde decidimos parar para cocinar y recuperar algo de fuerzas mientras intentamos llamar al parque nacional para reservar un par de huecos en uno de los refugios ya que no esta permitida la acampada. Desgraciadamente, incluso habiendo llamado con varios días de antelación, el refugio en el que pretendíamos pasar la noche esta completo para la noche en la que teníamos intención de llegar. Así que tras mucho discutir en “coreanihs” (mezcla entre coreano e inglés) por teléfono, conseguimos reservar una noche antes de lo planeado, los que nos obligaba a acelerar el paso y a hacer largas jornadas con muchos kilometros si queríamos llegar a tiempo. Así pues proseguimos nuestro camino.

La lluvia, las cuestas y el cansancio se fueron apoderando de nosotros kilometro a kilometro, metro a metro. La mente divagaba en cualquier asunto simplemente por evitar la realidad del camino. Recuerdo al final del día, ver la silueta de mi cuerpo levemente dibujada por la poca luminosidad que el denso bosque dejaba penetrar y gritar “¡Veo mi sombra!”. Ambos comenzamos a gritar exaltados por el pequeño rayo de sol que nos ha tocado, como si de una luz divina o una aparición se tratase, entrando en un éxtasis momentáneo que aunque nos da fuerzas para seguir solo consigue distraernos de nuestra tarea principal, el camino.

Conseguimos acampar a escasos metros del final de la etapa prevista. Estamos totalmente devastados por la dureza de la ruta. Sin demorarnos, armamos el campamento en un pequeño llano con césped que da acceso a unas tumbas, sin duda nuestra mejor opción en el escarpado bosque. Montamos las tiendas y nos ponemos a cocinar. El menú, el de siempre, todos los ingredientes que tenemos puestos juntos con un sobre de sabor en polvos que le da un toque lujoso a la comida. Esta noche, fideos con lentejas, setas y sabor a “mango honey”. Antes de dormir realizamos nuestro ruidoso ritual de hacer palmas y ruidos raros a un alto volumen para disuadir a posibles visitantes que se quieran unir a la fiesta. En nuestro caso los Jabalíes y los osos no son bienvenidos. A veces hay que repetir el ritual si te despiertas durante la noche oyendo algún ruido extraño. Pero hasta el momento nuestras “fiestas” se han mantenido estrictamente humanas.

Al despertar la niebla sigue junto a nosotros que nos vuelve a acompañar durante gran parte de la mañana, aunque finalmente da paso a un radiante sol que hace el camino mas llevadero. Nos acercamos al parque nacional y las montañas van creciendo a medida que nos acercamos y con ello disminuyen los puntos de agua y nuestras energías. Gran parte de la mañana recorremos amplias colinas de hierba alta y el camino se hace cada vez mas estrecho. El matorral silvestre se ha apoderado de todo al no tener arboles que les impidan nutrirse del astro rey. A pesar de no llover, el rocío acumulado en las hojas de las plantas se convierte e una ligera lluvia que acaba mojándonos de pecho para abajo prácticamente como si hubiéramos cruzado un río.

El proceso se repite por dos largos días de mas de diez horas de camino en el que partimos al alba y llegamos con las ultimas luces del día. Subir, bajar, acampar, cocinar y dormir, se convierten en las únicas palabras de nuestro vocabulario.

Finalmente, conseguimos llegar al refugio en la fecha esperada. Al ser “chusok” (día de acción de gracias coreano) recibimos gran hospitalidad por parte de los otros senderistas que hasta nos ofrecen vino blanco, todo un lujo en un refugio de montaña.

Tras una noche cálida en el interior, nos queda un ultimo tirón, unos veinte kilometros de senderos de montaña para poder salir del parque nacional. Salimos como de costumbre un poco mas tarde de lo planeado pero pronto cogemos el ritmo. De nuevo el mal tiempo nos acompaña, una espesa niebla y un fuerte viento que esquila las laderas de los picos mas altos son los protagonistas del día. Aunque el camino se hace largo la motivación de llegar al final de una dura etapa se sobrepone al cansancio físico. La mente ya entrenada durante los últimos días, desconecta los cables del dolor y del cansancio dentro del circuito central para no retrasar mas la misión de llegar al final del trayecto.

Siete horas después de un ritmo frenético sin apenas pausas, conseguimos llegar a la carretera de montaña que limita con el parque.

Estamos totalmente devastados en un estado de embriaguez creado por el esfuerzo físico y el fruto de la victoria.

Con la suerte y la hospitalidad propia que nos viene rodeando, conseguimos un viaje gratis para el pueblo mas cercano donde poder reponer vivieres y pasar la noche.

Han sido ocho duros días de camino intenso por las montañas de Corea. Ocho días en los que hemos recorrido casi 140km de innumerables picos, subidas y bajadas. Ocho días que se sintieron como trescientos sesenta y cinco en los que vimos las cuatro estaciones, amaneceres y atardeceres, pasamos sed, hambre, cansancio y felicidad. Ocho días que culminan en un camping de pago en el que la hospitalidad local se apodera de la situación saciándonos con manjares que no habríamos podido ni imaginar. Ocho días que cierran mi etapa en el Baekdu Daegan pero que son solo el principio de muchos de mi gran compañero de aventuras Eloy.


De vuelta al camino…

De nuevo en Baekdu Daegan, esta vez con unas condiciones mucho mejores, el tiempo es perfecto para caminar, el otoño ha llegado y los colores de los arboles llenan la paleta del pintor. También cuento con la compañía de Eloy, que hace ameno e interesante cualquier momento del día. Y por ultimo la guía del sendero que tiene Eloy la cual hace mucho mas fácil la planificación, las paradas, los puntos de agua, etc. El paisaje del parque nacional de Jirisan es precioso, las verdes faldas de las montañas se decoran con los lunares rojos de las hojas como si de un vestido de gitana se tratase. El cielo celoso, hace lo mismo conjuntando los lunares blancos con el celeste de su traje y ambos van juntos a exhibir sus galas en la feria de otoño, que se puede disfrutar desde los muchos picos que pueblan este parque nacional.


Jeju island and Olle gil (trail)

So after 17 in korea’s biggest island, Jeju, I am in the plane flying back to the mainland! In these days here I got to meet wonderful and kind people, and to enjoy the island natural landscapes. The first few days while I waited for Eloi, a friend I met in Busan, to start a trail around the island, I explored the surrounding area of Jeju-si (main town in the island) and went surfing to the south part of the island. While surfing I met a guy who invited me to his guesthouse and we had a very nice nice time.

Once Eloi arrived in the island we got ready for the adventure to come, the Olle-gil trail. The path goes around the island crossing the main hotspots and many of the Oreums (small volcanos) for over 400km. As we were a bit short in time, we decided to finish the 21 paths in 14 days, so most of the days we had to walk more than 1 section per day. So we had to keep the average over 25km per day.

While walking around the island we got to see some beautiful beaches in the north part of the island specially, some wild and unexploited areas in the west part, in there where more cliffs, waterfalls and rivers, and in the east part Udo island, and some incredible volcanoes and craters.

We could not leave the island without visiting the highest mountain of Korea, mount Halla with 1950m altitude.

We camped most of our way except for two days in Segwipo due to a typhoon alert and 2 other days while we went to Halla mountain. The rest of the days we slept most likely in a Jeonja (Korean shelter structure to rest) or set up the tent. Also on day 2 we slept in a monastery under construction as we had lot of rain the previos night and we needed a dry place.

Over all we walked 380km counting mount Hala expedition over the 14 day trip.

We also enjoyed traditional food from Jeju, as raw fish, rice cake balls, or the typical noodles soup with black pork.

The next stop is going back for a few days to the Baekdu Daegan trail that I had to drop last month. This time We will start from the south part, the Jirisan national park.


Back to nature!

After Busan, I went for a quick check to the towns of Pohang and Gyeongju before heading to Jeju island. Pohang it is a coast town with nothing specially interesting but have nice beach and views of the bay, also many parks around the coastline.

On the other hand, Gyeongju it is a very historic city, capital of one of Korean kingdoms for a long period. It has many tombs and historical remains and also a very nice historical museum where you can get a pretty good idea of the importance of the city.

About 40min bus ride from the town you can find a beautiful budist temple called Bulgoksa which is also situated on the perimeter of a national park with many hikes around. Unfortunately the temple it is very popular and large numbers of groups visit it. The temple opens at 7.30h so you have like 1.30h to see it quietly before the crowd show up. Walking around the tombs and the park it is very nice and pleasant so I totally recommend it!

Also in this two smaller towns I could feel that the people was warm and kind. I got invited to a coffee the night I arrived with a very kind man and we shared some nice words and gestures as the conversation was not very fluid.

The sunrise the next morning was beautiful and despite the industrial view the landscape was amazing.


Busan: many mountains city

Has been almost 2 weeks since I arrived to Busan. I have been most of the time working for accommodation in a language cafe. My task was basically talk english with the students and help them with their speaking and listening skills. The only problem with it was that the schedules are a bit inconvenient depending on the shift. I got to visit some mountains and temples around and of course the main beaches in town. The name of Busan in Korean means Bu- Many and San-Mountain so you can get an idea of the city.

The main things you should visit if you stay here for a week are the following:

City highlights:

  • Gukje Market
  • Jalachi fish market
  • Millak raw fish Market
  • Seodong Maze market
  • Dongrae traditional market
  • Pusan tower
  • BIFF square
  • Yeongdo Bridge
  • China town
  • Gamcheon Culture village
  • Dongbaek island (APEC house)

Beaches and parks

  • Songdo beach (cable car)
  • Dadaepo Beach (sunset beach)
  • Gwangalli Beach (Bridge)
  • Haeundae Beach
  • Songjeong Beach
  • Yongdusan park
  • Guengmang park Botanical garden
  • Busan citizen park

Hikes and Temples

  • Igidae Coastal walk
  • Geumjeong mountain fortress
  • Jangsan mountain
  • Jangsan seongbulsa Temple
  • Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
  • Samgwansa Temple
  • Beomesa Temple

The city also have a good university atmosphere so you can find party and cheap food pretty easy.

Some pictures here

View from top of the Jang san mountain
Goanmiongsa temple
Haedong yonggungsa temple
Geumjeong mountain fortress
Songjeong beach