30 August 2007

Tour Report: 9th to 20th of August, Day 3 to Day 14, Taipei

After 6 days working as an interpreter for the Honduras U17 football team I found myself back in my sister's place. I was planning to leave Taipei and head for Keelung this Friday(17), but the idea was being postphoned by typhoon Sepat, the third that coincided with my journey. So I waited and waited till I finally got to leave the capital by the 21st.

By the 19th of august the sky was cleared of all ill temper, but my resolution was shaken. Well, not exactly resolution, but rather the willingness to keep cycling. Too much rest days and the unstable weather had taken its toll on me, it was just so meaningless, I didn't like leaving home just to stay in another house, I was suppose to be out there sweating and all that, and not watching the telly or surfing the net for days on end.

So by the 20th when the weather was clearer than ever, my thoughts, on the contrary, were overshadowed by the idea of hitting home. 12 days off the bike really had an enormous effect on me, I had somehow sank back into the sedentary hole from which I managed to escape some 14 days earlier. That was when you realized that you were not so strong psychologically as you liked to imagine.

My willingness to quit was doubled by the news that another atmospheric depression was forming some 2000km to the east of Taiwan and there was the low but possible probability that it might effect us. Therefore despite that the 20th was a glorious day for some jolly decent cycling, I stayed in Taipei, indecisive of what I should do.

Still, I couldn't quit just yet, the reason was simple - 177k was just so shameful. At least I had to make it to Ilan because the forecast said that for the next 3 days the weather seemed to be still quite good. However, that wasn't the real reason behind my reluctance to go home at this point, the real reason behind was that I couldn't go home like that! I didn't feel like going back, you know, it was just a feeling, I knew that I wasn't ready to go home, and even if I did I wouldn't be happy to settle down to concentrate on my dissertation, my mind would still linger on the trip and of what could have been.

I can't go home just yet, it wasn't the way to put an end to this. I had to keep going. I need to go to Ilan.









20 August 2007

Tour Report: 8th of August, Day 2, Hsinchu - Taipei, 93k

The wind outside was playing the imperial march while I woke up. I didn't have to look out of the window to know that the trees were all bowing down before its presence. But I did anyway, and they were. Still haven't made up my mind as to cycle or not to cycle, so I packed my gear without much haste despite it was already 7am. By the time Irma, the bike, was loaded, I was delighted to find out that the weather was better than superb. According to the ecclesiastical chauffeur, following the then coastal Expressway No.15 all the way to Taipei was without the slightest doubt so much faster than the Provincial Highway No.1, contrary to the comparison I made on the map. But I decided to have faith in the locals.

However, as time went by, my faith dwindled. Then it went through a complete crisis after I found out, about some 40 minutes later, that I was just approaching NanLiao. Only now did I finally realized why the chauffeur said it was faster: despite being the longer route, it bypassed the major towns and big cities, so thanks to that it was indeed much faster - for a motored vehicle. But I was on a pushbike you see.

When I was exchanging information with the roadside truck drivers, one of them offered to give me a lift to Taoyuan, in 2 hours you will be there. It was a very enticing offer because, first, it was around 10am already and I wasn't on the right track; and, second, it started to drizzle again. But I wasn't to give up just yet, no matter how much my legs liked the idea. So I pushed on and took the County Road No.118 to Jhubei just before Sinfong. After an idyllic 5k I was back on Provincial Hwy No.1.

It felt superb to be back on the track, but it was a short lived one. The seemingly short distance between Jhubei and Yangmei was heavily guarded by headwinds. The ambush started there, and they just kept blowing and blowing and blowing at my face till the sun went down. I was quickly worn out by their persistent blows and the pathetic little hills, which would normally pose no threat to my stamina at all. Even my downhill speed was reduced to less than 10km/h.

It was noon, the sun was high in the sky, and soared likewise was my temper. It was frustrating this ultra slow haul, and on the way up yet another hill I finally had it, mustering the strength I had left, I jumped off the bike before a crew of road construction workers.

While I sat there hiding from the sun and replacing the lots of liquids I'd lost, one of the workers, a middle-aged woman, approached me with bags of rice in her hands. Later she also brought me several bottles of water enough to fill the Shihmen Reservoir. So there I was having lunch by the side of the road with a bunch of dirty workers, but I couldn't be prouder to be side by side with my benefactor. When I was done, I was ready to confront the wind.

Reality showed that the wind was commited to take up the challenge, it was a test of wills. Slowly yet steadily I made my way towards Jhongli and then Taoyuan. I was thinking about ringing Benita, but later figured what good would it does anyway, she was in Guanyin, some 20 to 30k to the west, while it was already 1700 and my destination was still some 3 hours to the east. So I pushed on. By the time I reached Jhonghe, where my sister and brother-in-law lived, I had not a trickle of strength left in my body and I can only cruise on my smallest gear (the smallest ring in the front and the biggest ring in the rear). I was beat after 11 hours on the road.




但是差不多40分鐘之後我對 "當地人之言" 的信心完全粉碎,因為我才剛要接近南寮!直到這時我才完全了解到為什麼御用司機會說走濱海公路比較快:因為它閃過了很多大大小小的鄉鎮和都市,所以縱使它比較長,往來的車輛卻會比較早到目的地。但問題是我騎的是自行車,這對我一點好處也沒有,只會讓我花更多時間走多餘的路。






因為天色已黑,再加上在忽然所有的房屋、商店都不見了,剩下的只有黑漆漆的山壁及昏暗的道路,所以在迴龍好幾公里的下坡時我不安的想著說如果走錯路要調回頭的話我就真的要騎到12點才會到。好險事後證明這是庸人自擾。當我騎到中和時我體內已經沒有任何力量,我只是撐著用最輕檔(齒盤前面放最小,後面放最大)一路雙腳慢慢地旋轉(spin) 到我姐和姐夫住的地方。在經過了今天的11小時之後我已經精疲力竭。

19 August 2007

Tour Report: 7th of August, Day 1, Shalu - Hsinchu, 84k

It was 0940 when I took the right turn and slid out of the front gate of the uni with grace. The shocked and consequently dumbfounded expression on the guard's face was priceless, I couldn't help grinning. The first stop was the Japanese department, followed by the Spanish and ended with the ATM of the post office. There concluded the short trip to the uni and the beginning of the proper ride.

In a little more than an hour I found myself entering Dajia. If my memory services me right, it had already been like 6 years since the last time I was here. Didn't linger for too long, just pedalled through, but the impression it gave me wasn't too bad. However, it could be just me for I was fresh setting off and the elements hadn't had their hands on me yet.

Shortly after lunch in a roadside FamilyMart somewhere between Yuanli and Tongsiao, it started first to drizzle and then shower down the road. The weather forecast man surely wasn't bullshitting this time. After a gentle round of verbally versatile rhetorical exchange with the rain under the shade of a grocery store, I put my sleeping bag in the heavy duty black garbage bag courtesy of the friendly folks over there at the Arigato gozaimasu department, and my handlebar bag in another one. With rain and safety (reflective vest, thanks Grace!) gear up, I promptly got out of shelter.

Guaranteed To Keep You Dry™ my ass, about an hour into cycling in the rain I was soaking wet, not from the rain breaching the outer shell, but from the gathering moisture and sweat imprisoned inside the barrier, let alone my rain pants which were just normal nylon. At the end of the day I was as wet as the result of a galactic orgasm.

Then before me the road bifurcated into two separate ways all leading to Hsinchu, one followed the faster coastal Expressway No.61; and the other was the originally planned route, longer yet faithful to the old Provincial Highway No.1 through Toufen. I'd been trying of no avail to get in touch with A-Pe ever since I past Tongsiao trying to tell her that I was in the vicinity. So I rang her again and waited for sometime at the bifurcation. Upon not getting any replies and the hour too late I decided to take the No.61 and head for the day's destination directly.

Just as I was taking a break from the uphill made incessant by the rain and chatting with the farmer, Mi-Er and A-Pe rang. But calculating the extra kilometres, the hour and the strength I had left, I knew it was already too late for me to turn back at this point. When I reached Toufen I wouldn't be able to do the remaining 18k to Hsinchu. So I pushed on and when I finally hit Hsinchu the moon was hanging high on the sky.

The church charged me an extortionate NT500 (US15) for one night, surely the nun was passionate about ripping off sincere, talented yet short-of-fund youth. Hsinchu strikes me as an odd place, it didn't feel like a city at all, only later did I found out that I hadn't entered the city yet, I was still in the outskirt. That night it rained and the wind blew so that alone in the spacious room inside the church with only the cellphone connecting me to the outside world, keeping in touch with any real human beings, my thoughts were overshadowed by the following day's ride to Taipei.











18 August 2007

Tour Report: 6th of August, Kilometre 0

I'm officially starting the trip tomorrow. Came home rather late tonight, it'd already last 2400 when I started to pack, and when I was done it was 0300. Didn't feel sleepy though, I was a bit worried, hoping that I'll be catching the first ray of light rising up the horizon, but I was also aware that it was pointless to wake up so early because I was going to the uni to bid farewell and only till after 0830 will everybody be there, so an early start will be impossible.

Woke up about 3 hours later, so astronomically punctual I was as precise as an atomic clock. Guess I was a bit nervous. Of course I'm no newbie in cycle touring, but it'd already been 2 years since the last time I was on the road on my loaded rig, think I was getting a bit rusted, the sedentary lifestyle was having an undetected negative effect on me, I was taking things for granted with or without realizing it. Yes, I was nervous and excited. I was about to mutter with stiff upper lip "why the fuck are you doing this for, punk?" again on the road amid the pain in the left knee, lower back, bottom, wrist, palm, neck, rain, sweat, headwind, heat, uphill, thirst, hunger and the sun.

The somberness of leaving behind the job and my students was temporarily gone. I was soon to be on the road again, to be on the move, I felt full of life. And likewise so full of life were a series of typhoons that were gearing up for the rendezvous in the days to come.






15 August 2007

Tour Report: Cycling Taiwan

Well, this is the first entry for this year's tour, actually this trip was planned for last year, but since I started to work last August as teaching assistant in the uni it was unfortunately post phoned. Last month I quit my job and the masochistic voice within told me that it was time to be back on the road again. My sorrying ass was longing for some cursed soreness.

Today is the ninth day into the trip and I'd already covered 177k... eh? What the hell? I know, I know it sounds pretty lame, even the 90 year-old grandpa of your neighbour can do better than that I know, but just let me explain the whole thing, yeah?

Day one, started from my garage in Shalu and ended in Hsinchu in the north-west of Taiwan, following the Provinicial Highway No.1 and then the coastal Expressway No.61, 84k.

Day two, from Hsinchu to Taipei, mistakenly took the No.61, headed back midway to pick up No.1, 93k.

So far so good, eh? So what was it that kept me here in the capital for such a long time? Well, there was this interpreter job for the Honduras football team which came here to get ready for the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2007 in Korea. So after resting for one day which I desperately needed, detailed descriptions later, I headed to the hotel where they lodged. So since the 4th day of my trip I was temporarily off the bike working and having fun with the team till today - day 9.

To be honest, I didn't like the idea of breaking up my trip at first, besides I wanted to see my students off in the airport, but after a moment of pondering, I reckoned it quite beneficial from a working-travelling point of view, something which I'd desired for sometime, you know the romantic view of being on the road with the money you earned along the road. It wouldn't be such a bad idea after all, and I can always take the bus or train to the airport if I failed to end my journey before the flight to Spain and come back later to pick up where I left it anyway.

So here I am entering the 10th day and still 177k, averaging 12.2k/h... Hmm... Looks like I got some more explanations to do, but it's going to be the next time, probably tomorrow or sometime after that when I have connection to the internet again. I know 12.2k/h looks ultra lame, even the 90 year-old grandma of your neighbour can do better than that I know, but I'm no weenie, there was a very good reason behind that. Oh, blast it! My cycle computer is broken, I tried to pry it open but to no avail, I hope it's not too expensive to get a new one.

Alright, guess I'll stop the intro here and tie up the loose ends the next time. After that, the posts will come up chronologically and in both English and Mandarin. See you then.