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Bicycle Ride to Jang-deung Beach, Yeosu Peninsula

Spring seems to be fully here, with the cherry blossoms beginning to bloom, and azaleas, camellias and other flowers brightening the landscape. As a matter of fact, there’s an annual azalea festival at Yeongchuisan (san = mountain) this coming weekend that I’m going to visit.

So, despite 3 inches of rain last Friday, I decided to take a bicycle trip Saturday down to Jang-deung beach here on the Yeosu Peninsula. My riding companions were a couple of the new teachers, Rob, a Scotsman, and Trevor, from Canada. Now, both of these guys are much younger than I (who isn’t?) and in much better shape (insert another rhetorical question here). Trevor, especially, is quite the athlete; he’s a dedicated football (soccer) player, rides his bicycle all over the place, jogs, plays tennis and who knows what else. Rob’s no slouch either. When they suggested the ride, I was all gung-ho. Even though it looked like a fairly long trek and that it would be my first time out on my bike in almost 6 months, I thought I’d be ok. Wrong! It turned out to be a 36-mile (60 km) round trip. I haven’t ridden that far in about 20 years. Plus, it was mostly up and down hills, hills which I mostly pushed my bike up (or maybe it was pushing me). I probably spent more time pushing than riding. And, as I said, it was the first time on the bike in quite a while, so my muscles were sorely taxed by the end of the ride. I’m still recuperating.

However, it was fun for the most part and the scenery was pretty nice. We made it to the beach and stopped at a small restaurant on the way back and had some delicious fish stew. By that time, though, anything would have tasted wonderful. I just wanna thank the young studs for waiting for me at the top of all those hills. At least they didn’t have to carry me back! Here are some photos of the ride.

First, here’s a map of the peninsula. The university, from where we started, is circled in red at the upper right and the beach is at the left center. Click for a larger image.

Here we’re getting prepared to start the trip from our dormitory. That’s Trevor on the left and Rob, already on his bike. My trusty steed is in the foreground.

Preparing for the bicycle trip

Beginning the bike trip

There are many small fishing towns and harbors sprinkling the coast. We all thought that it would be great to live in one of them as long as we didn’t have far to commute to and from work.

Yeosu fishing village

Fishing Village

There are, of course, many beautiful spots along the coast. Here’s a small sample.

South coast of Yeosu Peninsula

South Coast View

South coast of Yeosu Peninsula

South Coast Shoreline of Yeosu Peninsula

South coast of Yeosu Peninsula

Yeosu Peninsula South Coast View

South coast of Yeosu Peninsula

Yeosu Peninsula South Coast View

The above photo is actually the beginning of Jang-deung beach, which is out of sight at the bottom of the photo. Here’s a shot of the beach.

Jang-deung Beach

Jang-deung Beach

And, here’s a view from the end of the beach. As usual, it’s pretty hazy along the coast looking toward the sun.

Jang-deung Beach view

Another view from Jang-deung Beach

Rob and Trevor, showing no ill effects of the ride, mock my exhaustion. I took this shot just before I was put into the ambulance. :smile:

Rob and Trevor

Rob and Trevor

If you take a look at the map again, you can see that just to the east of Jang-deung there’s a small island called Baekyado (pronounced dough = island). Connecting the island to the mainland is this pretty little bridge. Quite a few of the islands are accessible by bridge, though many more require a ferry boat ride. Rob and Trevor are taking one of the ferries to another island this Saturday. I really wanted to go, but, like I stated earlier, I’m still recuperating and the rash I got on my, ummm, . . . well, you can guess where . . . is still bothering me, so no bike ride this weekend. The more sedate azalea festival beckons.

Baegya Island Bridge and Harbor

Baegya Island Bridge and Harbor

Our total trip time was about 7 hours, but that include dawdling on the way (the young guys waiting for the old guy to catch up) and stopping at the restaurant. I’m really looking forward to doing some other bike trips, especially later in the year when the bicycle muscles in my legs are in better shape. As always, then, more later.

Final Exams

We’re elbow deep in final exams and paperwork. Today and Thursday I have 3-and-a-half hour morning-to-afternoon sessions (11-2:30) sitting at a desk and giving final 5-minute, individual oral interviews to all of my students, asking the same questions over and over, ad infinitum, a boring and ineffective way of measuring student progress, in my opinion. Korean administrators seem to love this particular version of hell, since I had to do the same thing when I was in Andong. At least we have tomorrow, Election Day, off, more or less (we still have to make up the hours–sheesh). Then, there is more classroom assessment at the end of the week and into next week and more paperwork to submit and entries to make into the online grading system and . . . well, you get the picture. Eventually, it’ll all be finished near the end of next week, and then we have three weeks off. I’ll be off, of course, to Laos and Thailand.

I did manage to go bicycle riding this past Sunday under clear, sunny skies with another teacher. We sped down the back way into the huge petro-chemical complex (we didn’t go in), made our way up and over a large hill that separates it from the rest of Yeosu, and out to the Soho Yacht Marina area, where we stopped and ate a quick snack at one of the many seafood restaurants that dot the area. Unfortunately, on the way back he got a flat tire (no spare) and we had to walk our bikes a mile or so to find a bike shop that was open. They got him up and running in no time flat and we were able to continue our ride without further difficulty.

It’s about time that I get going to my early morning special intensive TOEIC classes (8 to 10 a.m.), where I can tell the students about their final exam (oral interviews, again) next week. More later.

Out and About in Yeosu

I haven’t been out and about lately on my bicycle on Saturdays because I’ve been doing some long runs in the morning, (well, long runs for me, anyway–see my post of last Saturday), so sacrificing my legs for the morning run kind of cancels out any trips over the ubiquitous steep hills of Yeosu later in the day. :roll: I don’t know which I prefer doing more–jogging for an hour-and-a-half or riding my bicycle all over the place. Anyway, I HAVE done some rides on Sunday, so here are a few photos from some of those trips.

First up is a visit to the west side of the Yeosu peninsula. This is about 5 miles from the university, and it looks like a beautiful area to take a motorbike ride some weekend. The road snakes its way up and down the coast, but it’s far too distant too enjoy on a bicycle (not to mention steep.) Unfortunately, my motorbike has a flat tire right now, but I hope to spend some more time in this area later in the summer.

Yeosu_WestCoast1

Yeosu is famous (or infamous, depending on your economic or environmental leanings) for it’s gargantuan petro-chemical industrial area on the north coast of the peninsula. Taking the bus out of town, heading toward Seoul, this area is spectacular at night, with all of the lighting and steam and what-not. That’s not necessarily a good thing, of course, but it would make for some great photo ops. I hope to get out there some summer evening (not all that far on the bicycle) and get some shots. Here’s a couple of daytime photos of a VERY small part of the area; believe me, it’s huge.

Yeosu_Petro2

Yeosu_Petro1

Korea’s “bullet” train, the KTX, is being extended to Yeosu in time for the 2012 Expo. Right now, the journey to Seoul by bus takes about 5 hours, but the KTX line should cut the trip time in half. Here’s a look at how the construction’s going so far (not too far from the petro-chem area).

KTX_Construction1

I’ve got a few more shots of my bicycle trips out and about in Yeosu, so I’ll post more of them later.

Bike Shop and Baseball Season

My former colleague, Stewart, who sold me my “new” used (fantastic, wonderful, superb) bike told me about a good bike shop, MTB Plaza, here in Yeosu, and where to find it. A few weekends ago, I took the bus to buy groceries at Lotte Mart and decided to get off the bus short of the store to go look for the bike shop. I found it; all the lights were on and there was an “Open” sign (in English) in the window. However, the door was locked. Hmmm, maybe everyone’s out for lunch (it was about that time). The next weekend, while riding the bike around, I stopped by the shop again. Same results–lights on, “Open” sign, door locked. Different day (Sunday) and different time. What the heck? Did the guy die in there and nobody’s checked on him in a while? I tried again today, around 11:30 a.m. I got there, walking, because I was going grocery shopping again, and, sure enough, all the lights were on. This time, though, there was a “Closed” sign in the window. I pushed on the door anyway, just to be sure, and . . . voila . . . it was open! Guess I’ll have to rethink what open and closed means. Unfortunately, the place didn’t have what I was looking for. 😕

Ok, I haven’t written much about the new baseball season, but it’s upon us. Seems like yesterday that the Yanks won the World Series, and I’m looking forward to another championship season. I was debating whether or not to subscribe to MLB TV again this year ($24.95 a month), but I guess there’s actually no debate, since the Pinstripers open the season in Boston against the rival Red Sox. Despite my awesomefully (new word) time-eating work schedule, I’m sure I’ll be able to work the Yankee games in somewhere. 😉

More later.

Summer

It sure seemed like it today, anyway, though I’m sure the high temperature was probably only a tad over 70. So, I thought I’d get out and let the bicycle take me for a ride, and I was sweating quite a bit and may have gotten a small sunburn. Love it! I wasn’t sure where my trusty transport would take me, but we ended up riding around the medina, across the wadi from my side of town. This is the first occasion that I’ve spent any amount of time there, and I ended up in places I haven’t been before.

What’s behind the door?

Doorway_1

Sunday is great for riding around, as the traffic is usually very light, compared to weekdays. Many of the pedestrians are tourists, mostly French from the conversations I overheard. I think sightseeing in the medina is more properly done by walking. There are a lot of things to see, and stopping every 5 minutes on the bike to take a photo gets old. It’s not that far from my apartment, though a complete walk around the old city would take a while. I want to get some souvenir shopping done before I leave for Thailand and Laos, so I’m sure I’ll make that walk soon.

Now, I’ve been in the upper reaches of the atmosphere while backpacking in the mountains of Montana, where the sky can be as blue as imaginable, but I have to admit the skies here can be as deeply azure as those in Big Sky Country. The color lends a good contrast to the beige of the old walls found in the medina. Below is one of the old gates (“bab” in Arabic) leading into or out of the medina. I didn’t have my guide book with me, so I don’t know its name, but there are many more, some of which are very impressive; I’ll get photos of them eventually.

Gate_1

One of the favorite resting spots in Meknes is a small, man-made lake. It’s lined with benches and quite a few people (I’m told) pass the time here, though it was very quiet today. Joggers, mothers with baby strollers and older children in tow, and couples talking in the shade populate this quiet area. Ducks and golden fish inhabit the lake. At one end is this crenellated wall, part of the old fortifications built by Moulay Ismail dating back to the 17th century.

Wall_1

All in all, it was an enjoyable couple of hours under the Moroccan sun. Montanans, with your low temperatures dipping into the teens today, are you envious? 😎 More later.

Bike Ride to Boufekrane

Since tomorrow’s forecast calls for a bit of rain, I thought I’d take a bike ride today. I didn’t really have a particular destination in mind, so I meandered out to Boufekrane, famed throughout Morocco for its quality beef. I’ve been through the small village a number of times as an automobile passenger, but I’ve never biked there. It’s about 10 miles out through rolling hills, and I’ve always thought doing a bike ride might be a bit tough. Actually, it wasn’t that bad; the most difficult stretch is just getting out of Meknes. It’s a pretty country, very green right now, dotted with vineyards (not yet in bloom) and fields devoted to growing onions and potatoes. Many of the farmers sell their produce along the road; on the way back I stopped and bought a couple of oranges from a couple of guys selling them out of their car. Very juicy and tart!

Flower_Field_2

I’ve had a few people ask why I don’t feature more people in my photos. Today’s ride provides a good portion of the answer. I stopped along the way to take a photo and there was a fellow sitting well out of the shot I took. He was sitting under a tree and I didn’t even see him until he came wandering over. Then he demanded money. I asked why. He said because I took his photo. (We’re talking in French, of course.) I told him he wasn’t in my photo. He still wanted money. I refused. He was a bit of a rough looking character, so maybe I just should have given him a few dirham and let it go. However, I get tired of people asking for money whenever I take a photo of something that has nothing to do with them. If I want to take a shot with someone featured as the subject, I always ask first and give them a little money afterwards if they ask for it. Not much money, the equivalent of 10-20 cents. But I get more than a few people who figure they own the landscape or the sunset or whatever. I always refuse. This guy finally got the message that he wasn’t getting anything out of me, so he wandered away to go back to sitting under his tree. I should have snapped a quick shot of him and taken off on the bike. 😀

Small_Bridge

Anyway, it was still a pleasant ride, but the round trip total of 20 miles has me a tad tired–makes it easy to daydream about the upcoming trip to Thailand. Bwahahahahahah! 😎 More later.

Bike Ride, High Speed Chase and Explosion

There, now that I’ve got your attention . . .

Sorry, I haven’t posted in a while. Busy? Lazy? A combination of both, I suppose.

I took a nice bike ride last Sunday into the countryside, pedaling about 6 or 7 miles outside of town. It was a gorgeous day, warm (hot, going uphill), with blue skies dotted by cumulus clouds. It was more like a late spring day than the middle of February. A lot different than Montana weather right now. I see that they’re “enjoying” sub-zero temperatures, at times reaching -25F (that’s -31C). I don’t miss it a bit.

Here are a few shots from the trip.

So, I rode around for several hours, stopping to take numerous photos of the interesting cloud formations that sailed across the deep blue skies. I probably had a total ride of 20-25 miles and was getting pooped when I started to return to Meknes. I decided, however, to take a short journey down one of the back roads to Rabat. It’s a two-lane highway with wide, paved shoulders, so it’s not a problem to ride a bicycle–lots of traffic, though. I had gone about 3 miles down the road when I decided to turn back because of an approaching storm.

I got about half way to the outskirts of Meknes when I heard a police siren ahead of me at the top of a hill. It looked like he had pulled someone over, perhaps for speeding. All of a sudden a farm truck peeled off the pavement and started barreling down a dirt track to the right of the main road, heading right toward me. I was on the pavement and in no danger. Right behind him came the cop car, siren wailing, lights flashing. I caught a brief glimpse of the truck driver’s face and he looked frightened, but determined, as they raced passed me. I watched them speed down the hill a ways, then the truck zoomed onto the pavement hell bent for leather and sped away in the distance, the squad car right behind him. Then, two police motorcycles joined the chase, zooming past me. Off the high-speed chase went over the top of the hill behind me, disappearing from view. Crazy.

I resumed my ride to the top of the next hill. All of a sudden, one of the motorcycles sped past me, heading for town, probably to get reinforcements, I thought. Then, I heard the police car siren again, and I got off the bike and turned around to see the farm truck careening up the road with the cop right on his tail and the other motorcycle not far behind. Away they raced toward Meknes and I thought it’s going to get pretty hectic trying to maneuver through the busy streets of the city. I never did see them again, though. What was the guy trying to hide? Smuggling, perhaps? A wanted criminal? I suppose I’ll never know, but it was a strange experience, like a Moroccan version of the Key Stone Cops. With all the traffic it would have been difficult to block him, but I still wonder how the guy ever got the truck turned around. Since it all happened so fast, I didn’t have time to take my camera out of my pack and snap some shots. Maybe the fellow will end up in the prison I stumbled upon earlier in the day.

You’re not supposed to take photos of this kind of subject, but I was at a distance and used my telephoto lens. Yes, there were guards in the towers, but I didn’t see any barbed wire surrounding the place as I rode past. I assume it’s a prison. Maybe it’s one used by the CIA for “rendition” purposes? (That should get a few page views from the NSA!)

Explosion? My water heater kind of blew up, gushing water all over the bathroom. It made a loud pop when it blew, sort of like a champagne cork. I couldn’t find the main shut-off valve and I was getting kind of frantic. I ran downstairs and got Brahim, the building super, to come help me, and eventually we found the valve. I’m lucky I was home when it happened. It hasn’t been fixed yet, but the nephew of the lady who owns the apartment (she lives in the Netherlands) is coming over sometime this morning to see what’s up with it. A fellow already came by and said that I need a new tank (obvious); now the only question is who’s going to pay for it. It should be the apartment owner, but I hope I don’t have to get into a hassle about it. In the meantime, my Peace Corps experience is coming in handy–I heat water on the stove for doing dishes and taking “bucket showers.” Not an undue burden, but a nuisance nonetheless. More later.

Fes, Bike Ride and Cartoons

Yes, I did go to Fes last Thursday to do the workshop with the Peace Corps volunteers. There were 10 participants, all sharp and eager, as most PC volunteers are. I do enjoy working with them whenever I can. It was my first journey in a Moroccan taxi, and it reminded me quite a bit of my bush taxi adventures in Benin during my time in the Peace Corps. Six passengers were crammed in, 2 in front (plus the driver) and 4 in the back, but it wasn’t bad since it’s only about a 45 minute drive from Meknes to Fes, and it only cost about $2. It was a beautiful day and I would have liked to stay in Fes for a few hours after the workshop, but I was lugging around 40 pounds of books and I had to get back to Meknes, since I was expecting a fax from the Embassy in Rabat concerning reimbursement for my trip to Marrakech some time ago to do a similar workshop. Below are a few pictures of the volunteers, and if any volunteers or friends and family want to see more, click HERE.

After a couple of days of cold and rain, yesterday was gorgeous–mild temperature (about 55) and fluffy clouds cruising across the blue sky. For some reason, when it rains and I stay inside, I find that my pants start shrinking. Perhaps it’s something in the water when I wash them (or in the pastries 😉 ). At any rate, I decided to get some exercise and take a bike ride into the countryside. With all the rain, the vegetation is greening up very nicely. I got kind of a late start, leaving around 2:30 p.m., so I didn’t go a long way out, perhaps 3 miles beyond the edge of the city. That’s not counting the 5 or 6 miles from my apartment to the edge of the city. I brought along my small, somewhat crappy digital camera, not my good Canon, so if the photos are not up to snuff, that’s my excuse. Here’s a few and there are a couple more on the Photo Gallery. This week’s weather is forecasting sunny skies and temperatures approaching 70 degrees, so I plan to make a more extended ride soon.

This young man is watching over his family’s flock of sheep. He looks pretty serious. There are quite a few people here who don’t like getting their picture taken. This kid was ok with it, but I gave him a couple of dirhams anyway.

According to an Indian newspaper, 4,000 Moroccans demonstrated in Rabat over the “cartoon crisis.” I’ve also read that one of the Rabat papers printed an editorial that slammed the French and called for boycotting their products, but another one actually published one of the cartoons and is now under investigation. I also saw this quote on the BBC News website:

“They want to test our feelings,” protester Mawli Abdul Qahar Abu Israra told the BBC. “They want to know whether Muslims are extremists or not. Death to them and to their newspapers,” he said.

No comment necessary. Meknes, though, has been quiet, as far as I know. There has probably been as much outrage over the football team’s early exit from the Africa Cup. More later.

Printer Ink, Fes and Vacation (of sorts)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but not because of laziness or hard work–there’s just been nothing to post about. I took a long bicycle ride out to Marjane Supermarket today, the Wal-mart of Morocco. It was a gorgeous afternoon, a bright sun in deep blue skies and temperature near 60. It felt a bit like a warm spring day in Montana. The reason I had to go out that far was because the ink cartridge in my printer was empty. I tried everywhere in the downtown area, but no one seems to have the correct cartridge for my printer. Marjane was my last hope, but they didn’t have it either. They told me to check the Marjane in Fes or Rabat. Sheesh. The store at which I bought the printer doesn’t stock parts for it. Pretty bad customer service, as they can’t even tell me where to buy the cartridge. It’s a bit of a hassle, since I print out loads of pages for my students. I can always put the documents on a memory stick and take them to the local internet cafe to print out, but it’s still a hassle. At least the scanner, which I depend on heavily, still works.

Well, lucky me, I get to go to Fes on Feb. 2 to do a workshop for Peace Corps volunteers. If the Marjane there doesn’t have the cartridge, then I’ll have to take the train to Rabat or Casablanca to see what I can find. I might have John look in the Rabat store for me.

After classes this coming Tuesday, the 24th, I’m off until Feb. 14. Next Thursday the public schools start their mid-term break, so my students can’t do their practicum, which has been rescheduled to the week of Feb. 7th. It seems, though, that the CPR also has no classes while the public schools are out–don’t ask me why, but I’m not complaining. More later.

Sheep and Fish

So, the New Year begins. My sort-of prediction that it might be a noisy and somewhat dangerous New Year’s Eve celebration turned out to be wrong. It was rather quiet–I didn’t hear any fireworks or sirens in the wee hours of the morning, though I conked out well before midnight. Hopefully, then, parties were confined to people’s homes and no one was involved in any fatal traffic accidents.

Next week is the Feast of Sacrifice, as I posted earlier. One of the religious traditions surrounding the Feast is that families who can afford to do so will buy a sheep, offering one third of it to the needy. Larouz is buying his this week, he told me on the trip to Rabat. I asked if he would slaughter it himself, but the farmer he buys from will do it. My students asked me if I had bought one, but I told them no, I didn’t have a place to keep it and feed it. They laughed, so I assumed they got my joke. They’re a great bunch of young men and women. They gave me a very colorful, fragrant bouquet of pink roses and red carnations as a New Year gift, a much-appreciated and thoughtful gesture. Many of them have invited me to visit their hometowns, one of which is Er-Rachidia, where I hope to be going at the end of the month or the beginning of February to give a workshop to Peace Corps volunteers. If I get to travel that far south, I hope they’re out of school (yes, there is another holiday of sorts coming up in February after they do another week-long practicum at the end of January). If so, it’ll be nice to know someone who can fill me in on where to sightsee.

I’ve also been hoping to take the new bicycle for a spin in the countryside, but the forecast is calling for rain the next three days. I’ve been told that December is one of the rainiest months, but it didn’t seem like we got all that much precipitation. Maybe January will make up for it. Today seemed colder than usual, and riding the bicycle to work at 7:30 this morning was a rather uncomfortable awakening.

I rode it back to the school this afternoon for the semi-monthly teacher/administration meeting. Usually one of the other English teachers is there to translate for me, but I was really a fish out of water today–I was the only one from our department attending, and the Arabic and French swirling into and around my ears left me rather bewildered. About the only words I understood were “photocopy” and “projector”, so I assume they were talking about lack of equipment or lack of funding to buy equipment. If there is anything important, someone will phone Larouz and let him know. Afterward, our very friendly and helpful Student Affairs Director, Fouad, told me that I really didn’t have to attend the meetings, especially if Larouz or one of the others wasn’t attending. Thank you, Fouad. I’ve never enjoyed this type of meeting anyway. More later.