Posted by on 8, Mar 2020 in 2020 - Winter in Taiwan, Taiwan, Tilly the Tandem


The thing about having multiple weather apps is you have to make sure they all tell you the same thing in the same currency so to speak.

So when we set off up up coast into the 27kph with 50kph gusts headwind and we found it some of the hardest cycling we’ve done, had we checked the weather app properly we’d have seen it was in Knott’s and not kph so the 27 became 50kph with 92kph gusts and that why it was so hard – and there we were thinking we are getting too old for all this!

Still, it made the decision of wimping out about crossing the pass by Bicycle definitely seem like the right choice, that and the fact that our taxi nearly killed every tourer he passed either by being too close or scaring the crap out of them by being too close!

Fortunately we only had 14km to go up the coast into the wind and rain with some hills with the cloud covering the mountains, the sea and at times the road. We had a nice big shoulder to hide in and made slow progress but arrived at our B&B to find we were the only guests and had the run of the place.

The next day the weather cleared and the ride up the coast was beautiful. Still hard as the wind was still picking on us, but half heartedly now. This coast is the jewel in Taiwan’s crown. It’s very similar to the Cabot Highway in Nova Scotia except it’s got palm trees, heat and the most turquoise sea you’ve ever seen. This is the Pacific and there’s nothing between us and the USA, don’t tell Donald else he’ll want to build a wall!

The road is quite busy but generally you feel ok. Some of the drivers use the cycle Lane as an undertaking Lane but fortunately they’ve not done that when we are in it – yet! There’s loads of picnic sites along the way and plenty of cycle Rest Stops, often at the police station, compete with air, water and tools for your bike. Can’t see that happening in the UK!

We made it to Taitung and picked a hotel near the Indian restaurant and were just a tad disappointed (to say the least!) To find it closed on Mondays. Our fault we should have checked, but headed off to a very nice cafe in a new build entirely made out of containers stacked up irregularly to form a higgledy piggledy tower. We got a semi Indian meal in Onion Bhaggie Burger and chips! Very nice it was too.

The cafe was in the old main station terminus for Taitung which is now shut and the railway lines, signals, platforms have all been left in place and the whole area grassed over and made into a lovely park. The park is lit at night by lanterns all designed by local school children.

We wandered home after our burger and beer passing the poorest housing we’ve seen, very dilapidated almost shanty town huts piled up with all sorts of bits and Bob’s, next to a brand new footpath (one of the only ones we’ve seen here as you just walk on the road) lined with trees. People were sitting outside in groups with a small fire and a kettle hanging over it like something you’d see out of a medieval film and as we strolled past they waved said Hello Nice to Meet you and beamed! The poorest people are always the most welcoming wherever you go in the world.

Our next dilema was our route choices, the main cycle route heads off into the Rift Valley, but a secondary cycle route runs along the coast. The trouble with the coastal route is the hills, it goes over some very big ones and you know our Hillphobia already so we weren’t too keen on that. The only drawback is the coast is so beautiful and we’d already seen inland on the other coast so we decided to man up and go the coast route, at least until The big hills turned up, then we’d cut across the mountains on one of the lower passes and make our way through the Rift Valley bypassing the major coastal hills. That’s the plan anyway.

So our second day of slogging up the coast was much the same as the first. Hot, beautiful, sunny and hilly. This is the hardest cycling we’ve done and at times we really wonder why we are doing this, but at the end of a day, sitting in a pagoda overlooking the sea with an ice cold beer (our favourite brand here is handily called Beer) it really all seems worth while!

This coast is so different to the crowded West Coast. The people are different and judging from all the tribal monuments and signs perhaps they are more indigenous than the west coast. They’re still as happy and cheerfully wave and cheer us as we crawl past and we are surprised we haven’t caused a major pile up with the number of cars who slow down and pull along side us taking pictures, cheering and giving us the thumbs up. Today we passed a WI type meeting and they stopped and clapped!

Another difference is the swapping of the temples for churches. This coast has so many churches and so few temples which we find extraordinary sad. The villages with temples were bustling with people coming and going to the temple all day long, meal times were often spent there with large groups all sharing food and there were always people sitting chatting. The temple seemed to be the central point of the village and the village life. Even if they were empty in the smaller villages they were still open and unlocked, welcoming anyone who wanted to wander in. The churches are locked and gated. It’s not the same and to us it changes the whole culture of the village…

The coast though is truly the most special and beautiful cycle we’ve done, and did I mention hardest? The wind is almost always against you, the sun is baking and the air temperature in the 30’s but it is absolutely worth it. The road runs right next to the sea and cycle (and car) rest stops are every couple of kilometers. They usually occupy the best view possible and have a pagoda to relax in, toilets and bike racks. The mountains tower off to one side and the sea stretches off to the other. The beaches are grey coarse sand and are infrequent with most of the coast line being rocky, adding to the spectacular nature of it all.

Our escape point where we could inland arrived and we manned up yet again (twice in one trip!) and decided to stay by the sea and do the hills as the coast was just so gorgeous.

The hills are nothing to proper cyclists (we met a Germans couple who were positively looking forward to going up the 3200m pass on their bikes) but to us anything steeper than a dropped curbs induces panic and fear. We are the fair weather “oooo, there’s a coffee shop let’s stop” type cyclists so this series of hills at 200m 300m and 100m is in fact quite tiny. We ended up pushing up the first one as the road was busy and quite narrow with hairpin bends and no shoulder, but the others we actually peddled up. Hot, hard work but not too bad. Shock horror!

Of course for me the roll down at 50kph is the highlight whereas for Linda that’s just as bad as cycling up. We do compromise though, I don’t go above 50!