Sleipnir had languished, relegated to being a beast of labor and nothing more. Back and forth, the same old routes every week — work, work, work. The whole point of owning a motorcycle is the feeling of freedom that it brings, and I was only using mine as a commuter vehicle. So when my friends Alisa, Jared, Kristina, and Sean mentioned they’d be glamping in Okgye Valley Friday night and hiking in the area on Saturday, I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to join up Saturday morning. To get there, I’d have to ride Sleipnir. Le sigh…
The connection to place, to the land, the wind, the sun, stars, the moon… it sounds romantic, but it’s true – the visceral experience of motion, of moving through time on some amazing machine – a few cars touch on it, but not too many compared to motorcycles. I always felt that any motorcycle journey was special.” – Antoine Predock
The area around Okgye is a favorite camping spot for Pohang folks and an easy drive from the city. You can reach the area by driving up Highway 7, but the traffic on the 7 is unpleasant. It’s a dirty, smelly, crowded drive, and not one I wanted to reacquaint myself with.
Motorcycle Ride to Okgye Valley
So Sleipnir and I went inland along country roads and found ourselves surrounded by crinkled hills and yellowing rice fields. The harvest was fast approaching — some fields had already been scythed and cleared.
The back-way to Okgye Valley is Route 69, an offshoot of the 68, and prime for the riding enthusiast. Traffic was nearly non-existent, and I guided Sleipnir through the bends and twists in the road as her wheels ate up the tarmac. Riding in the country is so different from city driving — therapeutic instead of stressing. The beauty of the Korean countryside only added to the euphoria, and I found myself leaving my sun visor up so I wouldn’t miss out on any of the colors.
Soon, the tarmac disappeared, and we found ourselves on a lane comprised of concrete slabs, bumping and jostling our way across the river bed.
The last section was perhaps a bit too ‘rural’ for a cruiser like Sleipnir. Concrete gave way to packed gravel, and the level drive gave way to a steep pitch up the side of a mountain. Luckily no traffic was oncoming, as there was nothing but the mountain on one side and a steep drop on the other. But we made it to the top, then gingerly rolled back down the other side.
Hike in Okgye Valley
My friends and I had some fantastic burritos for breakfast and cleaned up before heading to the trailhead. There is a pretty decent trail system back in the hills, with trails leading to pools, waterfalls, and mountain peaks. We chose a shorter trail ending at a waterfall, though an off-shoot carried on to a pretty treacherous-looking cliff-walk we elected to not try.
It’s amazing how stark the absence of city-noise can be once you’ve grown numb to the cacophony. We walked through a lush forest, with nothing but bird calls, the rustle of wind, and constant river-song to accompany the sound of our voices and the thumping of Sean’s walking stick.
It being mid-October, the leaves were just beginning to turn. Many trees remained green, while others had yellowed. We saw one vine maple turned a brilliant hue of red, a splash of crimson in the forest. Water levels were low, so we managed the trek in with minimal soakage.
We stopped for lunch on the way back at one of the several pavilions along the trail. Simple wood affairs, they offer shelter and a clean spot to sit for those looking to linger.
We set off for home, leaving Okgye Valley and heading to the coast before making our way south to Pohang. It had been a long day, but we were looking forward to dinner, board games, and a soccer match. As the highway disappeared beneath the wheels of Sleipnir, I found my mind still wandering the valleys of Okgye and Ha-ok. Remembering the winding country roads threading the valleys…
Feel like trying the route out yourself? Here’s the map on Naver, which will take you on the exact same roads I went on. Just be careful, the road from Ha-ok to Okgye is still partly gravel and can be dangerous if you’re riding.
Ever been into the Korean countryside? Where did you visit, and how was the experience? Share your stories in the comments below!