Puli – Wushe – Chingjing: Five 7-11s and one Family Mart later ………

Posted: April 9, 2015 in MTB Touring Taiwan 2012
Tags: , ,
Sunday March 4, 2012, 36 km (22 miles) – Total so far: 36 km (22 miles)

Elevation gained : 1350 mI woke up fresher than fresh this morning wondering where I was. This always happens at the start of a trip, some lost seconds before the eyes and the brain get back into sync. A faint glimmer of pink light cast upon the very whitewashed walls of our Room 707, indicated that sunrise was about to happen. I dragged myself out from under the covers, and grabbed both cameras to the usual whimperish refrain of, “What time is it? What time……. is it?” eminating from under a pile of white sheets.

Now there is a list of answers to that usual question, the longest being,

Me : “I am going to get you one of those backlighted Casios or Timexes that will forever quell your curiousity as to the time” No? Wrong answer.

Her : “Those watches are too chunky”.

Me “Where’s your watch?” This still doesn’t work, as it’s too dainty and lost on the desk, out numbered by bottles upon bottles of creams and toiletries.

“Moooorning” still works. Especially effective when communicated directly into an ear inches away.

“Time to get up” a little sacarstic.

For today, it’s “Red sunrise, God’s creation”

Sometimes, all she wants to hear is, “Early, you have lots of time…….and you’re on vacation….”

I hear a soft whimper, ‘How much time?” as I gently close the door on my way out….

For utter panic, I usually add an hour or two to the present time, in this case 6.06 am.

PuliSunrise

As per my usual routine, I try to get onto the roof of our hotel, any hotel for the highest unobstructed views. Up the 8th floor staircase, dodging drying bedsheets and up a fire escape ladder. The town of Puli seemed larger than last night.

Densely packed apartment blocks and low rise shophouses ringed by mountains all around. Surprisingly there were lots of bird song, magnified by a quietness that can only be due this being Sunday. 30 minutes of solitude and chilled air before I go down to check on madame’s progress.

With an hour to go before checking out, I added another 6 kms to today’s total, wandering the back streets of Puli, and chancing upon a huge brewery the town’s famous for, apart from the fact that closeby, a park and stone marker indicates this to be the geographical center of Taiwan.

For cyclists on the island, Puli is also the usual start for mass rides and races that end up 55 kms later near the peak of Hehuanshan and it’s National Park, an ascent of 3275 m from sea level or discounting Puli’s height of 400 m, 2875 m. We will taking it much easier in 2 stages and with a nice blue bus to carry our gear. It is after all, our virgin trip up Highway 14.

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In the previous months building up to March the 3rd, many of us tried to keep up some sort of training regime for these mountains. With other commitments, this was easier said than done. The longest constant climb in Singapore was a puny 300 m (length not elevation!) up ‘Mount’ Faber’s 100 m summit. I was tying to imagine those 300 m multiplied a hundred times but gave up. It was just putting in more distances on our flatter than flat roads that mattered.

So here we are finally in Taiwan, where among 17 other like minded people, in much, much cooler weather, throwing caution to the wind, I was pleasantly surprised that the climbs didn’t seem that bad at all. Though I was in the middle ring all day, my ancient Syncros 34 T seemed sufficient except for a couple of switch backs. Tomorrow would be a different story altogether, and deep inside I knew that, well pacing oneself meant calling upon the granny gear, sooner or later.

Coleen was doing very well too, with the usual warning for me not to ‘encourage’ her to pick up the pace, but let her ride at her own pace, what ever that may be to any others. (actually just me) Quite a few were struggling already, having not heeded prior advice to NOT buy new untested bikes, no matter how vogue (the bikes) they may be !

We ended the day with average speeds of 10.5 kmp/h and 9.5 kmp/h respectively, much of which was inspired by the stunning scenery around us.

Puli7-11

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ColeenSlopes

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We were surprised to meet Ying Chang at this 7-11 wondering where he showed up from. The timing couldn’t be better. With his parents in Taiwan, his holidays coincided with our ride and he decided to join us ‘somewhere’ up the mountain. He had also rode right up to the peak last year and was thus our only ‘eyes’ who has done this before.

More amazingly, he took the bullet train from Taipei at dawn, started at 9 am from Taichung, city, adding another 40 kms to today’s 30 kms of climbing, on a Dahon Smoothhound with just 2 chainrings. It was a real delight to have such a selfless ride companion, shepherding those behind, whilst racing up to the front whenever necessary, and learn much more about his homeland from a cyclist’s perspective.

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Most of us reached our lodge, a very cosy but weirdly named Vienna Pleasance Cottage after 7 hours on the road. Though really far from Austria, B & B’s and hotels here try to emulate those in Europe, many in name and facades, replica log cabins and German castles looking out of place with much humbler farmers’ dwellings. One of them had a couple of BMW 740ii’s to complete the look.

I found out that most have dodgy operating licences, those on crowded and steep hill sides at least. I also credit the 7 hours on the road to the many 7-11s along the way. The final one for regrouping took almost an hour. Lots of time for 2 cappuccinos and perusing the shelves. When Ying Chang showed up, so did some celebratory cans of beer !

Like Thailand, they are oases of food and drink (well more drink) spick and span restrooms and shade under huge umbrellas for those pedaling up mountains. We developed some affinity with the scooter crowd, the big engined motorcycle crowd and even the roadies with roof racks crowd, locals who do the climb but drive downhill back home. I fleetingly formed another opinion on road cyclists as there was an especially sweet local lass riding a pink Independent Fabrication road bike. They’re not the snobs they’ve been made out to be.

And I haven’t even started on what the 7-11s contain.

In Taiwan at least there’s Oden, a Japanese influenced winter’s hot pot dish made up of many snack bite tit bits that you can take away. You need to as they’re boiling hot and need time to cool. And true to the chain store’s support of cyclists, there’s a NT$29 or just US$1.00 orange flavoured energy drink that comes in a bike bottle.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oden

Most 7-11s also have a free to use floor pump (unlocked) outside the store, if you ever need air and puncture repair kits from the cashiers. To top it all there are courier services where it’s possible to send your luggage, to any other 7-11 closest your destination thus eliminating the need for carrying panniers even.

While that will be at odds with maintaining the purity of a bike tour, and incurring the wrath of those into purity, 4 fully loaded panniers and all, let me add that at times I had one small 12 year old Ortieib (the preferred brand on this website) on my puny front rack.

I may be impure, but on this mountain climb, I will be light.

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