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.
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.
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?
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.
Speeding down an open road, the last thing you want is a blowout. Luckily this time it was Allister’s bike and he handled it well. And before you ask, yes I am getting in touch with Schwalbe, Marathon plus should last 10000km + and as you can see the wall of the tire has failed both times.
Allister and I worked well together to get the tire changed quickly, luckily we still had the spare tire from my blowout. Allister was very diplomatic when I was removing the tire by saying “let me know when you have had enough and I will do it for you.” Needless to say I did it without “having enough”.
The boys had some fun yesterday afternoon by dinking on the back rack of Allister’s bike for a while and today the temptation of swimming in the river was too great. The locals were concerned because nobody swims in the river.
We reluctantly left our B and B this morning. The hot springs were so nice on our tired muscles but we soon forgot about the springs as we rode further into the rift valley. We were literally surrounded by stunning mountains. A thunderstorm was threatening but likely it swept around us all day and we only got a little wet.
The boys decided to explore the river which, as you can see, is very low at the moment. The water was lukewarm due to so many hot springs draining into it. As Taiwan is on a fault line there are over 150 hot springs running the full length of the Island.
As you can see, we are not completely crazy, we did get Robert to keep his helmet on in the fast flowing water.
The scenery was just breathtaking at times today. We stopped for a lot of photos that just do not do the beauty of this place justice.
We are staying in our first ‘paid for’ camp site tonight. We have showers, filtered water, an undercover camp site and mountains for $400 NTD ($15 AUD). In the photo you can see the threatening clouds and understand why we chose an undercover site.
Robert is also getting very good at Diablo or cheling, as it is called here. He has dreams of busking in Denmark.
We also picked up a hitch hiker today. Pikachu needed a lift to the closest 7eleven. The roads were so quiet, Robert rode as captain for a while.
Only a short cycle today, to the next town. We were suppose to be following the river in the rift valley but this section of the valley has a cliff adjacent to the river. This gave us only two options. Walk the bikes along the river bed or cycle up to the top of the cliff. None of us liked the idea of walking the river bed as the river stones were huge, so up the cliff it was.
Half way up we came across a section of road that has started to fall down the cliff. Taiwan is on a fault line and earthquakes are common. Robert liked the idea of waiting for it to fall into the river below but we had to keep on going.
We also had a laugh at the sign in the next photo. We imagined the Australian translation to the chinese symbols is “bloody steep mate”.
We arrived at LuYe township and decided to stay at a bed and breakfast recommended to me by a Taiwanese guy on facebook. The BandB is on a bicarbonate hot spring. Just fantastic. We had a dip when we arrived and then jump back in after dinner. Floating on my back in the hot water watching the clouds flow past the moon was so relaxing. I wish we had hot springs in back home.
When we arrived in Kaohsiung we were all feeling pretty tired, except Allister. Rather than one rest day we booked three night so that we could have two days off.
We had a fun time exploring the city.
After looking at the map it was decided that we would jump on a train and head to the East Coast so that we could make the most of the Rift Valley. The train trip was great. The last carriage is for cargo and gets filled up with bikes. In all the days of cycling the west coast we did not see another cycling tourist. We have worked out that they are all on the East Coast. Lots of people catch the train with their bike and then ride the beautiful coast.
The train conductor was lovely and had a great time with Robert.
Last night, while camping in Shueipingwun Park in the city of Tainan, we were visited by the local homeless drunk prowler. It was 1.15am and we were all sound asleep. I was woken by some noises coming from our bikes. I lay there for a little while trying to work out if it was dogs or something else. Then someone started walking very closely around the tent making noise.
At this point I got up and went out, very closely followed by Allister. We discovered an overweight, drunk man, who smelt of alcohol and urine. I asked him what he wanted. He didn’t answer. Allister asked him if it was OK to camp here. He said something in Chinese, then wandered off a little way. It was at this point that he started verbalizing loudly. Of course we couldn’t understand what he was saying but it was not directed at us. He seemed to be talking to the tree that he had clothes hung in.
We stood outside the tent for about 20 minutes waiting and watching him. He wandered around for a while then eventually got on a squeaky bike and rode off to the other side of the park.
I think in his drunk state he was probably confused about finding a tent on his patch. He didn’t act threatening at all. If we could have understood him we might have had a better idea, but maybe not.
Anyway, it was at this point that we realize that there was another tent pitched behind a tree near us. We went back to bed with a sense of excitement at meeting another city camper in the morning.
We were woken at 5am by a Tai Chi group next to our tent. That’s what you get when you camp in a city park.
By the time we had pack up, had breakfast and brushed our teeth, sadly the other camper was still not up. We never got to meet them but the boys did get to brush their teeth on a seesaw.
Taiwan’s west coast is one giant city. We have been cycling for over a week now and apart from the occasional park squeezed in between houses there is little untouched land. You cycle through a metropolis that leads into houses that leads into markets gardens that leads back into houses that then leads to another metropolis. I suppose that is what you get when you squeeze the population of Australia into an island 220 times smaller that Australia.
We are nearly at the southern end of Taiwan now. We will swing our way east and then head up the East Coast. There is not much development on the East side compared to the West. Because of this, it is the popular side for cyclists. I have enjoyed the industrial side but it will be nice to see some open country again.
You can’t see it very well in this photo but we cycled down a city street today that had at least 30 traffic light in a straight line. It was Allister’s worst nightmare. There was no attempt to get the traffic to flow. Every set of traffic lights went red at the same time all the way down the road as far as the eye could see. Then, like some evil temptress, they would all go green but there was no way to travel fast enough to get through them all. We would make it through about 3 at a time, so it took us about 10 stops to get to the end of the road. You can imagine how high Allister’s blood pressure was by the end.