[Day 3] Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Distance Today: 97km
Total Distance: 289km
Maximum Speed: 44kph
Average Speed: 15kph
Time in Saddle: 6hrs 36min
Journey: Tai’dong – Feng’ kang (via Provincial Highway No. 9)
Accommodation: Long’An Guesthouse
Money Used Today: NT$326

WE WOKE UP at 5am, with me being the first one up again. As I walked out the room into the bathroom to clean up, I heard voices coming from the front door. It was dark and I felt somewhat creepy but slowly went to find out who or what was at the door. I was relieved to see a sleepy YANG standing outside, bringing us a breakfast of Soya bean milk and vegetable buns. The buns were steaming hot, just in time for the waking up fill. YANG stood zombie-like while he watched us gobble down the food; he stayed up late yesterday and woke up way earlier than us to get breakfast. Talking about hospitality, I think he ought to get a role model prize or something for that.

Once we’re cycling out of the Tai’ Dung town area, we’re surrounded by scenic views of beaches of the Pacific Ocean where you can witness the horizon blending into the clear blue sky. No clouds in the sky, and the mountains on our right seemed to plunge right into the sea, a magnificent sight letting us forget all the pain in our knees.

THE TRAFFIC STARTED TO BUILD UP since the road got narrower by the mile. Soon, we were squeezed onto a tiny piece of remaining motorist lane where we had to fight for our rights to live with the motorcycles zigzagging between us while the humongous trucks whizzed by us. Every now and then, the big lorries with all sort of goods on them (some had cement, some automobiles, some even had tones of cages with chickens on them), overtake each other on a one-lane traffic. We could do nothing other than holding onto our bikes and hoping not to crash into them.

WHILE I WAS PEDALING FOR MY LIFE up a slanted slope on a narrow road and praying hard that I don’t get slammed into one of those gigantic lorry tires, I avoided one speeding truck and fell into a ditch. When I fell, all that was on my mind is hopes that nothing goes wrong with my bike because we are in the middle of nowhere on a winding narrow highway and I’m all alone at that time. Luckily for me, the ditch wasn’t a deep one, I got some scratches on my palms and the rest of me came out safe, including my bike. Realizing that there’s no use crying for mama, I struggled myself out and resumed my never-ending effort of ‘cycling for your life’.

We arrived at Da’ Wu (大武) at noon and found a nice restaurant where we had lunch and a long revitalizing nap. The owner was a very kind lady whom let us rest on her tables, all five of us. The owner’s paralyzed dad (I assume) was a nice person and even the Indonesian maid was so glad that we could rest here before continuing our journey. We slept for nearly two hours before deciding that we should get right back on the road because we’re going to do one of the most difficult parts of the trip.

THERE ARE TWO WAYS of getting from the east coast to the west coast. The easier but longer way is to follow the eastern coastline down to the southern tip of Taiwan which is where Ken’ Ting national park is situated and then continue to travel northbound on the western coastline. The other way, the one we chose, is a shorter but much more challenging one, which crosses the Central Mountainous Ridges of Taiwan from the small village of Da’ Wu to Feng ‘Kang on the west coast. Imagine yourself ascending nearly 800 meters in just 10 kilometers and you will understand how grueling the road can be. The highway is narrow with all its sharp bends and unbelievably steep roads one starts to hyperventilate with just a mere look at it.

We sweat one-third up the road to find a police station – a true blessing – where we can refill our liquids and get some rest. Me and the other two boys were the first to arrive at the station, and after resting for some time, the two girls were still nowhere to be seen. I volunteered to wait up for them, letting the two boys go ahead first. Then after what seems like forever, the two girls came up the hill walking their bicycles and panting like crazy. They were ok, but just too tired to continue without a long rest. The girls insisted that I go first… So I began the remaining arduous up hills alone, with my bike of course.

BEING IN THE MIDDLE BUT ALONE lets me think of many things while I cycle with the speed of a turtle. To pass my time, I started singing and humming songs, inspirational songs such as ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ and ‘We Are The Champions’. But soon I stopped and thought of songs with a mountain theme like ‘Climb Every Mountain’ and ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’. With these songs in my mind, and the beautiful valleys at my side, being alone isn’t that bad at all. When I reached the peak overlooking all the greeneries below me, I felt as though I conquered Mount Everest, on a bike that is.

All that hard work started to pay off because after that 10km of up hills, comes delayed gratification at its best – 20km of down hill slides. As I slid through all the trees that surrounded me, I passed the Shuang’ Liu (雙流) Conservational Area which is somewhere I haven’t been before but would definitely try to go someday. It was just sheer pleasure while rolling as fast as a bullet without even pedaling and sooner than I thought, I arrived at the west coast at 6.30pm, just before dusk.

FENG’ KANG (楓港) IS A SMALL HARBOUR on the west coast which serves as a great resting stop for all those people traveling from the east coast to the west. We found a decent guesthouse just in front of the crossroad where the Provincial No. 9 Highway ends and the No. 1 Highway (which we will be cycling on the next day) begins. The guesthouse’s strategic location and low price (only NT$250 per person) is why we chose it for the night. Dinner was just a simple serving of dried noodles and our exhausted team went back for a relaxing shower.

THAT NIGHT our legs were unpleasantly sore from the tremendous workload, yet we managed to hand wash our clothes and me and YING ZHENG volunteered to take the load down to tumble dry (the guesthouse has a spin dry machine but no washing machine).

And as we happily enter the room with our chores finished, RU JIANG stared right into our faces and said “Wow, that’s fast,”

“No queue down there so we manage to finish it fast,” I said, wondering why he was so shocked with the fact that we took quite a long time.

“Oh Shit! I thought you guys were going to WASH them, mine weren’t done yet!” RU JIANG said, leaving YING ZHENG and me with our mouths open wide while putting down our load of clean clothes mixing with dirty sweaty ones from RU JIANG.

“I’m not going to wash mine again,” said YING ZHENG with determination. It seems that we’re too tired to do the laundry again so I agreed that I’ll just hang mine to dry, despite having problems trying to forget that they were in the dryer just minutes ago mingling with its dirty friends.

IN CONCLUSION, exhaustion can make you do stupid things, such as putting your unwashed clothes into the clean basket, and thinking that the clothes will get clean by just hanging them to dry. But I really am thankful that our stupidity starts that night and not that morning when I had to take in all the mountains and big cars around me, if I were to be silly then, I may not even live to tell the story.

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