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Meat pies and BBQs: Jaeseon Kim meets the locals

Alia Parker's picture
Jaeseon Kim hangs with the locals holidaying at Woodside Beach. Cycle Taveller

When Jaeseon Kim from South Korea first decided to cycle along the coast from Melbourne to Sydney, he spoke very little English. But he wasn't about to let that hold him back. Now, 1,550km later, we sit down with Jaeseon as he confidently tells us about his first ever bike trip.

“My English was terrible. I just walked into a bike shop and said, 'I want go to Sydney',” he says laughing over an 'Aussie burger' at the Woolpack Hotel in Redfern.

After searching all the bike shops in Melbourne, he said he was lucky the helpful guys at Brunswick Street Bike Shop understood exactly what he needed, setting him up on a Vivente World Randonneur complete with Ortlieb panniers.

Jaeseon Kim from Korea bicycle touring Australia. Cycle Taveller

And then he was off, embarking on a journey that would open his eyes to bicycle touring and plant dreams of cycling around the world. It's was a journey he had to keep hidden from his family, as his parents were fearful for his safety following media reports of the deaths of two South Korean nationals in Australia in two separate incidents in 2013.

“My parents think I live in a hotel,” he says, adding he will come clean to them when he is home and they can see he is safe; he has a flight booked for the following evening. Even so, he says his parents will need to accept that he needs to live his life. He doesn't want to just exist. He says this with all the passion of bicycle-touring high.

“Korean people just work, work, work, die,” he says. “Australian people enjoy life.”

It's through bicycle touring that Jaesoen got to meet and hang out with the locals, not only creating memorable experiences, but helping him improve his English as well. And then there was the chance to taste the local cuisine.

One of his most memorable experiences happened right near the beginning of his ride on Phillip Island, where he met Angus and his family. Both of a similar age, Angus took Jaeseon camping, swimming, taught him how to play cricket and invited him to a good old Aussie BBQ. He also helped him find information on where to cycle on his way to Sydney.

Weeks later, as Jaeseon cycled near the hamlet of Narooma on the NSW south coast, Angus drove up to see how he was going. It was the Australia Day long weekend and Angus had a meat pie for him.

Another great time was had at Woodside Beach, where he bumped into a group of families camping when he went to fill up his water bottles. They invited him around for a BBQ, a few beers and took him under their wing.

Cycling through the farmlands in Victoria. Cycle Traveller

“Tourists don't meet many locals,” says Jaeseon, comparing travelling about from hotel to hotel with a suitcase to being out on a bicycle on the open road.

He said he met so many friendly people on his journey, but also learned that you do need to be wary of some. The unfortunate experience happened in Orbost, Victoria, on a 45 degree day as Jaeseon stayed for a few days while waiting for a nearby bushfire to clear. He was with an Israeli cyclist camping in the bush when they bumped into another South Korean cyclist who was riding from Perth to Sydney. The man was staying with a local who lived at a nearby warehouse. Rain was on the horizon, so the group packed up and moved.

The local man was extremely friendly, showing them around and taking them to collect oysters. However, in retrospect, it appears he may have suffered from an illness as well as a likely marijuana dependence as the following day he did not remember who they were and, threatening them with a knife, chased them away. The group returned later that day with two German cycle tourers to help them collect their belongings, which were still inside the warehouse. Fortunately, the man was fast asleep and didn't hear them.

It's an experience, which although scary at the time, Jaeseon is able to laugh about now, especially because he met so many generous people and saw so many beautiful sights.

Camping in Australia. Cycle Traveller

“The very best spot was in Jerroa,” he says of the NSW beachside town. He also enjoyed riding through the rural farmlands and their rolling hills and paddocks full of sheep.

When he wasn't staying with locals, Jaeseon used an app called Wiki Camps Australia to find places to stay. He says it was very useful.

Next on his radar, Jaeseon says he would like to cycle through South Korea before setting off to ride Europe and beyond. If there's one thing his journey has taught him, it's that he wants to see the world and get the most out of life.

Images from top: 1. Jaeseon, second from left, hangs out with an Aussie family at Woodside Beach. 2. Riding the East Gippsland Rail Trail. 3. At the beach. (Photos copyright Jaeseon Kim.)

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