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Touring Taiwan

Posted by Audrey Hahn on

Touring Taiwan

Day 17: To Chishang — This beach stretches for more than 15 kilometers.


Cycling infrastructure is abundant in Taiwan. With a Karoo to navigate, Brian Kennelly set out to explore the country by bicycle, discovering beautiful scenery, meeting wonderful people, and encountering more than a few political ads


In November, Brian and his friend Kevin made the long trip from British Colombia and set out to circumnavigate the island of Taiwan. They planned to complete 22 rides, averaging 133 kms and 1880 meters climbing per day. Karoo, and their own sense of adventure, would be their guide.
The southern shoreline of Taiwan — a picturesque view which the riders would get to see on Day 16!
The riders began their journey in Taoyuan on November 6th. Their first ride, 75km long with 2462 m of climbing, brought an obstacle they hadn’t prepared for: the heat. Facing temperatures that surpassed 30 degrees Celsius, Brian and Kevin soon had to readjust their itinerary and shorten some rides to help them recover.


Day 2: Narrow suspension bridge. Brian watched a scooter cross before he went. 


It wasn’t just the heat conspiring against them: On day 2, a bridge washout meant their planned route was unavailable. Thankfully, Brian had his Karoo on hand to save the day. “I picked up our route on my Karoo bike computer and it proudly and easily navigated us to the front of the hotel.”

On day 6, Brian and Kevin encountered Taiwanese club cyclists who were all taking Strava KOMs. With their panniers full of belongings, and the level of difficulty of the routes they’d planned, Brian and Kevin’s long-distance pace contrasted with the local road riders. “We saw lots descending as we were climbing, and while taking a break on a hill, 4 went by us uphill with completely bare frames. Not even water bottles!”


Day 6: Brian touring around!


Brian took in the culture of each city as they hustled through, and noted the abundant cycling infrastructure and motorcycle lanes. Cycling tourism is a popular attraction in Taiwan, and the two were able to explore the numerous paths and enjoy the beautiful sights.


“Part of the well-developed tourist cycling infrastructure at Sun Moon Lake.”


Another striking piece of culture that Brian couldn’t help notice was the heavy presence of politics everywhere he went. Political loudspeaker trucks drove down every road listing campaign promises, and signs had been hung on every available surface in support of one party or another.


“Someone had discovered this completely natural log in a perfect resemblance of a dragon and decided to share it. Others see it as an opportunity to post a political banner.” 


The close interactions Brian had with the locals who hosted them and those they passed by left an overwhelming impression of kindness. “The people in Taiwan really make the whole experience a pleasure. Everywhere we’ve been, people have come forward to engage and be helpful, patient and friendly. You can truly relax and be yourself amongst them. I have truly enjoyed Taiwan.”


“The scooters are everywhere by the thousands.”


Some of the attractions Brian had planned to see during their trip included Sun Moon Lake. On Day 9, they made it to the site, and afterwards Brian noted that “The ride and the lake didn’t disappoint, but the use of the lake by Taiwanese did. It is very commercialized and all actual access to the lake is limited and sold.” However, this did not hinder their ability to take in the beauty of the water on such a nice day.


Day 9: Sun Moon Lake — a site to see!


One village that Brian recommends to all visitors of Taiwan is Jiufen, located in the mountains. Upon arriving, Brian was confused by the seemingly rural area with trucks and buses funneling in and out of it at all hours of the day. However, upon exploring the town, they discovered a hidden shopping center inside the mountain! Brian recounts when they “entered with the throngs and found a virtual catacomb of shops stretching somehow behind the visual buildings for blocks.” One of the busiest tourists sites the two passed through on their whole trip was in a tunnel in the mountains.


Day 17: To Chishang — This beach stretches for more than 15 kilometers.


After the trip, Brian reflected on each day and decided that the rides in the countryside were the most enjoyable. These rides were diverse and provided more scenery and less traffic. He suggests maximizing time in these areas to others who might want to explore the island.


Day 19 — Taroko Gorge. “Interesting place for a temple.”


Brian notes how they adjusted to ultimately create the best trip for themselves as they went. “Although far below that of our original itinerary, the nearly 2,000 kms and 25,000 m of elevation we cycled this trip provided us with a pretty thorough sampling of what’s available here for road riding. Would I do anything differently on a subsequent visit? Not necessarily.”

The photographs in this article and the original story were shared with us by Brian Kennelly. Check out his blog, Caribooster Adventures, for the full story of this trip and his other cycling adventures.

Where is Karoo taking you on your next adventure? If you have a story to share, please tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter, or email us at harold@hammerhead.io.

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