Bicycle camping in Taiwan, Day 3: Pingtung County to Minmao

IMG_5823Tuesday was the third day of our Taiwan cycling adventure. This would take us 400 meters high up into the mountains then right back down to sea level before cycling north along the coast and up a river valley to camp in a local hot spring. A lot of climbing and a good distance covered.

It was an early start. Five thirty in the morning and we could really feel the previous day’s cycle in our legs. I packed the tent in the dark straining to keep my eyes open. Just as planned we were mounting the bikes at the crack of dawn. We still had the snacks from the previous day so we’d try and survive off those and cover a few kilometers early on before stopping for breakfast.

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Leaving civilization and heading up the mountain

Getting going wasn’t so easy. I had a sore ass and an ache in my legs. My head was tired and my whole body was telling me I needed to rest and recover. To make things worse I knew we had to push inland and uphill at the very start of our journey. The first few meters uphill hurt bad and it was only getting steeper. So, we decided on a change of plan. Instead of pushing inland uphill we’d try and find an alternate route along the coast. There was no coastal road north on the map but there must be a path or something. Anything would be better than the steep hill we now faced. So, we cycled downhill and asked in the village. There was no path. We’d have to go back uphill.

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Looking back at the sea

Our second attempt at climbing the steep hill outside the campsite was a bit more successful. Although we’d wasted some time the cycle downhill to the village, this had loosed up our legs and we were in better condition to take on the hill. We’d also taken the opportunity to eat some dry fruit and get a bit of fuel into our bellies. It was just a hill, nothing too bad, we just had to take our time and deal with it.

We were right down on our lowest gears winding up the mountain and up through the thick jungle. A monkey jumped out in front of me and grabbed a piece of fruit before scuttling back into the forest. It was the first time I’d seen a monkey in the wild. Ning also saw a snake and we had some great views of the valley as we climbed higher. As the road twisted and turned into the jungle we seemed to be climbing at a terrific rate. It was a little wet but warm and good conditions for the cycle.

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Up the mountain

 

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Downhill

After abut 10 kilometer there was a brief respite where we passed through some villages before starting the climb again. But no-where to eat. It was another 15 kilometer to climb up 400 meters before we reached the top and could start to descend. And the down-hill was crazy.

We dropped 400 meters over ten kilometers with the wind in our faces all the way down. It was even a bit too much. By the time we reached the seven-eleven at the bottom of the hill I was all shaken up by the vibrations going through my arms. I’m not a big fan of steep downhills and it was a relief to stop for a bit.

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Day 3 elevation

Day 3

Day 3 route map

We ate a lot at the seven-eleven and it was full of other cyclists. It seemed that cycling was quite popular here and we had all sorts of people joining in. The racing bikes seemed to be the most common and everyone seemed to be kitted out in the full cycling gear. It was nice to see so many people doing something positive with their free time. Out getting some fresh air and exercise instead of being glued to the telly at home. And this was only on a Tuesday. I could imagine there being a lot more action on the weekends or during the holidays.

 

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Taiwan cyclists on the coast

Back on route now we were following the coast road. This was less of a steep climb to contend with but it could still be quite hard going. Roadworks meant that at times there wasn’t much space and we had quite a few trucks and buses passing us. Fortunately the cars tended to give us quite a bit of space and there weren’t too many scary moments. In fact, at times there were quite a lot of other cyclists on the road and there seemed to be some sort of organized event with a lot of guys on racing bikes and the occasional support vehicle.

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Statue by the sea

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Sea view

Our initial plan was to push as far north as Taitung but with fading light and Ning feeling a bit of a sore knee coming on we decided to stop about 30km short and cycle inland three kilometers to a campsite in the town on Minmao. This was really just a hot-springs with some space for tents, so we were able to take a hot shower and listen to some awful karaoke. I didn’t mind though, I was so tired I could have fallen asleep listening to anything.

The owner of the hot-springs also allowed me to borrow her petrol scooter to get dinner. Unfortunately the only place we could find was another seven-eleven but at least it was hot food.

After dinner it was time for bed. A tough day. 70.75 km covered and a good solid bit of climbing.

Next. Day 4 cycling out of Binmao along the coast into the rift valley and on to Guanshan.

 

 

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