Tuesday, April 28, 2009

East Coast Bike Trip: Day 2

The second day I awoke at dawn and went outside to check the skies. My heart quailed when I saw the dark clouds, but Michael assured me that it would be a perfect day for riding: no sun, no wind, and cool. I soon found he was exactly right. We hit the road, heading for Dulan, some 80 kms to the south.

Up and down the Ozymandias coast may be found the wrecks of all sorts of buildings, from factories to bed and breakfasts.

Shitiping looked lovely even against gray skies as we left it behind in the morning.

So I panned it.

We strung out along the road.

The coast is full of aborigines, who are predominantly Christian. Hence the local Church is always a prominent structure.

The Three Amigos.

We came to a small town where we would grab some breakfast, fronted by a beautiful and famous red bridge, like so many other small towns in Taiwan.

I accidentally photo'd my bike. Our shoes were soaked from the downpour the day before, so Jeff and I bought sandals and pedaled along attired in socks and sandals, which had all who beheld us in stitches, blundering foreigners who'd failed to assimilate properly. I hung my wet shoes and socks on the front of the bicycle, hoping they'd dry over the course of the day. If only I had been able to ride fast enough to generate a wind....

A farmer takes advantage of the good weather.

A small town along the coast.

The stretch between I-lan and Hualien is imposing, but for sheer lush beauty, the coast between Shitiping and Donghe is unrivaled. We soon found ourselves in the signature region of rice fields and steep peaks.

Our next stop was the Tropic of Cnacer, one of the two Tropics that bisect Taiwan, the other one being the better-known Tropic of Cancer.

At the memorial tower a man stopped by to chat me up about the trip. After a few minutes of talking, he observed: "Riding a bike is really great!" His wife, who had been following the conversation, burst out: "What are you talking about! Your bike is in the back of the car!"

Mountains. Sea. Cloud. Farms. Fields.

Imagine if this drove around suburban neighborhoods in the US, rock music blasting from its speakers: "Power tools, power tools...."

We stopped in another small town for drinks and a quick visit to the internet cafe. There was a small celebration for the Buddha's birthday, so he was being driven around town, naked, accompanied by music and marching. Beyond the procession a sign for a KMT candidate, apparently in a primary battle, argues that only change can bring hope. The KMT has controlled the east for 50 years.

Gathering firewood.

"Omigawd! A foreigner! And he's... and he's.... he took my picture!"

Plenty of agriculture was squeezed into the shelf between the mountains and the sea.

The mountains run like giants toward the sea.

After Shitiping the coast is more heavily populated, and supplies of snacks and water are constantly available.

Fisherman cast in the surf.

I panned the bay where they were casting.

We turned off the road to check out these cool rock formations.

I panned The Three Amigos waiting for me to catch my breath.

Jeff poses as we crawl around the rocks.

My crappy bike from Safe-n-save. It was OK for around the neighborhood work, but hopeless for long-distance biking. The brakes fell apart, it weighed a ton, and the wide wheels meant more friction to be overcome. I grew to hate it passionately.

A woman gathered shellfish adhering to the concrete of the wharf.

Fishing boats bright against a gray world.

Even without the sun, the coast was overwhelmingly beautiful.

Jeff encourages me. Without the constant flow of beer advice and support from them, I would never have made it.

Planting a fishing net in a local stream.

Michael ponders the shot I am taking.

Readers will be able to caption this photo of young men taking each other's picture in a field of sunflowers much better than I will ever be able to.

On a bicycle you can notice all the little things, like this tiny historical site along the road marking the first dry goods shop in the vicinity.

The Ozymandias coast: ruined factories aside rivers and farms.

The last long climb of the day.

One of the best parts of the trip was the warm welcome we got everywhere. Bikers shouted jia you! wherever we went. Locals poured out of houses to greet us. The warmth and friendliness of the east coast left us deeply touched.

Mountains loom behind a land of green.

One great government policy: at police stations on the east coast, you can get a pump and water. They even scrounged up some mineral oil for the noisy squeak in my rear wheel. The pumps are highly quality bike pumps too. Please use the service when you are down there; it will encourage the government to retain and expand it.

Jeff enjoys the admiring camaraderie of other bikers. They took one look at me and dismissed my pathetic gear: "Where'd you get that bike? Carrefour?" Unfortunately there was no tree nearby to hang myself from.

While Jeff and I schmoozed, Michael and Huiling fixed a flat.

Evening brought us to Dulan and this hostel. I was quite satisfied, having just finished the longest bike ride of my life: 85 kms. Greater ones to come!

The hostel is next to an abandoned factory which is now an arts center. Other nations beat their swords into plowshares, in Taiwan, we turn our factories into performing arts buildings.

The old factory.

The reason I cannot recommend this hostel is right here: this amazing towel, made of paper, and completely useless. I'd be willing to pay a few NT more for a real towel.

Not all was annoying. We also went to the excellent Marino's Kitchen, the best Italian place on the east coast. On Saturday and Sunday Dave and Rolly serve home made Italian pasta and pizza. The bread is said to be divine, and the lovely Rolly offers a country style of courtesy that has been almost lost in our modern world (click on pic to see map in full). Highly recommended. Bellies full of pasta, we retired again at 9, ready for the leisurely ride to Taitung city in the morning.

Day Three

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Dalbanese said...

Thanks for sharing so much of this trip. I love the East coast and like seeing your commentary.

About the sugar factory and Dulan: did you see up the hill to the right of the sugar factory is an aboriginal art store called haode bai or "好的擺" ? Really neat art there. Also next to the Dulan hostel towards the road at what looks like a shack are greaaaaat burgers and home fries...even chips and salsa!

Anonymous said...

I'm reading this blog from New Jersey and I hope one day I can go to visit Hulien where my wife was born. Thanks for sharing these nice pics with us.