Day 66 – Da’an District to Caotun Township

As promised by the weather forecast, we were back to glorious weather. Woke up before sunrise to see the sun come up over the mountain range to the east. The orange in the left middle ground is our tent and the big pillar in the background behind it is the base of a wind turbine.

As you can see we camped on the coast in the middle of a wind farm.

Our ride took us inland towards Sun Moon Lake. I decided to give MapsMe a go as our navigation, but after two large hills that didn’t show in the profile we gave up on it and went back to Google Maps. In the below photo after riding up a couple of hundred metres in altitude nobody wanted to pose for a photo, so was forced to take a selfie.

Taiwan is still very attached to rice growing. The below picture was taken close to the large city of Taichung and is interspersed with apartment blocks.

To avoid the mountainous terrain we decided to ride up the Dajia River. Google Maps took us through some amazing rice paddies on thin concrete paths. Some sections were so thin that only allowed one way bike traffic. Lucky the locals were knowledgeable and friendly and patiently waited for us to ride through.

Once we got to 55kms we started looking for a spot to set up camp. The best option was a elementary (primary) school, so we turned up at about 4:30pm and asked a couple of teachers if we could camp. They referred us to the school admin lady (Sherry), who rang the Principal to get the okay. Once Sherry had made sure we were legit, she was extremely inviting, generous and helpful. Amongst the numerous things she did for us was organise warm showers, dinner, basketballs and even contact with a Principal at a school near Sun Moon Lake. Below is a picture with Sherry and her two children who are the same age as our boys.


Check out my ride on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/916520454/

Not happy Jan.

Today was another first for me. When we headed off this morning I commented to Allister that I had a vibration in the rear of my bike. I checked out all of the obvious causes and nothing seemed to be broken.  We started heading inland on our way to Sun Moon Lake. As soon as you leave to coast you have to go uphill. There is a massive mountain range in the centre of the Taiwan. We climbed 235 meters and then had a nice downhill. During the downhill I notice that the vibration had got worse and I started thinking maybe it is my tire failing. My next thought was “no couldn’t be, Schwalbe, Marathon Plus should last 10000 km. We have only done ~3500km”. We reached the bottom of the downhill and I had slowed right down following Allister, while he looked at his map for directions. The next thing I knew, there was an almighty bang and the bike ground to a holt very quickly. My back tube had blown. First flat tire of the trip and I am so glad it didn’t happen while I was doing 40 km/hr.

An older lady walking along the side of the road came over to me and pointed to the shop directly behind me on my right. It was a motorbike repair shop, perfect.

I got the back wheel off and took it to the shop. The owner very quickly found the problem. The side wall of my tire had delaminated and the tube had ruptured out. Bugger, I should have known that was the problem.

Luckily he had a 20 inch tire on hand but it was only rated to 40 psi. I bought it knowing that we would find a bike store further down the road. We did and I was able to get a tire that was rated to 60 psi.  We hit the road again and cycled through some beautiful rice paddies.

Shocked

Sorry about not blogging for a few days but I think I have been in shock, in more ways than one. Firstly the temperature difference has been shocking.  We have been in 30 to 35 degrees for nearly 3 months and two days after we arrived in Taipei a monsoon hit. The temperature dropped to a max of 15 degrees.  Yesterday it rained pretty much all day. We were so cold we purchased these chemical heat pads to stick in Patrick’s pockets to keep him warm. Last night we stayed in a guest house,  rather than camp, so that we could dry out. 

The second shock has been the environment. We have been in developing countries for 3 months and now we are surrounded by flashing lights, cars, concrete, overpasses, shops, restaurants, multistorey buildings, wind turbines as far as we eye can see and noise, noise and more noise. 

I think it has been hard for my brain to process the change.  That and the fact that the first night in the tent I was so cold that I didn’t sleep. 

Today we had a much better day than yesterday.  30 km hr tail winds and only a sprinkle of rain. We had some good laughs too. We saw a pig in a pink dress being walked on a leash like a dog. We stopped for lunch and Allister ordered fried chicken. Something got lost in the translation because we ended up with fried tripe. Yuck. I would rather eat fried crickets. 

We have also been impressed with the Taiwanese use of space. Under their freeways they have playgrounds, basketball courts, rice paddy’s and it seems like the entire west coast in lined with wind turbines. 

We had originally thought to cycle down the East Coast clockwise but we met another cyclist who advised us to cycle anticlockwise because then you have a view of the sea the entire way. (Keeping in mind they drive on the right side). We are cycling on highway 61 which amazingly seems to have a bike lane the entire way around the island.  All 1000 km of it. 





More photos tomorrow.  Off to sleep now.  

Day 65 – Hsinchu City to Da’an District

Nothing like having a tail wind and fully inflated tyres to help ride a long way. Now we are in much cooler climes we don’t have the same urgency to get on the road, so we can let the boys sleep in. So it was a longest ride based on a 9am start.

It was a cold day, but very little little rain thankfully and we were much better prepared for the cold. We did a mix of inland and coastal roads and all very enjoyable. A couple of unexpected hills along the way meant that we are preparing for the mountains to come.  The picture below is at the top of a 100m climb with a great downhill

The infrastructure and roads in Taiwan are amazing. In the picture below we crossed over a lesser bridge, but on either side there are massive freeways and expressways(bigger than a freeway) that also cross the river. In the distance you can see wind turbines. There have been wind turbines all along the west coast so far. It is great to see the Taiwanese taking advantage of the wind along the natural resource along the coast.

We have been riding along some freeways or expressways, but as you can see the roads are so wide that they have a lane for bikes, motorbikes, slow cars, and another two for the standard traffic. For the expressways the slow traffic and bikes travel underneath the standard traffic. Some of the expressways have been over 50m high. We have been contemplating setting up camp under one of the expressways if we can’t find a better spot. They have not wasted the space under the expressways and have built bike paths, toilets, basketball courts and playgrounds. So setting up camp doesn’t sound so crazy when you have a flat rubbery surface to pitch a tent and be sheltered from the rain.

Found a restaurant for dinner that was like a fish mongers just to the side of the tables. They didn’t have a menu. The process was to go up and pick the seafood you wanted them to cook for your meal. They had every type of seafood you could imagine and plenty of it still alive, as you can see from the tanks. Julie picked a beautiful pink coral looking trout. It was the best tasting and most succulent fish we have had all trip.

Check out my ride on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/915029119/

Day 64 – Zhuwei Fishing Port to Hsinchu City

The gods weren’t smiling on us today, more like crying on us instead. The weather brought us back down to earth after an amazing day yesterday. The rain started in the middle of the night and pretty much kept going until lunch. We were glad the tent held up well and kept most of the rain out. Being close to the international airport combined with the wind and rain, and our first night in the tent, none of us got much sleep.

We rode south down the coast, but the conditions were cold and blustery, so we headed inland.

The route took us through many rice paddies and we got to see a machine planting rice. Below was an interesting temple with dragons that caught our eye.


Check out my ride on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/913283633/

Day 63 – Taipei to Zhuwei Fishing Port

So good to be back on the bikes. Even better when cycling in perfect weather, with a tail wind and most of the time on dedicated cycle paths. Cycling from Taipei to Bali was cycling nirvana. 

It was so picturesque I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Normally that would make Paddy chuck a paddy(he hates to stop and doesn’t like being photographed), but he and Robert were in BeyBlade heaven because we rode past a shop that specialises in them, so both of them were in a great mood.

It was a slow and late start today, but we weren’t stressed because the maximum temperature is mid twenties rather than mid thirties, so we can ride in the middle of the day. By the time we were leaving Taipei after getting everything ready and necessary purchases (BeyBlades, orange juice and blankets) made it was midday. We came across a robotic orange juice vending machine for a cup of fresh juice for under $2.

Leaving Taipei via a dedicated bike/motorcycle lane to cross the river.

Once across the river we rode on a wide and smooth cycle path that followed the river all the way to Bali (approximately 20kms)

We had never heard of Bali, Taiwan, but it had a holiday feel and busy boardwalk markets at the mouth of the river. 

 Sunset at  Zhuwei Fishing Port. We set up our tent in the structure just behind Patrick’s head for our first night of camping on the tour. 

Check out my ride on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/912291705/

Taipei – expect the unexpected 

I actually had no expectations of Taipei except that it would be cooler and more livable than Cambodia. After walking around Taipei today, it maybe a little premature to say this but, I think that it is my favorite South East Asian city. We are staying in the older section of central downtown Taipei.  There are lots of alleyways, restaurants and little interesting shops, selling all sorts of strange things. Look closely at the table of toys in this photo. Sex ed covered again. 

This was not the only penis we saw today.  Must be a popular thing in Taiwan.  

We walked through the museum park and the boys were delighted to find friendly squirrels.  (Thinking of you Keir).


Rebuilt the bikes down an alleyway near our apartment. 


After looking at accommodation costs in Taiwan, we decided to go shopping for camping gear so that we can sleep every second night in a tent. We decided on ‘minimum’ camping so we have bought a four man tent, three mats that cover the entire floor space and blow up pillows (luxury item). We have sarongs for sheets but we found out today that there is a monsoon coming so we may need a blanket. 

We came across this three seater folding bike while out shopping.  Classic. 


Back on the road tomorrow.  

Day 62 – Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

The boys were really keen on the medieval knife making course. As you can see below,  the conditions and occupational health safety well represent the medieval age. When we rode past the blacksmith it was basically a shanty town looking building with no doors. 

In the afternoon I took a solo ride to see Angkor Wat in sunset for the last time.

Then climbed a hill that had a temple on top called Bakheng that had views of the whole area.


Check out my ride on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/908673218/

Symbiosis seen on trip

This picture is a tree in a tree in a tree. The trees get more rotting leaves to feed off. The trees would catch more rain water. It is a symbiotic relationship.

We have also seen birds sitting on cows backs. The bird gets bugs to eat and hair put in its nest from the cow. The cow gets a clean back and a back scratch from the bird.