Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cycling around Taiwan: Day 5: Taidong to Guangfu

Start day 5: February 13. Location: Taidong City (台東市), Taidong County (台東縣). Remarks: Awoke at 4:45; had breakfast in hotel room including fruit that we picked up on our walk along fruit street the night before; started cycling just after 6am. We were blessed with a beautiful clear blue sky and crisp clean air without any noticeable breeze. However, it was very cold and after leaving the hotel in only my light cycling shirt, I was soon forced to wear my second shirt over the top. Slightly further down the road I pulled on my fleecy top and wore my towel around my neck to keep it warm.

Coming around this corner we thought for a moment that we were looking at a cloud bank in the distance.  The sight of these mountains suspended in the clouds reminds me of legends of special places that exist in the clouds; a nephological kingdom in the sky.

A panorama of the same phenomenon without the trees to frame the sight.

The effect is hard to capture in a photograph but we tried.  A lot.

There were a lot of corn/sugar-cane stalls by the side of this particular stretch of highway and so we decided to try some.  The corn we got (common in Taiwan) is pale yellow, not "sweet" corn, and cooked by boiling in water with a little salt added.  It's quite good.  The sugar cane is expertly stripped of its grassy skin leaving you, the consumer, with a crispy, fibrous stick of sweet, sticky fibrousness.  You bite a piece off, chew the goodness out of it, and then spit out the fibrous residue.

We got our corn and cane from this stall but when we pulled up it was being manned by a Vietnamese lady who gave us each a stick of cane for free when we bought the corn.  As soon as our transaction was over she disappeared, leaving her diminutive son on watch.

East Rift Valley panorama.

Fields of flowers in the East Rift Valley.  Heavy clouds struggle to pull themselves up over the hills.

Sowing a rice paddy the modern way.

One of our many gas-station bathroom stops.  This one was situated in isolation surrounded by some nice scenery.  I will use it to illustrate the difference that a nice vista makes to a restroom stop:

The female toilet cubicles: dark, claustrophobic, and poorly ventilated.

The male urinals: light, airy, and offering a window on a pleasant scene of farmlands, mountains, and clouds, enhancing the act of evacuation and making urination while standing a positive tourism experience.

More rice paddies, mountains, and clouds.

At one of the many great police station rest stops along the way, these three gentlemen obliged us by posing for a photo.

A very quick stop for a photo op at the Tropic of Cancer Marker on the no.9 highway in the East Coast Rift Valley.

Somewhere between Fuyuan and Guangfu we stopped at another police station to ask about cheap accommodation or a camp site.  We were informed that ten minutes back down the road we had just come up we could stay at the local fire station for $300 per person but that we might have our sleep disturbed if there was some kind of call-out.  The sun had already set and John was experiencing severe gastro-intestinal discomfort (those two statements are in no way related) and just needed to get to a hotel.  We decided against going back and chose to continue instead to the town or Guangfu where we were sure to find a cheap hotel.  When we did get to Guangfu, the first couple of hotels we investigated were definitely not cheap.  It was Chinese New Year's eve after all and hotel rooms all around the country were, by now, renting at premium rates.  We managed to find a cheaper hotel around the corner and John monopolized the bathroom as soon as we were booked in.

Later on, Andrea and I went for a walk to get a few provisions for our hotel room breakfast in the morning.  Along the way we saw families and friends shutting up shop, getting their barbecues out and their fireworks ready, preparing to celebrate the arrival of the new year.  In the local bakery some very excited children showed us their Hong-Baos (red envelopes) containing their gift-money.  The new year would be the year of the tiger.  However, for us tonight would be the night of the bear: we hibernated, exhausted, as the magical nocturnal season of whizzing, banging, and cracking fireworks passed by overnight.

End of day 5: February 13. Location: Guangfu Township (光復鄉), Hualien County (光復縣). Distance on my electronic odometer: 474km. Accommodation: a cheap homestay/hotel on the southern edge of Guangfu. Remarks: After a beautiful day spent riding through the beautiful scenery of the east coast inlands on the no.9 provincial highway we were still going after dark. Somewhere between Fuyuan and Guangfu we stopped at a police station to enquire about camping. They told us that we could stay at the Fire Station in Fuyuan for NT$300 pp. However that was some way behind us and John was experiencing intense gastrointestinal discomfort so we made for the closer township of Guangfu which lay ahead. After rejecting a couple of hotels for being too expensive we chose a homestay with rooms above a breakfast restaurant/convenience store. We were so tired we slept through most of the Chinese New Year fireworks.

No comments: