Luang Prabang, Laos

3 11 2012

This place is awesome. Today I rented a trek mountain bike for the day and cycled outside of town to some lesser known waterfalls. There are some really popular ones, which I will visit in days to come, but for now just exploring the lesser known roads was fun.

It’s so nice to be on the bike again and I am almost as excited to get back to the States and ride as I am to do anything else once I’m there. The roads here were pretty good; there was little traffic and after a while I turned off the “bigger” road and followed a gravel road for about 4 km.

I saw so much random stuff today on a short bike ride that I’m still trying to grasp it. Where to begin? As far as on the bike, I cycled over a live snake, I almost crashed into a herd of cattle or water buffalo (not sure what they were), saw a man put a goat in something resembling a burlap sack, flip it on its side and then drive off with it straddling a scooter, and raced a kid (probably 7 years old) on an electric bicycle for the better part of a kilometer – he was fast!

Once I got to the hiking start for the waterfalls, I parked the bike and hiked up to the falls. It took me the better part of an hour to reach the top. The entire way I was swatting awake mosquitoes and random bugs. All was going smooth, until I looked down and had a spider the size of a deck of cards on my shirt, where I proceeded to flip out in the middle of the jungle almost rolling down the side of the mountain, haha (I laugh now but at the time I was screaming like a little girl). The falls weren’t that impressive, but it was nice to be in the shade for a while before heading back out on the bike and hitting up the hills again.

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Cycling Taiwan’s Central Cross-Island Highway

8 10 2012

It’s a bold statement, but Sunday’s ride was the best one I have ever done.

150km starting in Puli, the geographical center of Taiwan, over Hehuanshan followed by an epic 65 km descent through Taroko National Park. The route was simple: follow the provincial hwy 14 until the split and then continue along the alternate up to the top of Hehuan. Afterwards, connect with the 8 east towards Hualien.

Eight hours in total on the bike; it was insane, but awesome. Amazing roads and sights, basically everything you could possibly want for a good ride.

The climb, which basically started more or less the second I left the hotel in Puli, took well over 5 hours, and seriously kicked my butt. I’d be willing to say that about three hours in I thought I was doing amazing, and then I realized how much further I had to go, an extra 10 km that I wasn’t expecting, about 50km of climbing, brutal. Elevation I think played a role, and flashbacks to Nepal replayed in my mind. Crawl along for a few minutes, stop to breathe….

After finally reaching the summit, I snapped some photos and then began the descent into Taroko. Time was everything, so off I went.  There were two short climbs immediately after a 12km drop from Hehuan, the second of which was testing my mental limits. I made it over and was finally rewarded with the seemingly endless downhill.

The descent was filled with crazy turns, canopied roads, dangerously pitch black tunnels (which I basically rolled into walls to get through – not fun and really scary), a monkey gang which started to amass and forced an end to my photo shoot, beautiful scenery, construction, random gravel patches in the road (not ideal when coming around a corner doing 55km/hr) and absolutely stunning scenery.

Couldn’t ask for more. I’m beat, but it was amazing. I’m so happy I didn’t leave the island without doing this ride, I never would have forgiven myself. Enjoy the photos!

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Another great ride in Taiwan

4 10 2012

Tuesday morning I went out for one of my last bike rides in Taiwan. It was on some familiar roads, some of which were of the first that I explored on my own. Taiwan has some amazing cycling, and I am truly going to miss it.

I began by cycling out towards Longtan and then diving down into a valley by following the provincial highway 3. I turned off onto county highway 118 where I followed this until I reached another provincial hwy 7 (the main road going across the mountains in the north) and headed back into Dasi Township. I cycled back into Chungli / Ping Jen by following the county hwy 112.  In total I think the ride was just at 100km, not a bad start to the day.

It was an awesome ride with nearly no traffic once in the mountains. Hazy views of the mountains along with awesome lesser seen views of the backside of Shimen Reservoir are shown below.

Taiwan Cycling Trip

23 10 2011

One of the best and worst roads I've ever been on at the same time

I am back from a two-week adventure on bicycle around Taiwan. The trip was plagued with ill timed events and weather, leaving much of the decisions regarding the trip to be changed on the fly.

The riding around Taiwan was about as diverse and you can get. Great roads in the country, busy cities, construction, rolling hills, straight up mountains, epic descents, windy coastal roads, curvy national parks, and dangerous cliffs positioned directly after long dark tunnels. It rained all but 2 days.

At the end of the trip, I’m happy that I did it; and I’m happy that it’s over. The trip can’t even be compared to my journey across the US.

There is a page on my blog that gives a day by day summary with many more pictures.

I want to say thanks to the following people; their help was amazing.

So thanks:

  • Andrew K. – Providing so much useful information about roads and cycling in Taiwan; helping me get a place to stay at the top of He Huan Mountain; awesome help
  • Ralph – Letting me borrow his insanely detailed Chinese map books of Taiwan and route planning; oh and showing my countless roads in the area
  • Teresa – Getting me to and taking care of me while on Lanyu (Orchid Island)
  • Jered – For offering a place to stay and to pick me up in Taichung even though I never made it there
  • Oler – For helping me plan the route and general advice; helping book a homestay in Puli (lifesaver once I found it)
  • Jessie – For writing a ” In case you find me on the side of the road here are my vitals and call these people” letter in Chinese – Thankfully I didn’t need it
  • Liz – For hooking my up with an awesome hostel in Kaosiung (& Taitung, although that one fell through for reasons outside her control)
  • Chanel – Awesome English Teacher who convinced me to stay in her neighbor’s home who wasn’t home; will never forget that night
  • Mom and Dad – Full support although I’m sure they were worried the entire time
  • All my friends- Awesome support
And everyone else – Thanks. Looking forward to the next adventure, wherever it may be.

Cycling Taiwan

7 10 2011

Two week solo cycling trip begins now. Talk to ya’ll around the 21st.

New roads, Yingge and Sanxia

25 07 2011

The week was filled with lots of cycling along new country roads before class. The Taiwanese countryside continues to mesmerize me with its variety and beauty. Unfortunately, some of the best routes I found this week, were accompanied with a dead camera. As soon as I find these roads again I will be sure to have a working camera.

Almost ate it when I came over the top and found no more road

Road to the beach

Random temple on the way

Cool view from inside the temple

Sweet path I found

Sunday consisted of four of us going to a famous pottery town in Taiwan by the name of Yingge. A quick train ride put us in the center of town. After finding “Old Street”, we slowly browsed the myriad of pottery shops.

The crew deciding which direction to move in

Eventually, we stumbled onto a local stall which would let you make your own pottery for about $7 American. We attracted more than a handful of spectators to watch us fail at writing Chinese characters on the sides of our masterpieces. Can’t really beat that, and in two weeks, I can go pick up my fully glazed and lopsided cup/pencil holder/coin jar; a pleasant little memento of Taiwan.

Pottery Time

After some epic pottery making, we made out way down the road and stopped for lunch. Overpriced subpar food was surprisingly coupled with free pottery at the end of the meal. Sweet deal, although it took forever for everyone to decide on which item to choose. Post indecisiveness we flagged down a taxi to take us to Sanxia, a town a few kilometers away, known for the Tzushr Temple.

Poor pronunciation on my part led to a less than thrilled driver. Sounds, very similar to lasers found in a Star Wars film, were unfortunately blurted out after my attempt to describe a temple to the driver. I immediately regretted it and consequently was harassed by everyone in the car. Lucky for everyone we went by a sign to signal the right direction.

Once within the town, we wondered down to the temple and walked through a busy market street. The temple was under construction, but beautiful none the less. The detail within the temples here are absolutely amazing; it’s too bad that no one actually knows any of the stories behind them. After visiting the temple, we took our journey to the mountains. Our quest for a hike led us about one and a half kilometers away to a beat down shanty, where we believe to have found a dead body. Not really, but just take a look at the photo and see for yourself. Realizing our dreams of a hike were coming to an end we turned back towards town and chilled on a walkway along a river on the outskirts of town.

Crossing the river towards the mountains

No hiking up this way, only bodies

Chilling in the park

While failing to acquire a taxi back to the Yingge train station, we stumbled unto a ping-pong hall. The hall was not normally for community use, but when we asked if we could play a few games, the people there were awesome and let us borrow paddles and balls for a quick few rounds. Thankfully we didn’t have to play with anyone else in the room; I think they were training for the national team.

Scott and Allison playing ping-pong

Eventually, after some embarrassing games, we made our way to a convenience store, where we were able to phone a taxi. Our trip finally came to an end with a post train walk home, stopping by the local shaved ice spot; fresh mango on shaved ice with some sweet cream – delicious!




Cycling Guansi Township and Hiking Yangmingshan National Park

17 07 2011

This past weekend was finally filled with the adventures which initially led me to Taiwan. Saturday morning I set out on my trusty steed and rode south past Longtan into the mountains. After a few kilometers, I decided to pull off the main road and start exploring the countryside. I eventually settled on country road 118 in pursuit of an English translation mentioning something about paradise.

Some rice patties on the way out to the countryside

The roads started to get steep

Ah, 118 you were fun

Towards the top of the climb

Although I never found said “paradise,”after about 15 km of climbing, and exiting Taoyuan County, I decided to turn back around so I could make it back to work on time. The road had little traffic and was great for my first outing into the mountains. I was plagued with flat tires the rest of the day, one from a spike and another from fighting a pot hole at night, which I lost.

Sunday morning I woke up with the goal to get into the mountains and hike. After some quick searches, the easiest and closest would be just outside Taipei to the north. Yangmingshan National Park can be easily reached from Taipei using the MRT (Taipei Metro) and a bus transfer. I managed to convince two new people from the dorms to come with me.

Finally, after a long and surprisingly smooth trip to the park, we arrived just in time for the thunderstorms to roll in. Not today Mother Nature! Ponchos in hand, we embarked from Xiaoyoukeng and left for the trail leading to the summit of Mount Qixing.

Large stones led the way to the peak. Arrow bamboo flourished and was basically the only living plant in the area. We also passed numerous fumaroles at the beginning of our ascent. They were the result of past volcanic activity in the region and an awesome thing to see. However, the stench of sulfur permeated the lower areas of the trail and thankfully didn’t climb further up the mountain with us.

Yo I'm at Yangmingshan National Park!

Simple path to the top. Can you say stair master?

Getting into the trees

Final section to the lookout over Lengshuikeng

Once at the top, after fighting off some crazy locusts, we continued down the path to another peak before descending down toward Lengshuikeng. Beautiful scenery surprised us from time to time when the clouds let up.

Slightly wet at the summit

It was a good little hike to end the week. Happy to say I’m finally am starting to get out into the mountains. I hope to keep the momentum up and visit somewhere else cool next weekend. Any ideas?