Sunday, April 22, 2007

Very long post - Taiwan Road Trip - East Coast Highway, Toroko Gorge, Hehuan Mt.

Meant to update the site many times in the last week, but haven't had a block of time to sit down and do it. Leaving Taiwan today and had an amazing time here, very glad I came and hope to get back here sometime.

It's been almost a week since I updated, so I'll go through the week.

Last weekend Kyle told me he had an extra scooter that needed fixed, but I could get it fixed and take it on a road trip. So Monday he went to work and I took the bike to the mechanic. It wouldn't start because it had been sitting outside for months and the engine was waterlogged, only took about a half hour and $13 for the mechanic to take the bike apart and get it running again. Took it for a short ride in the mountains around Taipei with Kyle that night and it drove fine. I was pretty confident it would survive the crazy journey I was about to take it on.

I read that the east coast highway of Taiwan is incredibly beautiful, it's similar to the Pacific coast highway in California in that it winds along cliffs following the coast. I decided to drive the bike through the mountains and down the coast a little over 150 miles to Hualien. Seemed easy enough, but it took 7 hours! (including many stops for pictures and a couple for food along the way). The road was all winding mountain paths and of the 7 hours it rained for 4...was a pretty grueling ride on an uncomfortable 125cc scooter. Along the way there were some incredibly scenic views, don't have time to post many pics now though.

Arrived at Hualien around 5:30, after starting from Taipei at 10am. I was dead tired, found a hostel and checked in. Made it out to a little night market along the coast that night, almost empty due to it being a Tuesday night, so I found some Taiwanese guys working there playing cards and joined them for some taiwanese poker (it's similar to the game Asshole in the US). No money involved, lost the first couple games but quickly learned how to play and won a few games in a row...after that headed back to the hostel and met the one other person staying there, a Belgian girl. I told her I'd take her on my scooter to the Toroko Gorge the next day and we could go around the area together.

Woke up the next morning and drove up to Toroko National Park, 25km away. Was my first time in years driving a scooter with someone on the back, and this beat up 13yr old scooter's shocks did not like the punishment. We made it around the park, really beautiful. Huge multicolored marble cliffs shooting straight up with a raging grey river below. It was cloudy out so the clouds were just covering the tips of the 500meter mountains all around. Very surreal. The road twisted straight through the gorge and we drove up into the mountains, visited a temple built into the mountain then kept going up till we got close to the cloudline and decided to turn back. I didn't bring enough warm clothes and it was freezing in the mountains, especially flying around on the bike (i drove pretty carefully when I first started, but by the end of the first day on the thing I was a demon flying in and out of traffic).

As we got close to the bottom of the mountain something was hitting the ground on every bump and hard turn. I looked down realized the muffler was falling off (the speedometer also stopped working at somepoint this day, but as long as the brakes held up i didn't care). Took it slow and luckily right when it got to the point of dragging along the ground I saw a mechanic's shop across the street. Only took him 10minutes, $.75, and a new bolt to get it back in shape. Made it back to Hualien without a problem.

We went out to a bar that night and saw a group of Taiwanese girls playing some drinking game, I asked them to teach me and ended up hanging out with them all night. They were in a tour group together and they were pretty wild. At one point they started playing hip hop in the bar and the girls all got up and danced, the oldest woman in the group (and most drunk) started giving their tour guide a lap dance. The Belgian girl had dreadlocks and they kept touching it and asking questions about it, was all really funny, plus learned a few new drinking games and some new chinese slang.

The next day I decided I would make the journey across the mountains to the west coast then take a train back from the west coast. In the middle is Hehuan mountain, not sure if it's the tallest peak in Taiwan, but it's close. There is a hostel right near the top, so I drove 4 hours through some of the craziest mountain paths and tunnels I've ever seen. One lane roads (that are 2 ways) thousands of feet high along the sides of mountains. At some points I looked over and almost lost control of the bike both because of the amazing views and looking down and being scared shitless of falling off the mountain.

Some places had guard rails, most didn't. Most majors turns had spherical mirrors so I could see if there were cars/trucks coming at me as I went around the 1 lane turns. On top of that there were countless 1 lane pitch black tunnels and my bike's headlight worked just well enough to illuminate the relfectors in the road...was very intense. At the same time, it was the most beautiful drive I've ever been on. Every turn I'd look out and think how amazing the scenery is, then i'd go another kilometer be 100 meters higher and see ever more amazing views.

Took about 5 hours to get to the top, checked into the hostel and went to the top of the mountain. Along the way I saw some crazy fucker mountain biking up the mountain. I got to the top and took some pictures of another amazing view, and saw the cyclist pull up. He was belgian and I started talking to him. He was mountain biking around the world...he started in belgium went across europe to Odessa, then flew to Bangkok, biked around southeast asia, flew to western China, biked through Yunnan, then heard Taiwan was beautiful so he flew here and is planning on biking through Taiwan for a month. I thought I was adventurous on a motobike, but this guy put me to shame. As if that wasn't enough, he smoked a pack a day and drank like a fish...hardcore. He normally just pitches a tent where he stops but I told him to come down to the hostel...it was 45 degrees out and absolutely freezing. All I had was a long sleeve shirt, jeans, and a light jacket I borrowed from Kyle. The hostel had a hot shower and heated blankets which was a lifesaver.

I chilled with the Belgian guy for awhile, then went to sleep, woke up, and drove down the other side to Taizhong about 4 hours drive. Pretty drive down the mountain, all downhill, but not nearly as beautiful as the ride up. the last 2 hours were all boring highway. Made it to Taizhong then took the train back to Taipei. Was able to ship the bike back for about $15...well worth not having to drive another 7 hours on the thing (west coast is all cities and not a scenic drive).

All in all an amazing trip, my biggest adventure of the trip so far. Looking back it was pretty dangerous seeing as I don't even have an international driving license, let alone a motorcycle license, any kind of driving insurance, and my speedometer was broken so I had no idea how fast I was going for more than half the trip. Really glad I did it though.

Sorry this is so long...just wanted to thank everyone who's been reading, posting comments and sending e-mails. I really appreciate it. I'll post a bunch of pictures from the trip when I have some more time. Flying to Singapore tonight then going to Malaysia tomorrow.

4 Comments:

marcia said...

Wow...this post can certainly give a mom more grey hairs! So glad you are safe and sound and on your way to your next adventure. Send us your phone number asap. Can't wait to talk to you. Love you mom

April 22, 2007 11:33 AM  
Sandy said...

Josh,

You're living the dream and giving us nightmares. I had your phone number in my phone's text message inbox....now it's gone. Email me your number.

Dad

April 22, 2007 1:48 PM  
Kyle said...

I talked to my mechanic today. He says that your totally insane and Im inclined to agree with him. Needless today say Im also very jealous. I think I give my mom more than a few gray hairs every time she hears about me going out for a ride too...

Enjoy your trip, thanks for the pictures and come back and hang out anytime

-Kyle

April 24, 2007 9:31 AM  
kevin's blog said...

Anyone has the plan the trip? If you are interested in it, please leave a message on my blog.

http://www.bikerkiss.com/blog/maria

April 25, 2007 8:30 AM  

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