Cycling Taiwan

Day 1 – Chungli to Dongshih 130km – First Day Jitters

I left the dorms around 10 am on Friday morning. A nervous day followed. I didn’t have a true route planned for this section, and the jitters were getting the better part of me during the days leading up to the ride.

Leaving the dorms
Chungli Sunflowers
Beetle Nut Palms and the foothills on HWY 3
Liyutan Reservoir in Miaoli off HWY 3
Another view from the top of a roller

I decided to take one of my favorite local roads out to Longtan before turning onto HWY 3 and heading south. Unfortunately, the road was in the process of being repaved. My pleasant cut through just became a little bumpy, no worries. The worker flagged me forward and on my way I went. About 30 m down the road a truck fired up and started moving in my direction. I slammed on the brakes and turned around, racing to get out-of-the-way. I was too late. The truck passed me and in the process sprayed a healthy layer of tar all over me. Good thing I decided on a white jersey for the trip, as it was now an awkward brown. If only I had known this would have been a form of foreshadowing for the rest of my trip.

I arrived in the late afternoon in Dongshih and stayed at the only hotel in town. It was a long stressful day, but good to have behind me and get onward with the rest of the trip.

Day 2 – Dongshih to Puli 93km – Unexpected climbing and news 

The day was filled with some unexpected climbing. Nothing too serious, a fun 8km climb around 8% at the beginning, then an awesome descent before heading back into the foothills. It was a relatively short day and I arrived in Puli early. Thankfully this was the case; as my homestay was nearly impossible to find. After being rejected from multiple hotels due to the Double Ten Day holiday, I was finally able to secure a map to my homestay.

Leaving the valley in Dongshih
Starting into the mountains
The first climb – sweet view
Getting it handed to me on this climb… started in that valley way down there
Top of the 1st climb – sweet view
Farmers at the summit
Rolling through a village on the way to Puli
The first of many hand drawn maps throughout the trip

The spot was actually about 9km outside of Puli proper and in a village called Taomi. Once I arrive, I knocked on the door only to find no one home. I called the phone number and heard the phone rang from outside; if nothing else I was at the right place. A woman finally picked up, but not from inside the house. She must have had the calls forwarded to her. I tried letting her know I had arrived, but due to my poor chinese, she just hung up on me. I sat outside for about 15 minutes and the she rolled up on a scooter and let me in.

After showering, I texted some friends back in Chungli to let them know all was well. I soon found there was a group stopping through downtown Puli and would be there for an hour or so longer before heading up into the mountains. Needing food, I hopped on my trusty steed and heading back into town.

I met up with everyone for about 35 minutes. They unfortunately delivered some bad news to me. There had been a landslide between Hualien and Taroko Gorge. The arterial road between the two cities was closed. F%$#. All of my plans, hook-ups, free places to stay, routes, hikes, rafting, thrown out the window. There was no point climbing He Huan Mountain (the highest road in Taiwan) if I would be stuck at the bottom with nowhere to stay or go.

The cycling shop in Longtan gave me a gift certificate to a famous chocolatier in Puli called 18 C. I rolled by, picked up a little pack of delicious chocolates and then headed back to the homestay to reroute my trip. The rest of my evening was spent trying to figure out how I could get to Taitung by the 14th in time for my ferry to Orchid Island.

Day 3 – Puli to Chiayi City 128km  – Frustration with the West Side

I started the day climbing up to Sun Moon Lake in misty conditions. Pretty area, but the weather took away some of the magic that I had remembered from completing the swim there a few weeks prior.

Sun Moon Lake! Fog!
Chilling at SML

Once south of Sun Moon Lake, I stopped at a random shop and had probably one of the best breakfasts that I’ve ever had in Taiwan. Bacon dan bing (think like an egg pancake), milk tea and a potato carrot chutney – delicious.

Statue of someone and my trusty steed
In the mountains

I then headed south towards Chiayi on some relatively flat fast roads. I found an awesome canopied road where there was some sort of festival going on. I grabbed some fresh pineapple and chilled off to the side for a snack before getting into the city.

Flat and Fast = sweetness!
Fun street fair
Yum
Awesome canopied road and blurred picture

Soon after the rain came in, and wouldn’t leave me alone for the rest of the trip. About 60 to 70 km into my ride, my computer malfunctioned and deleted all of my data to that point. Already frustrated due to poor weather and traffic conditions, I was not too happy when this happened.

About 30 km outside Chiayi City, I was flagged down by some other cyclists walking on the side of the road. I couldn’t understand what they were saying, but it was clear after I took a better look. One guy had a flat and they needed a tube. No problem, I was carrying three and wasn’t too worried about flatting.

I pulled over and handed the guy a tube, some tire levers and my pump and am kind of like go for it. Him and his buddy just give me blank stares. They don’t know how to change a flat tire. Ok, so I took off my bag and changed the flat for the guy myself and sent them on their way.

It irked me quite a bit for some reason. Both of these guys were riding high-end road bikes; probably around $3000-4000 US for each and they wouldn’t spend the extra $35 on a pump and tube. That or, at least, spend 20 minutes of time to learn from an LBS how to change a tube. Oh well, it won’t be me stuck on the side of the road again, and I hope that it was a good lesson for them both. Cycling isn’t much fun when you have to push your bike countless kilometers into a town where you can find a shop.

I rolled into Chaiyi City around 4:30 in the afternoon and was able to find my hostel with plenty of time to spare before the sun finally faded. That night I wondered around the city and had some pretty delicious Japanese food while trying to figure out how to make it to Kaosiung the next day.

Day 4 – Chiayi City to Kaosiung 125 km (+ metro) – Cities Suck

The day was a make or break day. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it Kaosiung, but knew that if I could make it to Tainan by lunch, there was at least a possibility. On the map it looked doable, but I needed an early start and to not get lost.

I love cities. They’re great. But, and it’s a big one, I do not like them from a cycling standpoint. It’s easy to get lost in an unfamiliar city, and doing so with a long day ahead of you is not too enjoyable. And thus, this is exactly what happened trying to leave Chiayi City.

After about 45 minutes I finally found a road that I believed would take me far enough south to connect with the HWY that I needed to be on. This unfortunately wasn’t the case, but the road did dead-end into another HWY. This one was different for some reason and I didn’t know why. It had a red triangle instead of the usual blue. After a few minutes of consideration with what this meant and checking maps, I decided to go for it. Still early in the morning, there wasn’t too much traffic.

Immediately after getting onto the road I realized what was different about this. It’s like Taiwan’s version of the autobahn. Yep. I’m an idiot, but the road had like an extra lane just for a shoulder and I needed to be on it for about 4 km to merge with the actual road I had been looking for all morning. So, I rode on and got off as quick as possible.

Of course, this wasn’t without some traffic. One semi, going the opposite direction, actually started honking at me from far away and by the time he had started to pass me he was just giving me a no no gesture. “You shouldn’t be here,” his look and fingers said and I knew that to be true.

I arrived in Tainan around 11:45 am for lunch. I was stoked to know that somehow I made it there before noon. Once finally on the right road, I was able to maintain a quick pace. I scarfed down some MSG laced noodles from 711 and then continued south. Tainan was incredibly busy with traffic, but was relatively smooth getting through considering so.

The rest of the trip to Kaosiung went quickly. It was a fast day on the bike and nice to actually know I was going to make it with plenty of time to spare. Once I arrived in the city, I got incredibly lost… again. I called Alvis – my hostel hook-up. He told me I was still in the north and my best bet would be to get on the MRT and take that south and that most people cycling tend to get lost trying to follow the 17 through the city.

Stubborn, I didn’t listen and tried to make it there without riding the metro. After about an hour and a half of rolling down random streets, the once clear HWY had now disappeared within the city and I was lost. I finally hopped on the metro and Alvis met me at the station to ride me to his spot. I never would have found this place, seriously tucked into a tiny little side street.

Chilling at a cafe in Kaosiung
Welcome Sam!
A real washer – no sink tonight!
Cool hostel

Alvis was great! Him and his wife welcomed me with open arms and set me up with a washer to do laundry. Awesome! I don’t have to do my laundry in a sink for the first time! A map of the area and some suggestions on food and whatnot. I ended the day wondering around the small neighborhood where I was staying and then chilling at the hostel listening to Jack Johnson.

Day 5 – Kaosiung to Jialeshuei 123 km – A New Friend

It’s always hard to get out of bed when it’s raining outside. This was especially true today, knowing very well I was going through the port side of town at the beginning of my ride.

I made the mistake of eating a sausage egg and cheese mcmuffin at McD’s before starting on my ride. A solid stomachache followed me for the first 30 km before I felt normal again.

Rough roads and a lot of rain made for a dirty, wet morning. Getting doused by trucks left me a sloppy mess. Once outside the city by 40 or 50 km I stopped at a random Hi-Life for some food.

Just chilling inside another round islander pulled up. He was on a road bike, which was a little unusual, but after the morning, I wasn’t in the mood for another photo-op. Seriously, everyone wanted to take a photo with me whenever I stopped, it was kind of annoying. I was shocked none the less when he walked through the door and offered to buy me a coffee. What?!

The standard cocktail conversation ensued. What do you do? I just retired from SRAM. What!? THE SRAM – the cycling component powerhouse?? Yep. The dude, literally was there for SRAM’s all-star rise in the past few years. Obviously, I was hooked. We road down to the split across the island, about 50 km before we went our separate ways. Really cool guy and hope to keep in touch with him.

After the split I made my way towards Kenting National Park. I quickly made my way through Kenting and then on to the southern tip of the island. This was where the trip finally began to get back to being beautiful.

Cool view
Time for a haircut…

Ever since I left Puli, I had been cycling through cities, so it was a nice reprieve to actually start seeing some beautiful roads again.

Back to good roads!
Before heading down to Jialeshuei
Great beach!
Other side still amazing
Some climbing – fun roads
Final descent

I arrived in Jialeshuei  around dusk and stopped to talk with a guy named Vince. Super cool guy, just chatted about life in Taiwan and the area down here. He told me that the hostel I was going to be staying at was literally 20 feet away so I was in no rush to leave.

Once I showered I was on a mission for food. Unfortunately, Jialeshuei  is tiny and consists of about 5 shops about half a kilometer from where I was staying. I strolled down and ran into Vince again. He pointed me to the only restaurant, and then him and some of his Taiwanese friends joined me for an early dinner. Great people and good conversation. After dinner and hanging out for a little, I headed down to the beach for a while. I stayed there until it started to rain and then went back to the hostel.

Front of the hostel
Chilling on the patio

Late that evening,  Winson (the hostel owner) walks up to me and gives me the gesture for eating. I was starving again and wondering where my next meal would come from so this was quite welcomed.

I ate with his wife and him and had probably one of the best meals I’ve had since being in Taiwan. Ahh, the joys of home cooked meals. Spicy tofu, fish, some sort of braised beef and cabbage. Sooo good. After dinner Winson immediately began playing some sort of racing game on PS3; kind of funny to see a 50-year-old man getting so into racing cars on the Playstation. I called it a night shortly after and prepared for the next day.

Day 6 Jialeshuei to Taitung 142 km – Kenting National Park, Southern Pass and the East Coast

It was a fun day; probably one of the best of the trip. I decided against staying in Jialeshuei for an extra day and instead make my way to Taitung, or at least get close.

The beginning of the day was truly amazing cycling. Curving roads through Kenting National Park started the morning. At about 35 km the road turn to dirt and gravel, looks like due to a landslide. Lots of easy climbing, probably around 6 %. Awesome descents without a car in sight. In fact, you couldn’t tell that civilization ever had existed here minus the old gravel road that I was on.

Entering the valley
Fast roads
Farmland
Starting to climb
No one on the roads – great
Gravel roads starts
And continue much further than expected
Landslide

While climbing at one point, about 15 meters ahead of me on the right I see some bushed and small trees fall down into the road. Then, like out of a movie, a random guy walks out of the lush jungle looking like he hasn’t see another human for months with a dulled machete in his hand. Horrifying. I quickly cycled past him and went on my way.

Coming down….

The road eventually dumped out onto HWY 26 and followed the eastern coast. Gorgeous road and probably top 5 best ever cycled on. Giant white and piercing blue waves crashing into the coast on the right and brilliantly green cliffs on the left. I followed this for about 15 km before continuing back into the mountains.

Getting to the coast
Yes!
Small port leaving the village
Too much fun
Amazing, just amazing
Pretty happy, minus that damn abandoned car in my photo
Back into the mountains…
Hanging out in the shade for a few minutes

Climbed all the way up to the HWY 9 intersection and then followed that from halfway across the island back to the coast. Was a ton of fun, because the entire morning I spent climbing allowed for a fun 20 km downhill. Too bad, I kept having to slow down due to traffic and crazy cab drivers. I ended up pulling over and letting the cars get way down the mountain before continuing. I was too tired of holding the brakes on such a fun downhill.

The rest of the day was spent in the hot sun along a busy road up to Taitung. I arrived into central Taitung at the end of dusk. Taitung, is probably the biggest city in southeast Taiwan, but somehow I couldn’t find it. Kind of insane, but the city is positioned a few km off the main road.

And this is where the trip got interesting. I stopped at a corner grocery in hopes of them pointing me in the direction of a hotel or hostel. The lady kept telling me to sit, and physically pushing me down into the chair. I was starting to get uncomfortable.

After about 20 minutes, I was getting ready to just start roaming and another woman walks out from around the corner, and in perfect English is like, “Hey! How’s it going?” I was confused.

Turns out she was an English teacher and wanted to drive me to various hotels to help me find a cheap one, but was in the middle of class. And so that’s the reason I waited for 25 minutes.

She drove me to 3 hotels; all were really over priced. I thanked her and told her I would be staying at the cheaper one, when she starting insisting that I stay the night with her. I declined initially, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer and so I figured, saving $80 sounded good and took her up on the offer.

When I arrived back at her place, her neighbors mentioned they didn’t like the idea of a stranger staying with her, as she was a single mom. Understandable, although I’d like to think I don’t seem too dangerous from first impressions.

Either way, as I was beginning to make my way back towards the hotel, they stop me and say I can stay with another one of their neighbors. There’s a catch though. Not only does he not speak English, he also isn’t home – but it’s totally cool, “Make yourself at home….”

So here I am in some random guy’s bedroom, who isn’t home. It wasn’t the cleanest place I’ve ever been, but after everything this woman has done for me, I can’t refuse staying here. I’ll save some money and then be on my way early the next morning.

And so I shower, and watch a little TV before heading to sleep early – around 9:30. At about 10 PM a man begins to heavily knock (more like pound), on my door while rattling off Chinese. I’m terrified. Here I am in some guys home, never met him, thinking of everything that could have been lost in translation about me staying here. I can’t explain myself, I don’t speak Chinese.

I open the door to find a big drunk Taiwanese man chewing beetle nut with a bottle of Kaoliang. He keeps mentioning the chinese word for friend, and at this point I can tell he’s not angry, he wants me to come meet up with the woman who hooked me up with this place to sleep. I go downstairs and find out that it’s not her he wants me to talk with, it all his buddies.

Immediately, beetle nuts, beer, Kaoliang, and cigarettes are forced onto me. Haha, I’m trying to be polite and decline, but you can tell it’s insulting them. After all, I am staying in this man’s home for free. So I give in and start drinking with them. After about two hours I thank them for everything and excuse myself to the bedroom.

The next morning as I am leaving I realize that the gate downstairs is locked. Most homes and shops in Taiwan have a metal gate that comes down in the front. It was pitch black in the room. After stumbling over multiple items, I eventually found a series of switches, hopefully to light up and let me out of this place.

I try them all multiple times. Nothing is working. Then all of the sudden the guy upstairs starts yelling at me. Oh s$#&, I just want to leave – the past 12 hours have been just insane. Turns out, all of those switches are for lights upstairs and I woke the guy up with lights strobing. Haha, he walks downstairs chewing beetle nut in underwear and pushed a button right next to the stairs. Everything turns on and the door opens. I’m an idiot.

I thank him again profusely for everything and apologize for waking him so early before starting my day off. Crazy, crazy night in Taitung. I will never forget it.

Day 7 – Taitung Day Off

Taitung wasn’t the place I had envisioned spending a day off on my trip. The original plan was to go white water rafting off the east coast just south of Hualien, but that came crashing down with the landslide as well.

I spend the day hanging out in random coffee and tea shops, eating way too much food and slowly wandering the streets. I had information about Taitung in my e-mail and supposedly there are some fun things to do there, but I was unable to find internet and couldn’t find them or anyone who knew enough English to point me in a good directions. The day was long and boring and I ended up staying in the expensive hotel the second night.  The next day I was off to Lanyu – Orchid Island! Super excited.

Day 8 Taitung – Lanyu (Orchid Island)

The day began as a calm relaxing morning. My ferry didn’t leave til midday and it was only 6 km from town. I grabbed a bite to eat and some coffee, then chatted with my folks on the phone for a little before heading to the port.

I arrived at the port around 11:15 AM. My stomach had been iffy all morning, maybe nerves for the trip. The boat is notorious for making people sick, and I forgot to buy sea-sick pills. When I asked to buy a ticket, the woman told me that no ferries were running to the island today. Slight panic. I knew that couldn’t be possible, I had a woman named Teresa help me book it. Turned out that I was talking with the wrong company, and that the company I would be voyaging with wouldn’t open for another hour.

Around 1 PM we set sail, so to speak. I quickly found a seat near the window and fell asleep. Sweet! I woke up an hour later being thrown into the wall in front of me. The next two hours were spent holding on for dear life and trying to mentally block the sounds a smells of everyone on the boat puking. They wouldn’t let anyone outside due to rocky seas. It was the roughest trip I’ve ever made. I can only relate it to being on a mechanical bull for what seemed like an eternity.

I did witness acts of true love while on board. Elderly couples basically taking turns throwing up and helping each other during easier times. At one point, someone working on the boat came through the seating area. I couldn’t make out the entire conversation, but one of the passengers asked how much longer the trip would be. He chuckled and said,”Probably 45 minutes”. The look of utter despair and suffering oneveryone’s face said it all. Looking at the situation, it was all I could do not to laugh. Too inappropriate. After a few seconds, I broke and started laughing to myself; everyone else must have thought I was crazy.

We docked with the Jurassic Park theme song playing in my head. When I arrived I immediately wanted to get in contact with Teresa and find where I would be staying. My phone was only allowing me to make emergency calls, so I cycled to the island’s gas station and was able to use their phone. She told me to follow the only road around the island until I ran into my third village from the port and then find the hospital. Sweet directions.

Not going to get hurt on this island…

After finding Teresa, she took me to my homestay and pointed me in the direction of food. I showered and went a grabbed a quick bite before heading back. Once back, Teresa and the woman who was hosting me told me all about the Tao and their culture. The showed me a ton of photos and explained a lot of their traditions. Super cool evening.

Day 9 – Exploring Lanyu

I slept in until around 8:30 AM. The island is only around 40 km around, so I would have all the time in the world to explore. I grabbed breakfast with Teresa and some of her friends and then went off to explore the island.

It sprinkled on and off the entire day I made my way around the island. It’s hard to get lost here; it’s like a giant indy race track if you look at a map. The road was an old mixture of concrete and dilapidated pavement. There isn’t a single stoplight or sign on the entire island. The main traffic enforcement are the insane amount of goats and pigs roaming aimlessly everywhere.

The road hugs the coast. I went counterclockwise around the island, so on my right were vibrant white and blue waves crashing into the coast, and on my left were jagged lush mountains. Every few kilometers, I would find a little trail and hike up to the peak of a mountain or rolling hill to get a better view of the island.

View from my homestay
The road started to get narrow
First little adventure off the road
Lushness
Man dressed in traditional fashion with flying fish
A lost a forgotten place to outsiders…
Fun road
Mountainous terrain
The only attempt at a self-shot – blurry
Good cycling
Road block
Traditional Boats
Hilarious sign – Looks like a pig being fastened by a seatbelt
Summit sea-side view of another hike
Me at the top
The road around the island from the top of a peak
One of a few villages on the island
Backside of the island
Story goes like this: Mother and father fighting, kid in the middle trying to stop them, gods get angry and turn them all into stone….
Loving cycling this island
Some caves on the far side from where I was staying
Coming around the edge of the island before seeing the port
Ocean view
Another sweet view
A cove I hiked down to for a while

After touring the island, I ended up cycling down a path made of railroad ties to a cove and hung out near there for an hour or so. It was quite peaceful being surrounded by areas purposely protected and left alone for decades by locals.

Railroad tie path and another goat

When I came home, I showered ate lunch and then went to the beach for a few hours before heading over to Teresa’s for dinner. Seven people plus myself ate at Teresa’s and chatted for a few hours before I retired to my room. Great day.

Day 10 – Not today…

It was pouring down raining, and so my morning was spent mainly inside the breakfast shop. A little after noon I went to go catch my ferry. Turns out, the seas were too rough and they cancelled the ferry. I cycled back to the homestay I was at and explained what happened and asked if I could stay another nice. They were more than happy to let me stay.

I decided to throw on some dry clothes and then grab a poncho. I wanted to hike up to the weather tower in the center of the island. Who cares that it was raining, I need to explore this place while I have the chance.

I hiked up the only path that is drivable to the peak and sat at the top admiring the view for about an hour before heading back down. It was pretty cool to see both sides of the island at the same time. Waves crashing into the rocky shore on both sides with the help of tons of wind.

Yay rocky beach!
Where I hung out for a while
Center of the island
Midway up the hike
At the highest point on the island
The road that cuts the island in half
And it continues over

After reaching the village where I started, I wandered down to the beach to chill for a while. One of my favorite spots. I did a little bouldering while I was there, but nothing too tricky, as falling from even a few feet probably wouldn’t have ended well due to the uneven rocks below.

That night I ate and prepared for my trip up the east coast, trying to figure out if I would have enough time to make it back to Chungli without taking a train. I would definitely be cutting it close, and any more ill-timed events or weather would leave me with few choices.

Day 11 – Lanyu to Taitung – Ferry Hell Again

Gray skies loomed all morning, but the rain seemed to hold off. I went back down to the beach for an hour or so before grabbing lunch with Teresa and heading off on my trusty steed to board the ferry again.  She is an incredible person and I hope to visit her again.

Another beach shot
Teresa on the left and the two women who fed me for my duration on the island

I was hoping that the ferry this time would be a little smoother. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and I had to endure another 3 hours of torture.  If you ever want to visit that wonderful island, pay a little extra money and take the plane. I’m sure it’s worth it. We arrived at the Taitung port around 6pm and I headed back into town to grab a hotel.

Satan’s Lounge, or maybe just the ferry to Lanyu….
Leaving the port
Goodbye Lanyu
My poor bike — salt water is not a friend to metal

Low key day just getting back to the mainland. Gave my bicycle a bath to try to get the salt water off it. Hopefully it won’t start to rust and all that fun stuff. Happy to be back and ready to explore the east coast. Tomorrow will be the longest stint of my trip. Looking like around 100 miles, but not too sure.

Day 12 – Taitung to Hualien – 167km

I got out on the bike around 7:30 AM. Early on my legs were feeling tired, maybe from not riding for two days. I don’t know, I was just hoping to shake that before getting out into the middle of nowhere.

Initially there was a really strong headwind, which I thought would ease as the day progressed. Unfortunately, I was following the coastal highway all the way up to Hualien. Zero turns. The road was incredibly well-marked, with 1/2 kilometer signs. Literally ever minute or two I would pass one, and they stuck out like a sore thumb. Your couldn’t miss them, and the miles wouldn’t disappear.

Starting to get beautiful on the east coast of Taiwan
Sweet views at least
Saw this guy walking from the middle of nowhere with this … insane.
Tropic of Cancer marker
A win for environmentalists… bike path dead ends into tree
Awesome road
Highway 11
A rest from the wind

Every trick in the book for making the miles vanish failed. By 3 PM I did the math; I wouldn’t make it to Hualien before dark. Not even close. I had been averaging just over 10 mph (on flat roads). The wind was destroying my soul. Depressing, seeing at the day to Taitung was mountainous and I averaged in the low 20’s (mph).

With about 50 km left to go the road suddenly turned left away from the coast and headed inland.  I was so happy. The wind stopped – euphoria. Then I looked up, and all I could see was my road zig-zagging all the way up over the mountains.  At this point, just about every curse word in the English language came flowing out of my mouth. A 12 km climb ensued fluctuating between 6-9%. I reached the top just as the sun disappeared behind the curtain of gray skies.

Managed to look happy
A look into the mountains
Coastal Mountains

I descended mixed in with traffic into the darkness of the mountains and night. After reaching the bottom, and arriving back onto the coast and into the wind, I pulled off to the side and ate the remaining food and water I had in my bag.

I had 35 km still to go. Nothing in the grand scheme, that’s around what I commute some days, but I was dead and in the middle of nowhere. I sat there for about 20 minutes after finishing my food and stared off into the emptiness of the ocean.

Oh the fun….

Luckily, about 10 km later, the road opened up and was lined with street lamps. The lack of sunlight was no longer a problem, and before long I witnessed the sign I had been waiting for hours to see: 11 km Downtown Hualien.

The pain I had and lethargic feeling in my legs since 8 AM was gone. My muscles weren’t sore. I pushed into town faster than I had ridden all day. Over 8 and a half hours actually cycling and 10 hours on the road.

I finished the day searching for a place to stay. I ended up at a 711, in much need of water. After purchasing a ridiculous amount of food and water, I asked them if they could point me in the direction of a hostel. She made a phone call and man came and took me to his hostel about half a kilometer down the road.

I stayed at a ridiculous love hotel. It was cheap, so I didn’t care. I had a giant room with two comfy beds, teddy bears and my own shower. So happy. I grabbed dinner and then watched a movie before going to sleep.

Ah love motels….
The place was ridiculous…

Day 13 – Hualien to Luodong 132 km

Refreshed and ready for the day, I left around 6:45 AM. The day started with little wind and was going much quicker than I had expected. I just kept waiting for the wind. Waiting and waiting and waiting. It never really came, there was a little, but nothing like the day before.

By 11 AM I was already over halfway done and pretty excited. I ended up on the Su-Ao highway. Probably one of the most beautiful and terrifying roads I have ever been on with a bicycle.

Started off similar to the rest

Truly spectacular mountains to my left and about 6 inches to my right was a cliff and a couple hundred meters below was the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful. Terrifying because the roads were incredibly narrow and littered with semis, tour buses, those damn guys in the blue trucks and all sorts of other traffic.

I also had the thrill of going through some of the longest tunnels in SE Asia. Some over a kilometer long. A prius would pass me and it sounded like a freighter. The freighters themselves, well lets just put it this way, every single muscle in my body was tense. All I had with me was a tiny little flashing red light. There wasn’t a shoulder in the tunnels, and every single one I entered had a no bicycle sign before it. There were no other roads on the map. Just another bad decision made by yours truly.

Stuck in the tunnel
Landslide… leftovers I guess

I managed to exit the road about 50 kilometers long unscathed. I did get stuck in a tunnel for a little over an hour due to a landslide on the opposite end, but that was just waiting time.

The end of the day included some solid climbing and descending along the coast, which was remarkable. I would love to ride that road with it closed to traffic. Until then, as amazing as the views and the cycling was, I can’t say I will ever be caught on that road again while riding a bicycle.

Great roadside view
And it just keeps going
Climbing ahead
Looking back on where I’ve been
Dirty and thrilled to be at the top… so I thought

I ended in the town of Luodong. It was pouring down rain and I was drenched. Coming down the last pass was tricky, and there were a few times I was wondering if I was keep the rubber on the pavement.

I stopped once in town and asked where I could find an internet cafe or free internet. There was no such luck. The next day was going over the northern cross-country highway. I was not going into the mountains alone in weather like this.

I made some phone calls and worked on getting more informed information regarding the weather. Unfortunately, everything was saying that the mountains were going to get getting dumped on all night and day tomorrow. It was too risky.

I headed to the local train station to see if I could get my bicycle on a train today. In Taiwan, carrying a bicycle by public transport is a nightmare. Only a certain number of people at select stations on particular trains and sometimes only once a day can carry a bicycle on board. Kind of insane, seeing as Taiwan wants to become the most bicycle friendly nation in the world. Still a ways to go, but it shows promise.

I got the good word, changed into some dry clothes and hopped on a train headed for Chungli about 40 minutes later.

I wasn’t happy with ending the trip like this, but after some dodgy descents at night and in the rain the past few days, I didn’t want to take a chance. The weather wasn’t looking good, and if anything happened, I would have been out in the middle of nowhere.

I arrived back in Chungli around 8 PM and concluded my journey. I’m really happy I did the trip. The entire thing was turned upside down day in and day out starting on Day 2, but I still enjoyed it despite the dilemmas. I had wanted to make a solo trip for some time, and I’m happy to say I’ve checked it off the so-called list.

I am planning to cycle the northern cross-country highway backwards in a few weeks on a Sunday with better weather to finish the loop; probably late November. Check the blog for updates.

One response

27 10 2011
Katharine

It took me forever to read this, so I can only imagine how long it took you to write and post all of the pictures! But I loved this — especially your experience in Taitung. I totally pictured you sitting in a chair being force-fed beetle nut and having cigarettes shoved into your mouth. Classic.

Congrats on the cycling trip, it sounds like an incredible adventure!! 🙂

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