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THE R@SKLS in Taiwan: Day 3

Day 3 Jersey

We were all resplendent in bespoke jerseys today.  Thanks to Pai.  In addition to spending a lot of time and effort sorting out every detail of our time in Taiwan, he gave each of us a commemorative jersey.  Such a nice thing of him to do.

Thursday dawned bright and sunny.  We started earlier than we did yesterday.  By 7.00am we were getting ready.

Day 3 Getting ready to roll Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

By 7.20am we were lined up for the first group photograph of the day.

Day 3 Ready to roll Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Our route today took us northeast out of Taitung across the Beinan River and along the coast for the first 35km.

Day 2 Route

Our first stop was at the Jialulan Recreation Area.  Not even 10km under or wheels and we were already stopping for photographs.  You must admit that the views are stunning.

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Day 3 Sea view Lai Von Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Day 3 Sea View Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

The site was formerly the waste soil dumping area when the Taiwanese Air Force was constructing the Jhihhang air base.  It has since been converted into an art and recreation area.

This is one of the kinetic sculptures at Jialulan.  Look closely and you can spot a fighter jet on training maneuvers.

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I couldn’t resist the opportunity to photobomb TH and Voon Kiat.

Day 3 Photo bombing Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

It was probably karma that I then had a puncture 7km up the road.  Ah Dar was on the case like a shot.  Both he and Xiao Ger were worth their weight in gold on this trip.

Day 3 Flat TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

We had decided to stop every 30km or so to top up bottles etc.  The rural township of Donghe was 35km from where we had started.  And there was, no surprise, a 7-Eleven.

Day 3 7-Eleven TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

It turns out that Donghe is the site of many international surfing competitions.  Which explains the statue outside the 7-Eleven.

Donghe marked the point where we crossed the bridge over the Mawuku River and turned left to start the long climb along Route 23, over the mountain to Fuli.

This is the profile of that climb.  It is 45km from Donghe to Fuli, with more than 1,100 metres of elevation.

Day 3 Elevation (1)

Profile courtesy of Veloviewer

Chai yo!  (Go go go!)

It is a long climb with a number of false summits.  In other words, the road tips downward and you start to pick up speed.  But only until the next corner reveals the road heading upwards again.

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It is a long climb.

Day 3 Mid-climb rst stop Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

Pai at one of those false summits.  You can see the road he was on in the distance behind his bicycle, and the hairpin turn on the left of the photograph.  From the road in the distance, where Pai is standing looks like the summit.  It isn’t!

Day 3 Mid-climb Pai

Photograph courtesy of Pai Hsing C

Pai was right when he warned us to fill our bottles and have enough to eat before starting the climb.  There is virtually nothing between Donghe and Fuli.  Except for the beautiful view.

Day 3 Descent view Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

And these two cool tunnels.

Day 2 tunnel Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Day 2 tunnel 2 Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

I stopped at the Hualien County Police Bureau on the other side of the climb to ask where the closest 7-Eleven was.  The answer was “In Fuli.”  5km away.

Those 5km were through paddy fields.  Of which there were more to come.

Day 3 Cimbing Done Kenix

Photograph courtesy of Kenix Chiang

The7-Eleven in Fuli had a seating area at the back of the store, with enough tables and chairs for fifteen or so people.  I camped there with my Super Supau and a couple of pineapple yogurts while waiting for the others to get to Fuli.

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Ralf, Voon Kiat, and Lay were the next to arrive in Fuli.

Day 2 Fuil Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

It started raining while we regrouped in Fuli.  We had a very wet 9km ride from Fuli to the “green road of paradise,” which runs through vast rice paddy fields set against a mountain backdrop.  In recent years, the road has become better known as “Mr Brown Avenue / Mr Brown Road / Mr Brown Boulevard” after the area was used in a commercial for Mr. Brown Coffee.

It was still raining when we got to the green road.  This pavilion overlooking the paddy fields provided cover while we ate our boxed lunches, courtesy of Xiao Ger and Ah Dar.

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A closer look at the rice paddies revealed clusters of salmon coloured eggs attached to the rice stalks.  Laid by little snails like this one.

The rain stopped while we were eating and the sun peeked out over the mountains.

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We joined lots of tourists riding along and taking photographs on the “green road of paradise.”

Day 3 Paddy Fields Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

EVA Air filmed a commercial here in 2013.  In the commercial, a traveller relaxes beneath a tree, quietly savouring a free cup of tea.  To capture the timeless spirit of that popular advertising campaign, EVA Air invited contemporary artist Yang Mao-lin to create a work of art representative of the compelling scene.

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We stayed off Route 9 on our way out of Chinshang township.  Riding instead for 25km along a quiet country road and then a bike path.

Day 3 Last sction Pai

Photograph courtesy of Pai Hsing C

The pace was calm and relaxed for 6km.  Suddenly the quiet air was disrupted by a shout of “LAI LAI LAI!” (COME COME COME!)  It was TH as he sprinted past everyone.

That LAI LAI LAI shout is the proverbial red flag to a bull to the R@SKLs.  A few always rise to the challenge and race off in hot pursuit.  This bit of fun went on for the next 15km.

We crossed Route 9 at the junction with Route 30.  2.5km later we were at our destination for the night.

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We washed off our bikes and parked them in the inner courtyard.  Then we took showers ourselves before slipping into the hot pools.

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The An-Tong Hotel hot springs are natural, with a faint but distinct sulphur smell.  The pool in the rear is hotter than the one in the front.  We made it a rule that you had to sit in the hotter pool before you could cool off with a cold beer in the warm pool.

Day 3 Hot pool cold beer

The hotel has a bar.  Which we felt duty-bound to use.

Day 3 Pre-dinner Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

I don’t think we bought anything to drink there though.  We had brought quite a stash with us.

Day 3 Rehydration Simon

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Rehydration continued during dinner.

Day 3 dinner Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Day 3 Dinner Arthur

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

And on throughout the karaoke session which followed.  I didn’t know you could get karaoke lyrics on your mobile phone.

Day 3 Karaoke Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

We had been noisy in the restaurant.  We were noisier in this private room.  Voon Kiat, Kiam Woon, and Luanne sought some quiet on the balcony.

Day 3 Balcony Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

I believe the partying went on for some time.  And there might have been some hot pool skinny dipping as well.  You know what they say.  “What happened in An-Tong . . . .”

 

 

The R@SKLs in Taiwan: Day 2

The Kenting Youth Activity Centre is on a beach.  Those who were up early enough took a stroll to the rocky shore, taking care to avoid the vicious thorns on the plants lining the trail.

Xiao Ger and Ah Dar arrived with our bikes at 7.30am as promised.  We had planned to be on our way at 8.00am.  Last minute adjustments and photographing meant that we got away at 8.30am.

Day 2 Ready to Roll Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

Some of us had rain vests and jackets on because the weather forecast for southern Taiwan was accurate.  It was Wednesday, and it was raining.

Day 0 Weather

Our route for the day took us close to the southernmost point of Taiwan Island before heading up the east coast to Taitung.

Day 2 Route (2)

We tried to get to Eluanbi Lighthouse, but it is only accessible on foot.

Day 2 Lighthouse

The rain had stopped as we approached the lighthouse.  But it wouldn’t be the last rain shower of the day.  And the 80 metre climb from the point where we turned north wouldn’t be the last climb of the day either.

Day 2 On the road Pai

There were another 490 metres of climbing in the next 28km.  The view from the top of the climb made the effort worthwhile.

Day 2 Rain on the way

Certainly worth posing for a group photograph there.

Day 2 Rain Coming Pai

Photograph courtesy of Pai Hsing C

Stopping for photographs became a regular occurrence.  The views were spectacular.

Day 2 Breakwater

Day 2 Coast Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

We stopped so often, including here to regroup and dry off after yet more rain, that it took us just under 3hrs 15min to cover the first 50km.

Day 2 After the climb Lay

Photograph courtesy of HC Lay

At the 50km point, we were riding along the beach again.  The roads were very very nice.  Smooth, clean, and very quiet.

Day 2 Beutiful Roads Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Day 2 What a view Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Those blue waters were irresistible.

Day 2 Ocean Photo Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

So irresistible that even the gods look out over the sea at Manzhou township.

Day 2 Statue

We stopped for a break at the Pingtung County Police Bureau.  We were 56km into the ride, and the climb of the day was just ahead.  700 metres of elevation over 21km.

Day 2 Snack Stop Mark Lim

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

Many of the police stations in Taiwan are equipped to assist cyclists.  We could refill water bottles at the Pingtung police station.  There was also a pump and a basic toolkit available for roadside repairs.

Day 2 Police Station

I didn’t see a crayfish restaurant though.

Day 2 Crayfish

After we raided the support vans for bananas, candy bars, and cakes, we hit the climb.  That big lump in the profile below.

Day 2 Elevation (2)

Profile courtesy of Veloviewer

Xiao Ger had headed off to buy packed lunches for us while we were at Pingtung.  He was waiting for us when we got to the three-way junction about halfway up the climb.  Where, most conveniently, there was a roadside restaurant where the owner was happy to let us sit at tables to eat our packed lunches.

Day 2 Lunch stop 2 Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Of course, we bought lots of cold drinks there.  Including my favourite, a Taiwanese grapefruit flavoured sports drink called Super Supao.

Day 2 Super Supao

The biggest incident of the entire trip happened at that lunch.  TH cracked a tooth on a chicken bone hidden inside a dumpling.

Having two support vehicles suddenly became a godsend.  Ah Dar ferried TH, and a few others who had called it a day, to Taitung.  Xiao Ger followed while Voon Kiat and the rest of us tackled the second half of the climb.

Day 2 On the climb Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Voon Kiat might have preferred to do the climb on the back of this beast, rather than on his bike.

Day 2 Lunch stop 2 Voon Kiat 2

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

We were moving away from the coast but were high enough that the sea was visible in the distance.

Day 2 Jungle

The Shouka Bike Station is at the top of the climb.

Day 2 Poice Station after the climb Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

From the Shouka Bike Station it is 11km at an average speed of 40kph to the 7-Eleven store at Anshuo.  7-Elevens were our go-to places for snacks and drinks.  There are more than 5,200 7-Eleven stores in Taiwan.  So one was never very far away.  They have an amazing range of products on offer, and most provide in-store seating.  If we had needed it, 7-Elevens in Taiwan also provide internet access, photocopying, printing, bill payment, and shipping and pick up services.  You name it, and 7-Eleven probably has the solution.  They operate 24/7 to boot.

We were a few kilometres from the Anshuo 7-Eleven when we realised that we had left Kiam Woon behind at the store.  We stopped at this temple to wait for him.

Day 2 Temple

Kiam Woon had decided to ride with Arthur at a slower pace, so we headed off again.

We didn’t know it at the time, but the really hard work was ahead of us.  We were a couple of kilometres from the coast.  Which we expected to be very nice.  Much like the riding along the coast that we had done earlier in the day.   However, we were now on Provincial Highway 9.  An important highway along the eastern seaboard.  The traffic was suddenly an order of magnitude heavier than it had been for the first 90km of the ride.  Worst of all, there was a strong headwind.

Those 47km on Provincial Highway 9 were a challenge.  That section included 630 metres of elevation and a number of lane closures due to roadworks.  All ridden into a block headwind with the occasional bus passing, at speed, right next to us.

Day 2 Coastal road Bus Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

We took a break from battling the wind at 110km.

We needed another rest 15km later.  One of my cleats had come loose, which provided a convenient excuse to stop.

13km later we finally headed away from the sea, and the headwind eased.  It didn’t stop completely until about 10km from the Traveller Inn in Taitung.  Voon Kiat and I had pulled ahead of the others and were following the route which I had downloaded onto my Garmin.  We would have been better off sticking with Pai and the others.

Pai realised that there was a shorter route to the hotel that the way our Garmins were taking us.  Only 5km shorter, but after 150km and 2,300 metres of elevation, every kilometre less would have helped.

What did help was the fact that Voon Kiat had two front lights.  I hadn’t packed a front light.  By 6.15pm it was dark, and we still had 10km to go.

Voon Kiat and I needed one last 7-Eleven stop with about 6km to go.  If I hadn’t had an almond Snickers bar and a bottle of Super Supao, I would have had to call Xiao Ger or Ah Dar to come and rescue me from the edge of the road.

It was a tough day, but we all made it to the hotel

Day 2 Traveller Inn Tiehua Taituyng City

Our day wasn’t as tough as TH’s day.

Day 2 TH Dentist Simon

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Everyone felt better after a shower and a change of clothes.  Dinner was at a restaurant across the road from the hotel.

It was Pai’s birthday.

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Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Some of the R@SKLs had the energy to hit a night market after dinner.

Day 2 Night sights Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

I hit my pillow.