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.
After camping a few nights in public parks and using public toilets, I am starting to feel like a hobo. Travelling every day with minimal possessions, only what you can carry. We are have a great time, as you can imagine.
We are having the occasional night in accommodation especially if the weather is cold or really really wet.
We left Sun Moon Lake and had a day of downhill. Great fun testing out the brakes. I nearly rode over another snake that was at least 2 meters long. This one was a pointed scale pit viper. Its bite causes necrotizing fasciitis. Yum. So glad I didn’t hit it.
We also found a cafe that sold western food. Robert was excited by the Mud slide burger. I think it was well named.
Waking up this morning on the running track of Wucheng Elementary School, I did not expect to have such a event packed day. After packing up our camp gear and bikes we were invited to have tea with the principal of the school. Black tea originates from this area of Taiwan, so it is a huge part of their culture. The boys were then invited to do morning fitness with the kids. It involed churling, hoolahooping and soccer.
We were then told that the Tour de Taiwan was passing through Yuchi this morning. We all headed down to the main street to cheer the cyclists on.
There was around 100 cyclist competing. It was great to see.
We then all walked back to the school for a group photo.
The boys really enjoyed playing for most of the morning and we only had a short up hill (8km). To get to our hotel on Sun Moon Lake.
We were planning on cycling around the lake today but have decided to do that tomorrow as we are all tired from yesterday’s epic ride. As you can see from the photo, Sun Moon Lake is really beautiful. Tomorrow should be lovely.
After cycling most of the day yesterday we arrived in a small town with no parks. All of the open land was filled with rice paddies. We ended up cycling past the local elementary school. We stopped in and the deputy principal was incredibly welcoming. We ended up camping in a school last night. We had our best nights sleep so far in the tent.
This morning we headed off early as the school opened at 7am. Robert was also very keen to get on the road as the girls at the school were literally screaming when they saw him. I think they had him confused with Justin Bieber again.
We knew we were cycling uphill all day today but we had planned out a route that followed a river so the gradient was not too bad. In a moment of utter stupidity we decided as a group to go via a short cut. The short cut made the overall trip 10km shorter but we ended up climbing 800 meters in 1.6 km. That is 1 meter climb for every 2 meters travelled. As you can imagine we ended up having to dismount and push. It was not fun.
The road also deteriorated to a point that it was a goat track. Check out the stairs on the building in the photo. I don’t think it has been used in a while.
After 2 and a half hours we reached the top of the mountain. Who would build a road over the top of a mountain, literally.
We did find a pool of water in a gorge that the boys could not go past. They climbed down the gorge for a quick swim. I can not post the photo of them swimming as someone was naked. (not me for once).
After an enormous day we climbed over 1000 meters and finally arrived at another elementary school. They are happy for us to stay but they want us to talk to the kids in the morning. Robert is not happy. Photo to come.
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.
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.
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.
We had planned on cycling ftom Cambodia to Laos but the boys have reached their limit on developing countries. We discussed our options and Taiwan was the compromise. We are at the airport lounge at the moment after a harrowing baggage check in. The grumpy airasia lady decided that we had to pay an extra $300 to get the bikes on the plane.
As most of you know, Robert can be quite persistent when he wants something. Well, he has been asking to made his own knife for quite a while. When I saw an advertisement for a backstreet workshop in Medieval Knife making, I thought perfect opportunity. There is no way we would have had the chance to do something like this in Australia. The OHS would have shut it down immediately.
The only problem is when we tried to post the knives back to Australia we were told that you are not allowed to post knives out of Cambodia. So now we have to carry them with us until we reach a country that we can post them from.
Got out of bed before dawn this morning to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat. The boys stayed in bed. It was nice to have some alone time with Allister. Just had to pretend that the other 500 tourists were not there.
Dragged the boys out of bed and climbed all over Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. By the end of the day we were all Angkored out.
Now we are heading to the pool.