After spending our last New-Zealand days in Christchurch and boxing our bikes we flew to Taipei, Taiwan.
Quiet a transition and cultural difference with NZ.
In Taipei we spend a couple of days just exploring the city, trying out a lot of streetfood at night markets and visting cultural art areas. We then started assembling our bikes and had to fix a broken break cable (which took a day). After that it was time to start rolling again.
A bit of a struggle
The first few days cycling in Taiwan were a bit challenging due to the weather, the language barrier and the asian dieet. After a week of cycling and struggling we found our Asian rythme and we started really loving Taiwan and all of its contrasts.
We could only show you the photos and video’s, but it doesn’t capture or explains our experience here. So lets take you through our 72 hour mini adventure from Yilan, through the mountains to Hualien.
Comfortfood in Yilan
We arrived in Yilan after cycling from Taipei via the (touristic) mountain village of Jiufen. Which just wasn’t our place.
We noticed the next day that we were struggeling to find our rythme, maintain our energy level with the new asian diet and just enjoying it.
So in Yilan we surrendered to the convenience of the big yellow M for some fries and a burger.
We then booked a last minute AirBnb which was the most comfy place we had until then and we could really use and apprciate it at that moment.
Into the mountains
We had two options from Yilan. To travel further along the coast, but then we had to do the first part by train because it was too dangerous for cycling.
Or the other option: 3 days cycling up into the mountains, to be able to descend via the famous Taroko Gorge. We knew it would be challenging and that it undoubtedly would stretch our comfortzone.
We choose the mountains allthough our state of mind preffered some comfort, but we knew that the in the end the satisfaction would be many times greater.
We took the road less traveled and that made all the difference
We made a battleplan which included doing grosseries to be self-sufficient. So we could keep our energy level high during this trip.
What followed were 2,5 hot days of slow cycling through rugged farmlands, small villages and tea plantations. With no idea where to sleep or to eat.
Getting the hang of it
We learned to just enter places ”armed’ with google translate, a big smile and some international hand gestures.
It supplied us with water at various police stations, a place to sleep at a school in Nanshan and great vegetarian food in local eateries.
We left Nanshan before we got overrun by the curious schoolkids to climb to Lishan. It went well and were there early in the afternoon. Done with cycling, ready for some ice cream and looking foreard to relax. The one thing that was left to do was arrange a place to sleep. But that went a bit different than we hop for because as it was not allowed at the local school, just like it wasn’t at the policestation, church or temple. All places where you ‘normaly’ are allowed to spend a night in Taiwan. So tired, hungry and especially done searching we booked a hotel.
The next morning after a chinese breakfast with rice and vegetabales we cycled the last 30km up. At 2600 meters altitude and 8 km from the top of Taiwan’s highest road, we dived into the Taroko Gorge.
What a pleasure to let gravity do its work. And in the meanwhile have the freedom to be touched by the beautiful surroundings. 65 kilometers later we finally pitched our tent again and we met the first westerner since 5 days.
After a rainy night we woke up in the gorge and were blessed with sun and just 45 km left to the centre of Hualien.
We didn’t expected the last kilometers to be so stunning and impressive. The sheer size of the gorge and the big walls surrounding us made us feel small and humble.
At the bodem of the gorge we parked our bikes in front of a 7-eleven, got ourselves some coffee, smiled at eachother and concluded that it was challenging, a bit overwhelming but typicaly us. And thankfully we’re back with full energy.
The contrasts of Taiwan
For us, Taiwan is a country of contrasts. From bustling cities to small villages. From delicious food on the street and in atmosphere-less shacks to hipster coffee cafés and chic restaurants. From sleeping at a school or at people’s homes, to commercial AirBNB companies and high prized hotels. From hot weather and a high humidity to rain and cold mountain air. From enormous crowds to extreme calmness. From very sweet, relaxing and extremely warm people to strictly following rules and working 7 days a week. And from extremely shy to free and openly expressions with music, dance and art. From ugly heavy industry to factories that have been transformed into beautiful art and cultural areas.
A country where the density of night shops is incomparable and where the garbage trucks play the happiest song in all of Taiwan.
Taiwan is an unpolished diamond in Asia
At the moment we are taking it easy and are enjoying a ‘holiday’ at the westcoast of Taiwan. We are preparing us for the land of the rising sun as we count down our last 5 days in Taiwan.
Japan is next, where we will cycle from Tokyo to and around Hokkaido!