Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bike to Baolai and back: Part 2

(This being the second part of a most excellent visual account of the highlights of my junket to that most wonderful spa-town, Baolai.)

I think this is Nan Hua reservoir. It was a nice relief from more mountains and more orchards on either side of me.

Aboriginal mother, boy, and giant mango. Mangoes are important in this part of the country.

At the end of the day, after a journey of some 97 kilometres, I negotiated my campsite with the people at the desk of the spa resort. I was allowed to pitch my tent upon the patch next to the restaurant. That night I slept beneath the benevolent glow of the small temple across the road dedicated to I know not which deities. As usual, my inflatable air mattress deflated during the night due to the puncture which I hadn't gotten around to fixing.

The new day began early for me, as is the way when you camp outdoors. This is the view from the entrance of the resort. The sun is about to protrude above the tree line behind the resort.

There was nothing for it but to pack up and start back home again. But I stopped down the hill from the resort in the town of Baolai, famous for its hot springs and white-water rafting. Downtown on the main street (above) I ate at Mei & Mei, a franchised breakfast restaurant found all over Taiwan. A soy milk, coffee, and toasted sandwich later, I was ready to begin the long haul back to Tainan.

This seems to happen a lot up in the mountains. I won't hazard a guess as to the causes.

The Big Taro. Speaks for itself really.

A couple of towns away from Baolai: This is the spot where I danced in the rain with John on my last trip to Baolai. Things are changing and there are a lot of roadworks taking place in this town.
Anyone fancy a bit of fishing? Not a popular spot but boasts some beautiful scenery.

One of the last pauses on my journey home, just outside Tainan city, the ubiquitous, convenient, ever-ready, reliable, one-stop-shop: 7-11. This one had some tables and chairs outside in the shade of some trees. Nice.

By the time I got home my left knee wasn't functioning without pain and I couldn't have gone much further. But it was wonderful having done something with my week off, something that I could be proud of, and good practice for a possible bicycling tour at the end of the month. Good work Brown.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bike to Baolai and back: Part 1

Last week I enjoyed a blissful reprieve from the hard grind of the kindergarten (oh, how hard we work in kindergarten) and spring afforded me a vacation. Unfortunately the teachers at Andrea's school do not enjoy the same benefit so it was business as usual for her. So I was free to employ myself in whatever schemes or machinations I so desired. I actually had a very productive time, knocking off chores and miscellaneous jobs that had been sitting on my "To Do" list for ages. But I did manage to ride my bicycle to Baolai and back. On Wednesday I rode about 97 kilometers to Baolai and on Thursday I managed 98.1 kilometers before I parked my bike back at home in the parking lot under our apartment block. So here is a photologue of my journey to Baolai and back by bicycle.

My bicycle, sitting in our apartment immediately prior to departure. Behind the seat are my panniers and rack into and onto which I have loaded my tent, inflatable bed-roll, sleeping bag, map, fruit, change of clothes, camping pillow, insect-repellent, suncream, and other essentials.

Out of the city, passing through small towns, keeping an eye out for signs that I'm still on road number 180. In this case the green sign tacked on under the route number tells me that I have now travelled ten kilometers from the origin of the 180. There are usually distance markers every half-a-kilometer or so. And of course you can see the ubiquitous 7-11 up ahead.

I took the opportunity to take a shot of myself on the road. Taking photos with you in them is, of course, a problem when you are travelling solo.

A mango orchard. We are at the start of mango season and the mangoes are plentiful. And cheap.
Chickens. But they're all black. A black chicken is not abnormal but an absence of any other colours? I don't know. Maybe it is normal. I'm no expert on fowl.

I don't know if you can describe a field of pineapples as an orchard; the term doesn't seem to fit too well. How about "plantation"? The pineapple in the foreground possesses a particularly magnificent crown. It always seems to be pineapple season in Taiwan.

Off the main roads. I love the way this road leads down the hill and disappears in the trees. Note the church rising up above the rest of the horizon.

On this mango orchard the mangoes have all been bagged. I guess it protects the fruit but it must be a lot of work putting all those bags on all those fruit.

A huge temple. To get to this temple you must pass through a huge arch set within a front wall and proceed down the avenue of palms. The temple itself rises up from the surrounding grounds and is topped off with a large white cloud.

A traffic tunnel. It's kind of cool to ride from the open air into and through one of these.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Yilan marathon 2009

Last week (or was it two weeks ago?) we travelled to Yilan on the north-west coast to participate in the 2009 Yilan marathon. I ran the 10km race while Andrea and our friend John ran the 21km half-marathon. The weather was perfect: overcast, cool, and just the lightest spray of rain towards the end of the run. John and Andrea's run started at 7:00am while mine started half-an-hour later at 7:30.

At about 7:28 I was in the thick of it, standing amidst the throng of sweat-shirt-clad humanity waiting behind the starting line. In the last few minutes before the race when there is nothing to do but wait for the starting pistol to go off, some people jog on the spot while others just stand, some talk to their friends while others keep staring in the direction of the starting banner, some give off the impression that they are taking this very seriously while others might be here just because they had nothing better to do at seven-o'clock on a Sunday morning. Suddenly there was some kind of commotion at the very front of the pack as several people moved from somewhere off-track and took up a position in front of everyone else. At least two of these people were rather large and wore some kind of ear-phones. I also saw the bald, old-looking head of someone who seemed to be very famous from the way that the crowd focused on him. I found out much later that the celebrity was current president Ma Ying-jeou who is, apparently, very keen on running.

Random runners, at least two hours after starting.

Medallion in hand, Andrea looks happy; happy with her effort, or perhaps just happy to be finished. I was happy to get the free cup of hot Milo and the free fruit soy bar.

It's nice to see your name in the lists of finishers. It is somebody's job to stick up the results of the marathon as they are generated. You can see John and Andrea's finishing times in this extract from the list.

John and Andrea bask in the hormonal glow that accompanies each massive 21km assault on the body.

For once I manage to look genuinely happy while being fully aware that someone is taking my photo.

The journey home. The realities of life slowly creep back into the consciousness. Work. Home. Obligations and responsibilities. But Andrea knows that at least she will sleep well tonight. Actually she will sleep before she gets home, in whatever way she can make herself comfortable on the train and bus seats.