From here the cycling adventure started, route number “9” or the pacific ocean road. It’s the moment I’ve been looking forward to last months. Despite of (or lack of) the jetlag we started cycling around 8 ‘o clock in the morning. The two other ambassadors and me. This road followed the pacific ocean from the south east corner of the Island all the way up to the North, to Taipei. We won’t however cycle this entire road from A to B.
It was amazing to be cycling in completely different surroundings; unreadable yet beautifully colored characters decorated the grey buildings, which probably have suffered a typhoon recently, judging from their state of maintenance. The road swirled through rice pads, hugging the coast, slicing sleepy settlements which found a new source of income from all the cyclists and having the mountains guarding us with their majestic peaks hidden in the rolling clouds on the left. As the cars passed our dedicated cycling lane I couldn’t help but smile and feel so extremely privileged to experience this. We happily chatted about cycling, life and blogging on the road before the first aches started arrive and tore out little peleton apart.
The Northern headwind coming from the pacific ocean cleansed my lungs with fresh air, it was rather nice than irritating this headwind. Of course it slowed us down and tired the other two more, but in the end headwinds tend to be a test of the mind rather than a test of the legs.The fresh wind helped to blow away the stuffy, sub tropical humid air which was hugging us in the cities.
God’s helping hand
An odd church and christian graveyard were dotted along the route, signaling past histories of European missionaries. These areas of Taiwan were inherently poorer than the (North-) West coast of Taiwan, the latter benefitted a lot from the trade with mainland China. Two vast mountain ranges scarring the island from South to North made sure that the economic prosperity could not trickle towards the Eastern peripheries of the island that easily. The poorer areas were more susceptible to the helping hand of God and the missionaries, therefore churches tend to be more on this side of the island. Interesting to notice that these physical features of the island still play a role and have influenced the Taiwanese society this much.
This road is widely used by many Taiwanese cyclists, noticing from their bikes it attracted both road cyclists as laid back weekend cyclists. It’s good to see that the cycling community here is exploding and manifesting itselves on the streets and becoming mainstream. The bike building company Giant has an incredible system of rental bikes, which you can rent on one side of the island and then return it back at the other side or at stops in between. We are using them and they are – to much of my surprise – of really good quality!
Mother nature’s force
After 50k it was time to cross the first mountain range; created by the lighter Philippine plate being pushed up by the diving outer edge of the massive Eurasian plate. Interesting to know, the far other side of the Eurasian plate is where Iceland is forged over million years of molten rock, so in that sense Iceland and Taiwan are siblings. This mountain road was probably one of the most beautiful roads I have ever cycled on. The tour guide called it impossible to cycle – which only made my determination bigger to try it. The other two were sitting comfortably in the van and I had my moment of solitude I needed.
Philosophy of the mountain
After a while you end up in a dance with the land, reading off it to take your next step, the intuition takes over the rational mind, the monotonous movement in the legs only enhances this state of mind. It’s a trance, I look around me, I sense the world. Sentio, ergo sum. I sense, therefore I am. The green colors of the trees, bright as ever. The humid air, wrapping me as a mother wraps her newborn, the fresh pacific breeze attemping to untangle the breeze’s strangle. I stand up on my pedals, I put more force on the pedals to make the wheel turn over the steep road. I hear an old car in the distance, rumbling away while the orchestra of nature stimulates my ear again: birds, wristles of branches. I turn the corner and I reached the end of the climb.
This is when I feel most alive, covering uncharted territories in a far off country, mastering the dance of the hill and sensing the environment. No human made structure, no matter how majestic, will ever have the same effect on my psyche than the rich and diverse environments I can experience.
And also important to note: after the intense physical activity of climbing up the mountain, you can treat yourself with a well deserved downhill. Besides, I have started from the end of the world in some ways; from the most Eastern edge of the Eurasian earth plate. That only exacerbates the joy that runs through my veins. The downhill was well deserved; the wind creating whistling tones in my ears, the speed made me feel invincible, every inch I climbed from the ocean is being given back to me – and there I was again, on the other side of the mountain range at literally rock bottom. According to the tourist information sign the place where the two plates officially meet. I can only be in awe off the force that mother nature has…
What more can a person ask for after today?
Tomorrow it’s time to explore another wonder, stay tuned and as always: adventure awaits around the corner!