The second installment on my "Cycling Around Taiwan" series. Day 2 started in Hsinchu and ended in Taichung with me in the emergency room of a hospital with a drip in my hand. It was hot and windy riding out of Hsinchu and since I was riding along the coast and into the wind I was exhausted by the end of the cycling trail in Hsinchu. Nevertheless, along the way I met some awesome people doing the same thing as me and at the end of it, it was a pretty good day even though it was tough.
The second day was a 109km ride from Hsinchu to Taichung along the coast, oh and it was hot. The map is shown below.
So I got up early enough (as I recall around 6:30am) and had a typical Chinese buffet breakfast in the hotel (which was included in the NTD1,000 for the night). Of course they gave me a cheaper room that was right next to the kitchen prep area (normal rooms were NTD1,500 per night) and the banging in the kitchen when they were preparing breakfast is what really woke me up. The breakfast wasn't terribly exciting but it was sufficient to get me going.
After breakfast it was a quick pack, checkout and start on the road. I tried to get back to the point along the coastal road where I had left the day before and got a little bit lost finding it but eventually landed close to the road and worked my way down to the Hsinchu Cycling Trail. The bridge above is the coastal road that brings you into Hisnchu and was the point where I turned off from the highway to get into Hsinchu.The picture was taken next to the river and there was also a great view of a temple and some of the rice paddies that take you into Hsinchu.
The Hsinchu Cycling Trail
The board above says it all: 17km of splendid coastline. I have actually ridden on this path before with some friends of mine. We rented some tandems and road along the coast with our families. It was fun but we only rode the first few kilometers (maybe first five or six) so I was looking forward to riding the full stretch. However. this would prove to be the worst part of the ride due to the huge headwinds and the heat. This part of the ride really pushed me and and was absolutely exhausting.
The good news is that the sign largely tells the truth. The road is mostly along the ocean and there are some tremendous ocean views. The road is mostly smooth and apart from the odd irritating motorcycle I would say it is really safe and enjoyable (if it isn't too hot).
The scene above is the first one that hits you almost as soon as you get onto the trail and remains fairly consistent all the way along the ride. However, the trail does deviate and for a part you spend time riding next to a river and also does go over some green swamp lands as well as under some tree covered areas.
As mentioned earlier, the toughest part of this ride was riding into the wind (and the headwind was blowing against me most of the way to Taichung). Every time I saw the wind turbines or the flags blowing in the opposite in the direction I was riding, I was a little deflated. The flags in the picture below are blowing North. I was riding South.
Admittedly riding to the end of the trail took a lot longer than I thought and by the time I got to the end I had finished most of my water (which wasn't the best idea - I should have packed more) but at the end of the trail was a small windmill inside of which were a bunch of other cyclists trying to hide away from the sun and the heat. Most of them were turning back (lucky sods would be riding with the wind) to go back to Hsinchu. I was the only one riding on to Taichung. They were kind and offered me some tea which gave me a chance to rest and brace myself for the the remaining 70km.
After getting off the trail I landed on some back roads and thought I could carry on riding on the edge of the sea but it wasn't as simple as that: I landed up on a pig farm where I saw quite a few slaughtered pigs. Wasn't the best thing to see but at least I got better directions from the farmer. In fact, along the way down south, especially on the west coast, I would see a lot of pig farms and chicken farms.
After leaving the pig farm I landed up back on the main road (not pleasant with all the trucks riding next to me) but still had to be done. The road was mostly bland (although some part did seem to have graveyards on the side) but it was hot and heat reflecting off the tarmac made it more uncomfortable than I would have liked. It was at this point that I started to think the ride around Taiwan was going to be a bigger challenge than I thought and I started to doubt my ability to finish. But I started to take it one pedal at a time and just carried on going stubbornly.
Heading out from Hsinchu county I passed into Miaoli county where I managed to find another bike path along the river. I deviated off the main road onto the cycle path to make things more interesting. The cycle path in Miaoli was actually really nice as it had a lot of tree cover and although not many spectacular views, the coolness under the trees was much appreciated. It was also the first time ever I have seen a "Beware of the Snakes" sign in Taiwan. I thought that was pretty special (coming from a place where snakes are a daily hazard)
After spending sometime on the bike trail I eventually had to get onto the main road again. I landed up getting to the side of the Houlong river and before crossing I turned right and headed past Houlong Village to a small town called Chenggong (I believe) where I found a Hi-Life and stopped to have a good lunch. It was there I ran into a bunch of really friendly school kids who were sitting outside the Hi-Life store doing their homework. They were really shy at first but eventually allowed me to take some pictures.
From Miaoli to Taichung
After lunch I headed off along the main road (no more cycle paths) to Taichung. There are a lot of small (seemingly picturesque) seaside towns on the West Coast. I saw one before a short ascent on the way to Taichung.
Shortly after passing this town and going up a small incline, I ran into an awesome group of riders from Luodong in Yilan. They were from a university cycling club and they were doing more or less what I was doing but short circuiting the Kenting peninsula and skipping the Suhua highway from Hualien to Suao. The incredible part of it was that their group's ages ranged from the youngest kid of 16 y/o to the oldest man of 76 y/o. An absolutely awesome group of riders and I was really happy to meet them. I rode with them for about 30km and it took a lot of the pain out of my legs. It is when I discovered the distraction of conversation really helps forget the pain when riding with others. This was their third day and they were going to ride past Taichung and head to Xianxi in Chunghua County. They had arranged a university hostel to stay in and invited me to join them but I thought I would be meeting a friend in Taichung so decided to head to Taichung alone. An absolute mistake. I should have ridden on with them.
Finally into Taichung
I finally landed up riding into Taichung county. I bade farewell to the university group and started into Taichung city. Just before getting to Wuqi, where I would turn to go into Taichung, I saw some nice rice paddies along the side of the road. Also crossed a fairly long bridge over one of the many wide rivers on the west coast. It was good to know I was getting closer to Taichung city and I was looking forward to finding a hotel to rest.
After getting to Wuqi I started to ride to Taichung City. This was the BIGGEST mistake of the whole trip. I was already tired and my friends from before assured me the ride to Taichung would be quick, but it wasn't. It was 15km to Taichung city center from Wuqi, and 10km of that was uphill (if I recall correctly). I just got on the bike and started riding not expecting such a long brutal end to the day. I was already dehydrated and tired and that last 15km took me a really long time with a few breaks in between. Halfway up the hill I started looking for a hotel to stay in but couldn't find any. I finally got to the top of the hill and headed downhill into Taichung city. I was feeling sick. I knew something wasn't right. I freewheeled down the hill into Taichung city and eventually found a small love hotel in the center of the town where I decided to stay. It was NTD900 a night.
Disaster at the End of the Day
I was starving and thirsty so my hotel sent me off to the night market but as soon as I tried to eat I wanted to vomit and felt dizzy and started cramping really badly. I knew I was severely dehydrated and I was in a lot of pain, barely being able to move. I stumbled out of the restaurant, hopped into a cab and went to the nearest hospital. Good for me the doctor saw me immediately in the ER and gave me pain medication and a saline drip. I was in the hospital for about 2 hours before I started feeling better.
The day didn't end as I hoped it would. When I landed up in hospital I didn't know if I would be able to ride the next day at all. I decided just to take it moment by moment. After the hospital I got some food and went to the hotel where I had a good solid sleep. The days ride was great and I enjoyed it. I didn't really enjoy the end of the race, but was what it was. As it turned out, I was able to ride the next day, no problem, but my advice to anybody would be to blast past Taichung and stay at one of the many motels/hotels along the road South.
Other Cycling Round Taiwan Installments
- Around Taiwan - Final Overview
- Day 01 - Taipei ~ Hsinchu
- Day 02 - Hsinchu ~ Taichung
- Day 03 - Taichung ~ Budai
- Day 04 - Budai ~ Kaohsiung
- Day 05 - Kaohsiung ~ Kenting
- Day 06 - Kenting ~ Dawu
- Day 07 - Dawu ~ Chenggong
- Day 08 - Chenggong ~ Hualien
- Day 09 - Hualien ~ Suao (Suhua Highway)
- Day 10 - Suao ~ Ilan
- Day 11 - Ilan ~ Keelung
- Day 12 - Keelung ~ Taipei