Category Archives: Allister

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.


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.

Check out my ride on Strava:

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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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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Day 77 – Luoshan to Rueisuei

Easy ride today. Downhill most of the way with a strong tailwind and a relatively short distance to cover. At one point we were going so fast and enjoying ourselves we missed a turn off. We realised how good we had it when we had to turn around and head back up into a headwind.

We had one scary incident. Paddy and I were heading down a hill going over 30 kms per hour when the rear tyre blew out. We fishtailed a little, but I was able to bring the bike safely to a stop. Glad it didn’t happen when we were going really fast because it was hard enough to control at the speed we were doing. Anyhow, with our combined experience and having a spare tyre and tube, we were back on the road in no time.

We were able to keep of the main roads most of the day and even rode on some amazing dedicated bike paths not in GoogleMaps. The scenery is breathtaking. Below are a few shots of our progress.

The last few days Robert has been really keen to go for a swim in a river, but the conditions have not been right. Either the river has been too shallow or inaccessible. Today, near the end of the ride we came across a good location where some local fishermen had just pulled up. They proceeded to cross the river with nets, goggles and a gigi, so we followed. Robert and Patrick impressed the fishermen with their swimming ability against a strong current. The boys ended up having more fun in the mud than anything else.

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Day 76 – Luye to Luo Shan

Full on day and the boys are still up playing BeyBlades. 60kms of cycling with 600m of climbing and that doesn’t count the side trips down into river gorges, swimming at waterfalls or hikes up mountains. 

The cycling day started with a 20kms bike path that ran along the river. The river is to the right of the die in the below picture. 

Most of the time the bike path is on top of the dIke. 

We decided to investigate the river bed.

And hop in the water. 

It was like the first day cycling in Taiwan. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. The scenery was so special and made all the more spectacular by the storm clouds. 

There is a waterfall close to our camp ground (our first official campsite, but we are the only campers), so the boys and I decided to check it out. 

We went for a swim in a rock pool below the waterfall to cool down after a 3km climb.

This is as close as we got to the waterfall. We tried rock hopping, but it was slow going and we were running out of daylight. 

There were wooden stairs, but they had fallen into disrepair and had wood rot.

There was a trail on the other side of the waterfall, but after going up 500m it still wasn’t getting any closer, so we gave up due to the lack of light and headed back down the hill. 

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Day 75 – Taitung to Luye

We have made it to the spectacular East Rift Valley. The train got in about 9pm to Taitung, but there is a big park just west of the train station, so even though it was dark we decided to set up camp. The boys were a little freaked out at first, but once we found a good spot to pitch the tent they settled down quickly for a good nights sleep.

The East Rift Valley has been created by the joining of two tectonic plates. A massive river runs between two mountain ranges. We thought we maybe able to ride in the valley, but the sides are very steep cliffs so the only reliable roads go up to the ridge. So we started the day with a steep climb, as you can see below.

Someone on Facebook recommended a B&B that has its own hot spring. It wasn’t cheap to stay, but after seeing the hot spring pools we were all convinced to stay. After a very good dinner in Luye we came home for a very relaxing hot spring bath. The place is very popular with the locals who make good use of the four pools, each at a different temperature.

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Day 74 – Kaohsiung City

Started the day getting the tandems out of storage under the hotel. Access was via a thin alleyway, only just wide enough for the handlebars. Even though we rode all around Kaohsiung on our rest days we didn’t need the tandems because the public rental bikes were so good and free for the first 30 minutes. 

The boys loved having the freedom of their own bike’s that they began today’s ride with the rental bikes. You can drop the bikes at any of over 200 bike stations,  so we found one further along our route. 

The below photo has been cropped from the above photo. Check out the English translation on the sign. I don’t think it helps sell the product.

During the ride out of Kaohsiung we decided to catch the train to the east coast rather than continuing south. However, the train that takes bikes wasn’t leaving until 5pm, so Robert and I headed to an outdoor climbing location near the coast. A great way to spend the afternoon in a place with hundreds of different climbs. Without climbing gear we weren’t able to take full advantage of them, but had a great time bouldering. 

We weren’t the only cyclists taking advantage of the train. The cargo carriage was full of bikes. I got distracted talking to all the other cyclists so I forgot to take a picture. Would have been a great shot, because they were all jammed in together fully laden with panniers. It was great not having to adjust the bikes or even having to unpack them, just ride up and put them on.

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Day 73 – Tainan City to Kaohsiung City

Early morning start because a large group of people mingled just outside our tent before the start to their Tai chi class at 5:30am.

The ride today was between two large cities, so mostly on highway and very built up. However, there were a few highlights. The first stop was via the Tainan Metro Park. There was an amazing looking playground, but it was closed for maintenance.

The Tainan Metro Park has the Chi Mei Museum as part of the precinct. It is a privately funded museum with amazing collections and exhibitions from all reviews. However, being a public holiday it was very packed and the security wouldn’t let us park our bikes somewhere safe, so we decided to give it a miss. As you can see below the building is very stately and impressive.

The highway between the two cities is a popular cycle way because it has very wide cycle lanes. We chatted to the below cyclists for more than 10kms. Philip, the guy in red below, is a keen cyclist who has lived in the US, so spoke perfect English. He has a young family and is keen to get them all involved, so was keen to hear about our experiences. In return he gave great insights and knowledge of the local area.

Coming into Koahsiung City there were some impressive temples and buildings. Below Paddy is showing off the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas.

The Kaohsiung City is made for cycling with over 200 pubic bike rental stations around the city, which are free to rent for the first 30 minutes. All main roads have a cycle lane on the road and on the foot path. Even the street lights have been created for cyclists as you can see below.

Check out my ride on Strava: