As we finish our time in Taiwan we have clocked up over 3,000kms since our wheels first started turning in Newfoundland. We fly out to Bangkok tomorrow so have just spent the morning packing the bikes. It's a bit of a dispiriting task as we have to almost strip the bikes down to meet China Airlines box size requirements. Even the brakes have been removed this time. Thankfully we can reuse the bike boxes that we brought from Canada so we (Andy!) don't need to construct new ones.
The last blog finished with us in the East Rift Valley town of Yuli. From there we crossed the mountains again and enjoyed an easy cycle down the coast to Dulan. This town is apparently popular with Taipei expats but as we didn't hit it at a weekend the only evidence we saw of this were a few restaurants offering an alternative to Taiwanese cuisine - we can vouch for the tastiness of the Indian and Vietnamese food!
From here we cycled a bit further south in 30+ degrees of heat to see some stunning coastal rock formations and then just before the sprawling city of Taitung we headed back inland to overnight and take a local train to Hualien. The local trains stop every five minutes at each town on the line, but you can't put a bike on a fast train.
Andy particularly wanted to revisit Taroko Gorge but this time by bike and avoiding the Chinese coach tours. This meant riding 20kms of uphill and tunnels late in the afternoon and hoping we would arrive at the one place with accommodation before dark. We were a little later than we might have wished but we found the church hostel which the receptionist at our previous hotel had arranged. We never did discover whether we should have provided our own sleep sheets or whether what we used as a duvet was supposed to be a Japanese futon mattress. We were pretty much sleeping on the floor (which wasn't much harder than the average Taiwanese mattress) but it was very cheap at £8/each a night. Usually it is at least twice that price.
We spent two nights in the Gorge and did a beautiful half-day hike to a waterfall. It was odd to see some fellow Westeners as we have seen very few since we landed in Taiwan. We descended early the following morning to avoid the tour buses and took a busy train for 2 hours northwards to Yilan. It turns out that no tour groups are allowed to travel by coach along the winding cliffside road that we had ridden on our way south. There was a landslip a couple of years back which pushed one bus over the edge with a lot of fatalities. We had noted as we had ridden the road that all the buses were empty.
Our second visit to Yilan county didn't inspire us much more than our first. The several urban connurbations on this flat section of costal plain are forthe most part covered with seemingly disused paddy fields separated by hundreds of dyke roads and the odd house. However, in Yilan we spent a couple of hours with a lovely bike shop guy who put a new rear wheel onto Fran's bike. It took a bit of time for him to understand our request as the wheel looked okay. But two of the spokes have broken in the last month and with the weight of the panniers more are likely to go. So it's best to get it sorted in the land of 'Giant bikes' rather than in Sri Lanka.
From Yilan we cycled 70kms along a beautiful road which wound through the mountains into South Taipei. The only downside was that it was a Sunday and this road just turns into a racetrack for mopeds and motorcycles. But we both agreed that they were preferable to the cement trucks we had suffered on the coastal road down to Yilan!