Friday, October 28, 2011

Day 10: Yilan - Luzhou

Time: 7:35:29
Distance: 159.57km
Average Speed: 21.0km/h

Our last day was also going to be one of the longest. The wind was quite strong but not as bad as other days during the week. We rode the coastal highway 2 for most of the day. I suffered more problems with the bike today. The chain popped out of the back derailleur (something I never saw before) when I was lifting the bike from a cycle path onto the road but it was easily fixed. We met a cyclist from Taichung who was trying to cycle around the island in 7 days and rode with him into Keelung. We ate in the night market here and proceeded up the coast. With about 2 hours to go we stopped for a coffee break by the sea. I ordered an Irish Coffee but they didn't put any whiskey in it so I added some of what I had brought myself. We stopped for one more break at Danshuei before the last leg of the journey. We were welcomed into Luzhou (just outside Taipei) by Angus's sister who had made a banner for us. After we ate dinner with Angus's family and neighbours.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 9: Hualien - Yilan

Time: 6:45:49
Distance: 123.71km
Average Speed: 18.1km/h

Weather conditions were good so I decided to cycle on "The Most Dangerous Road In Taiwan". When it rains a lot of people take the train for a few kilometres (Due to rockfalls) but since it was sunny I thought it would be fine. The road out of Hualien, Highway 9 is very safe for the first 20km but after that it narrows as it moves along the coast. Trucks from local quarries go up and down the road which is narrow and hasn't got much of a shoulder. If cycling on the seaside there is only a wall less than a metre tall protecting you from plunging to your death should you get a nudge from one of the passing cars or trucks (or maybe even one of your friends). Having said all of that this is a very fun road to cycle. The views are amazing and there are a lot of climbs and probably more descents (If coming from the South). There are also a lot of tunnels on the route. I stopped and pulled in a lot of times today to let the traffic past especially while climbing for fear of getting that nudge. Most drivers are respectful of cyclists and will not honk at you to get out of the way. Because of all the quarry trucks there is a lot of sand and dust on the road so by the time I got to Yilan both me and the bike were covered in black dirt. We will stay in a hotel in Yilan tonight. Tomorrow we will start really early as we will try to make it back to Taipei in one day by the coast road.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 8: Changbin - Hualien

Time: 6:42:14
Distance: 99.75km
Average Speed: 14.8km/h

I watched Notting Hill on TV while it was raining this morning. When it cleared up outside we set off for Hualien on the Coastal Highway 11. At the first 7-eleven we stopped for a rest. The B&B owner showed up on a scooter. We gave her a wave. Then she produced my iPod which I had left it back in the room. What a nice thing of her to do. The wind today was brutal and relentless. Most of the way seemed to be uphill too which made for a really difficult day, probably the toughest of the trip so far. Along the way we crossed the Tropic of Cancer. Aside from that it was the same as yesterday. Mountains one side and the ocean the other. We passed through a few sections of road that were under construction. Getting through them was fine but the sand flying around proved to be an obstacle for my eyes. We got into Hualian after dark but the last few kilometres into the city have streetlights so it was safe enough. We'll try to get back to Taipei in 2 days but if the wind continues to be this strong it might take 3.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 7: Taitung - Changbin

Time: 3:31:05
Distance: 71.79km
Average Speed: 20.4km/h

Yesterday I had to disconnect my back brakes because the back wheel was rubbing off them and slowing me down. Part of the rim had bent and was sticking out. A bang with a rock might have been a temporary solution but I was afraid that I might make the situation worse. The front brakes are enough as long as I keep seated. Standing on the pedals and pulling the front brakes is always a bad idea (I did it a few times in Ireland and flew over the handlebars). I needed to get the wheel replaced in Taidong this morning so we left a bit late. We decided to make the trip to Hualien in 2 days rather than 1 so we were aiming for Changbin. Highway 11 is famous in Taiwan for it's scenery and is one of the most popular routes in the country. The climbing wasn't as tough as yesterday but the scenery was equally stunning. At my first snickers and coffee break we met a Hong Kong cyclist who was going our way. He joined us as we went to Sansiantai and then Changbin. We all decided to get a room in a B&B just outside Changbin centre. The owner of the B&B called a local seafood restaurant to pick us up and bring us door to door since it was raining. Tomorrow our Hong Kong friend will take the mountain route while we will stay on Highway 11 (Coastal). We all hope to arrive in Hualien tomorrow evening.

Day 6: Kenting - Taitung

Time: 8:53:16
Distance: 159.44km
Average Speed: 17.9km/h

My friend Francis was in Kenting for the weekend so we met him for breakfast before taking off. At times we were cycling into a very strong headwind and we met the steepest hills of the trip so far. This made our progress slow. The scenery, the weather and the sea to my right made it a really nice cycle even though it was challenging. The many people at the side of the road shouting 加油 always gives me extra encoragement too. Today was the first day I was happy to be using a mountain bike as we passed through a section of road that was under construction which is never comfortable when using road bikes. With another 50km to go it started to get dark and we considered stopping in Dawu. In the end we decided to press on to Taitung through the darkness (we have lights on the bikes). Further up the road we met 2 cyclists from Taipei at a 7-eleven (if I get tired coffee and snickers always does the trick here). They were covering a similar route to ourselves so we cycled for another hour with them. One of them had speakers on his bike. The first song he played was R-Kelly, I Believe I Can Fly. One of the classics! Cycling through the dark in Southern Taiwan with 3 Taiwanese, this song blaring, the sound of the Pacific Ocean on my right plus trucks and tour buses whizzing past on my left was something I never predicted I would experience. We reached Taitung just after 9.30 where Angus's aunt was waiting for us with dinner and beer.