Reoccurring Sounds of Taiwan

As we have been cycling around Taiwan there have been some memorable reoccurring sounds.

Wherever you go in Taiwan you here the below music.

It seems like they have rubbish pickup every day and late into the evening in some locations. Instead of leaving rubbish out for garbos to collect it, the locals are triggered by the music to bring their rubbish out to the truck and put it in themselves. What is most disconcerting about the loud music is that it is very similar to the Mr Whippy ice-cream  van music that used to bring us out to the streets as kids.

The other sounds we heard all over the country were parades, which are a mixture of blaring music and firecracker. The Taiwanese seem to have a calendar full of significant days they like to celebrate with a parade. As you can see from the footage below it is very noisy and freaks out Julie and the boys.


Last day in Taipei

Last few days in Taipei have been very holiday like. Sleeping in, watching TV, exploring the city and surrounds.

Every night that we have been out walking around we have walked by some homeless men sleeping on the street. They have all of their gear loaded up in plasic bags, on their old bicycles.   Tonight we took our camping mats with us and gave them away to a couple of guys who stay near the train station. Sadly the guys were not there but we left the mats for them on their bicycles. We have so much camping gear back home that we definitely did not need to transport the new mats back to Australia.

Catching the plane tomorrow afternoon so we have time for one last breakfast out. We have found a place that does really yummy bagels with blueberry cream cheese.

Today while walking around we were lucky enough to get caught up in a parade with fire crackers, floats and fancy cars. Check out the flames coming out the top.

We were also very lucky the other night. Someone tried to steal our bikes. The locks did their job and whoever it was gave up.

Coming home

After a lot discussion we have decided to come home.  Cycling across five countries in four months has been the trip of a lifetime but we have all reach a pointed where we are ready to come home. It is interesting the things that you start to miss when you have been away from home for so long. I actually miss cooking which is really strange because I don’t like cooking. I miss work and my friends.

The other reason for the change of plans is that the next destination that we had planned to cycle was Korea. With Trump and Kim Jong-Un not getting along at the moment, we don’t think it is a good idea to head in that direction.

The boys jumped for joy when we told them that they would be back to school at the beginning of term.

Day 81 –  Xincheng to Taipei

Saying goodbye to the amazing east coast. Not much riding today, more like the last day of the Tour de France, which is apt being the last proper day of our cycle tour. Also, having the great scenery without the hill climbs.

We had lunch at the beach consuming the local delicacies on a fine day. We came across a small bakery that kept us going back. The creme caramels and baked custard tarts were to die for.

Around the corner is a famous lemon juice shop. Over the previous few days we kept seeing people with lemon juice bottles and I was offered twice if I wanted to take a swig out of their bottle. We met one family that had travelled all the way from Taipei on the train, bought a bunch of bottles and were heading back. After drinking a bottle ourselves it was good, but I am not sure what all the fuss is about.

After lunch Julie and Robert had a diabolo off.

And I went for an explore on my bike.

After a four hour train trip we are back in Taipei for a quick ride to our apartment in the city.

With the bikes safely locked up.

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Retail therapy

We are back in the colourful city Taipei. We are planning some retail therapy for Robert’s birthday.  I would love to be a minimalist and I probably won’t buy anything but I must admit I am feeling pretty excited about the idea of going to a shopping mall to actually shop. Not much room in the panniers though.  We will see.

Can you see our bikes?



we found gold!

We decided to go to a hot water spring up a gorge. It was very hard.  I hated it. 24km later we arrived at the hot water spring. The water was very nice and warm but it was not worth it.

Then we noticed that there was gold in the water. So we collected it. After we realised that it was actually fools gold.

Day 80 –  Tienhsiang in Taroko NP to Xincheng

One of the rare days we have backtracked on the tour and I think the first time we have done the same day in reverse. There are two good reasons for doing it. Firstly, the only way not to backtrack was to ride over an almost 4km high mountain range and nobody was putting their hand up for that, especially with a fully laden tandem. Secondly, there is so much to see and do in the Tarako National Park and it is so much easier to do all the side trips when cycling down rather than up.

We camped in the Bai Yang Waterfall Trail carpark just northwest of Tienhsiang. It rained most of the night, but cleared at 7am. Considering it was a carpark in a gorge and it rained all night we had a good sleep. It was quiet and dark and other than a couple of rocks that reverberated up the gorge it was a good camping location.

We started the day with a walk to the Bai Yang Waterfall. It is a short walk from the carpark to the start of the trail. It is an odd start to a walking trail. It begins via a 380m tunnel that goes into the gorge wall beside the highway and there is no pedestrian path from the car park so you have to walk on the highway. The light in the photo below is the exit at the other end of the tunnel.

After a 2km walk through tunnels and beside a clear stream gorge we make it to the waterfall.

After the waterfall we pack up and head into Tienhsiang for lunch. The photo below is taken from the temple overlooking Tienhsiang. If you look closely Julie and the boys can be seen standing near the red pillars in the centre of the photo.

After a short ride we come across another scenic trail. It is the Lushui-Heliu Trail that follows some of the track originally built by the Japanese over 100 years ago to conquer the Taroko tribes. The tribes had resisted the Japanese colonisation for over 20 years because it was such difficult terrain to traverse.

The ride down the rest of the gorge is fast but a little harrowing. The speed limit is supposed to be 40kph, but some vehicles, including buses, seem to think that it is a grand prix circuit with all the chicanes and don’t want to slow down. We had a few close calls, but luckily the roads weren’t too busy and most drivers were good. However, in the tunnels and cut ins there is no where to hide, so we didn’t loiter.

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Day 79 – Xincheng to Tienhsiang in Taroko NP

The day started rainy and overcast. The camera on my phone does not do justice to the scenery today, but at least it gives some perspective of what we saw. We started off from the coastal town Xincheng and the photo below shows that we were already riding into the cloulds at sea level.

As we progressed out of the town into the valley the weather started to clear giving a glimpse of what was to come.

Riding into the gorge felt pretty spectacular, but in hindsight it was plain compared to the rest of the day.

The ride up the valley follows the river and gets steeper as you progress. The road is very prone to rockfalls and as you ride you have to be careful not ride into any of the diverts the large rocks make. In the photo below it shows one section where the rock falls are so bad that they are currently building a new tunnel to avoid having to drive through that section.

We had our first break where the gorge walls narrow and become sheer cliffs over 300m high on both sides.

To view the gorge you have to go through tunnels that open directly into the cliff.

As you can see my phone camera doesn’t handle the contrasts of the tunnel and the gorge very well. The river below is about 100m down and the stripes of black and white are the marble cliff walls.

To travel up the gorge the engineers have chosen two techniques. Either tunnel or create a cut in. The photo below is a good example of both techniques.

We had a rare downhill and Patrick and I stopped to wait for Julie and Robert. I was hoping to get a good shot of them coming down the hill. After a few minutes my phone rang, can you believe we still had good mobile reception everywhere, and it was Julie saying she had a puncture. I had the tools in my panniers so we had to ride back up the one downhill.

So after the puncture is repaired it is take two.

At lunch we met another wunderbar German couple, Gunar and Linda, doing a cycle tour around Taiwan. Of course I got chatting and we swapped lots of stories while Julie and the boys got lunch.

After lunch we continued climbing in search of the hot spring.

The climb down to the hot springs was quite precarious and the toilet block on the map had been completely demolished. Just before the last climb down to the river/hot springs you have to cross the below suspension bridge.

After you cross the bridge you are met by a sign saying the hot springs are closed because of damage. However, the only thing preventing you going down is some red string and there are a bunch of people down at the river. I think the authorities want to discourage people from going down because it is dangerous, but don’t really want to stop them. If they wanted to stop them they could easily remove the bridge. Anyhow, being the adventurous types we decide to take the risk.

At some point a major flood has come through and stripped all the stairs and railings out and filled up the man made baths with silt. As you can see below you have to be careful descending to the river.

So as you can see below, the hot springs have now become wild. We helped construct the rock dam between the river and where the hot spring vents erupt, so as to prevent too much cold water mixing with the hot.

Gunar and Linda also found the hot springs and joined us in the make shift bath.

We spent hours there and I went from hot spring to hot spring (there were five that I found at different temperatures), while the boys and Julie prospected for gold.

We also had a couple of firsts in the evening. The first time camping a in a carpark and our first campfire. So an amazing day from start to finish.

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Taroko Gorge National Park

Yesterday we cycled out of the tiny town of Xincheng into the Taroko Gorge. Xincheng is not much of a place to visit but it is entrance to something amazing. We had a 23 km uphill cycle to  get to the campsite we had chosen for our night of camping in the gorge. The scenery was so amazing we didn’t mind the constant uphill climb. Words can not describe the beauty of this place. If you are ever in Taiwan, Taroko Gorge is a must.

Every photo has people in it to give you some perspective of the scale of this place.

The walls of the gorge are made of marble, ranging in colour from brown, green, grey to pure white. Cycling along I couldn’t help but think of kitchen bench tops in different people houses. It is just stunning to see boulders of pure white marble the size of a double decker bus just laying around in the valley of the gorge. The power of the water during the wet season is beyond belief. The marble boulders have been rolled around like marbles in a childrens game.






Can you see Allister and Patrick in the above photo? This gives you some idea of the size of the marble boulders.


Our campsite was actually a carpark for a wild hot water spring. As I have said before, you can pretty much camp anywhere in Taiwan as long as you are respectful and don’t get in the way. There was plenty of room for our tent and a toilet block perched on a cliff in the wall of the gorge.

We cycled the extra 1.7km to the path that lead to the wild hot spring. We saw signs that said it was closed but we also saw locals walking back up the path, wet from being in the water. We kept on walking and eventually came to a flight of stairs that had been carved into the cliff face, leading down to the rivers edge. The stairs were in a ruined state but still passable with a little agility. The further down we got the more destroyed the place became. There were hundreds of full thickness steel rods bent at 90 degree angles pointing downstream. All of the old structure that made up the baths had been demolished by something very strong.  At this point I remembered reading about a Typhoon that caused great damage in Taiwan back in 2012. The amount of water that came down in the typhoon caused boulders to be washed downstream and to demolish the old hot spring baths. It didn’t really bother us. We still had a great time. We climbed down the old concrete wall into the river and sat in the hot water flowing out of the rocks. We were in there for hours collecting pyrite crystals that we found around the hot water vent.



We eventually headed back to our camp and snuggled down for a peaceful night’s sleep. Well, we fell asleep quickly but were woken by a huge ground shaking rumbling noise. After a few seconds it settled and we had silence again. We realised why there were so many signs saying be careful of falling rocks. The cliff on the other side of the gorge had had a small rock slide. I would estimate 30 meters long and 10 meters wide. I would not have wanted to be camped under it. After reassuring the kids that we were safe as we did not have an overhang of rock above us, we went back to sleep, only to be awoken by another louder, larger rock slide. You can imagine that the only person who got a good nights sleep was Allister. He can sleep through anything.


Day 78 – Rueisuei ride and rafting

Amazing crystal clear blue sky day with barely any clouds. It is the first day the tops of the mountains have not been shrouded in clouds. Perfect day to go white water rafting. 

Being a rest day we haven’t much cycling to do, just enough to get us back down to the river so we can start paddling. 

It wasn’t anything like whitewater rafting we had done in the past. Normally you have guide who sits in the raft and is in charge of steering and directing the other passengers what to do. In this case, the guide is in his own zodiac power boat and directs from afar. The six paying visitors, us four and two Taiwanese, are given no drills or paddle useful for steering the raft. To start with it was very frustrating because I wanted some sort of control, which is impossible from the front of the raft. Once I let go and went with the flow it was so much more enjoyable. It felt more like a roller coaster ride, so sit back and enjoy the amazing scenery. 

The guide in the zodiac was amazingly skillfull. He would position his boat in dangerous locations or nudge or push our raft to the best startin point of a set of rapids. He also had perfected the art of creating a wave that would completely drench the intended victims. 

Stopped at a waterfall that had limestone  layers like a massive wedding cake that has moss for icing. 

We were strapped onto the back of the zodiac for sections that were flat or the opposite – bigger rapids. In the picture below the sides of the gorge are lined with river stones set in what looks like concrete. Not sure how it was formed. 

After four hours we make it to the sea. That is Patrick in the zodiac with the guide. 

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