Cycling Around Taiwan, Partly & Slowly (3)

Cycling Around Taiwan, Partly & Slowly (3)

  • Where: Kaohsiung (高雄) to Kenting (墾丁), Taitung (台東) to Hualien (花蓮)
  • When: 18 Dec – 27 Dec 2012
  • Who: Peter and Lois (our first cycling trip)

image grid showing the Fangliao station platform, orange train and the seats of a train to Taitung.

  • So, we were back to Fangliao from Kenting by coach and then hopped on to a train towards Taitung via the South-link Line (南迴線). We had bought train tickets when we were there 2 days ago. Smart! Many cyclists could just cycle to Taitung directly from Kenting. It’s a 160km journey with accumulated elevation gain of 2,250m. The peak is at Shouka (壽卡), 460 metres above sea level. But no, not for us! We were lazy novice cyclists who just wanted to use bicycles to burn the calories we took in. This route looked barren with no prospect of delicious food. Besides, it was my first cycling trip with Lois, and I would not want it to be the last one.

image grid showing the front door of a homestay, a woman having a supper, a man in a pub and the road conditions from Taitung to Hualien costal route.

  • On the east side of the island facing the Pacific Ocean, the sunny fine weather was gone. Clouds were gathering like a gigantic thick curtain to hide the blue sky. “The sky is flipping (變天)”, said the locals. We hit the road as soon as we left the platform of Taitung train station. Wind was blowing strong against us. We used the rest of the day to cover 25km and reach a small village, Dulan (都蘭). The village was called by the aboriginal Amis people as A’tolan / E’tolan, meaning a place with lots of rocks and hit by earthquake frequently. The school bags with the name of the local primary school (都蘭國小) printed on it is very popular among Taiwan people. It’s a long and interesting story I won’t share here but may do some day.
  • We had a simple meal and found a homestay operated by a retired couple. We saw their advertising note on a lamp post. The mister came riding his motorbike to lead the way. They used to live in Taipei with cramped spaces. Therefore when they were building the house for their retirement, they got too excited and made the rooms so so big.

Image grid showing a beach, Donghe bums with hot bitter melon ribs soup, two cyclists in the rain, their silhouette.

  • Bleak weather with some showers the next day. We got our reward for our ordeal by having the famous, delicious Donghe bums (東河包子) with hot bitter melon ribs soup to warm our body. There were some great sea views along our route but otherwise the sea was blocked by trees. The wind kept on challenging our endurance. We were soaked and tired. I had to fend off the idea of quitting in my mind and avoid mentioning it to Lois. We made it to Chenggong Township (成功鎮, literal meaning “Success Township”), hoping to find a place to stay. But there were few shops open, let alone a homestay. We had lunch there to gather our strength. We did not bother to take a detour to the scenic spot Sanxiantai (三仙台). After riding for 19 km more in the rain, we finally reached a small village called Ningbu (寧埔), where we found some place to stay for the night. The problem was that there was no restaurant nearby. “Even a bird won’t lay eggs here (鳥不生蛋)”, said the homestay owner. He kindly drove us to a restaurant in another village that we had just passed by so that we could have dinner, and made sure the restaurant owner would drive us back after that. We learnt later from the TV news that a cold wave had just hit Taiwan that day.