South Korea by Motorcycle
New Zealander Gareth Morgan finds much to admire in the land of the morning calm
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More than 70 years ago I rode a tiny two-stroke motorbike along perilous shingle roads on New Zealand's scenic South Island. I reveled in the feel of the wind ruffling my hair (no safety helmets in those days).

The bike was belt-driven, similar to the ones that British Army dispatch riders used in World War I. When its leather belt became wet or oily -- as it often did -- it slipped, bringing the machine to a high-revving standstill. It was a real pain in the saddle.

Motorbike technology has come on a great deal these days, as New Zealand money guru and travel writer Gareth Morgan would agree.

This month 52-year-old Gareth, his wife Joanne, 54-year-old farmer Dave Wallace, and 52-year-old motorcycle dealer Brendan Keogh, have been doing a circuit of South Korea on their motorbikes.

They are biking around Korea between Sept. 18 and Oct. 15. They began their journey from Seoul, and according to their itinerary, passed through Andong on Monday and are currently in Gyeongju. Next week Korean readers should look out for them as they travel between Daedunsan and Gunsan.

They are scheduled to complete their Korean journey by returning to Seoul on Oct. 13.

Gareth Morgan, who last April gave NZ$47 million (U.S$30 million) from his fortune to charity, has been gobsmacked by South Korea's progress since his previous visit to the country eight years ago.

Even in the countryside, South Korean living standards have just catapulted over the last couple of decades, he recently wrote in an article on his Web site.

Gareth Morgan says he sees many similarities between Korea and New Zealand.

Both countries are isolated geographically, but Korea's isolation has been strengthened by a desire to maintain its own cultural identity, "despite being in the shadow of its powerful and often ambitious neighbours."

He says Koreans and Kiwis love hiking in their countries' many scenic and moutainous national parks, and remarks on "the strength of middle-aged to elderly Koreans who cheerfully climb past you, loaded with twice the amount of gear, and eager to demonstrate...their superior fitness."

Obesity, a problem for many Western nations, is no problem in Korea, says Morgan, adding: "Let's just say you don't see many American jumbo-style physiques in South Korea."

Readers can follow the teams' progress on their blog and see their photographs here.

Seventy Years in Journalism

2006/09/26 오후 6:07
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