We made it to day two! It’s been another long day, but if the guides are to be believed, harder days lie ahead. I’m sure that’s a shocker for all involved. I’ll do my best to sum up Day 2, but honestly, everything’s been such a blur, and I’ve noticed and seen too many new things to all be recorded.
Day 2/9: Hsinchu to Lukang (102 km)
I slept (though not enough by my standards) until 6 am this morning, which was when we received our morning call. It was a slow trek to get everything packed and downstairs, so it’s a good thing I showered the night before. Our breakfast was exemplary as usual, as we’ve seen at pretty much every hotel in Taiwan. And then we were off! Super early Sunday morning, there was pretty much no traffic heading out of Hsinchu, and we coasted on out casually.
Today, we made seven or eight stops in total. Some were after about 7 or 8 km (usually after a bit of a climb), but some were kind of far in-between, like after 22 km. At each stop, riders are urged to make sure to address any issues about their bike right away so the mechanics on the team can take a look and tune it up for you. Then you head to the bathroom, fill up your water, and grab some snacks. Their food game is on point, and it’s a good thing, because we’re all eating a lot more than we usually do, and expending up to 4000-6000 calories a day. There are about three or four kinds of fruit, bananas, nectarines, oranges, and maybe something else too. Then there’s three to four different kinds of Taiwanese biscuits and cookies with chocolate or cheese or preserved veggies. There are packets of Pocari Sweat that you can dump into your water bottle, and then fill up with water. For those who don’t want to have Pocari, they also offer some straight-up salt, which helps your body hydrate better. At lunch and dinner, we’ve been feted with some amazing amounts of fish, tofu, pork – typical Taiwanese fare. One of the Canadians I met has opted for vegetarian, and they’ve brought out some excellent dishes just for her, including these lightly battered and fried mushrooms with Taiwanese basil. I can’t complain about any of the food.
Shortly after we came out of Hsinchu today, we made it to the coast. We spent a leisurely morning biking down the coast, gazing at the wetlands on the west coast. Steve and I have visited the Gaomei Wetlands near Taichung, and this was quite similar. The muddy ground sprinkled with short bushes and grasses stretch out for what seems like a hundred meters, dotted here and there by white herons and other birds standing in the mud. Off in the distance, we could see large windmills of the modern variety – tall and three-bladed clawing at the sky – which slowly moved by as we biked south. It was a perfect morning, weather in the sixties, and an overcast sky. Eventually that gave way as we turned inland to more rice paddies, stretching out. Yesterday’s rice paddies were smaller affairs, constrained by the twisting and turning roads and hills that we went through. Today was almost entirely flat. We crossed several very high broad bridges that looked over some narrow channels of water, watching the sun glitter on the creeks and rivers below.
We made two interesting stops today. The first was at 台鹽 Taiyen Company, which makes a popular brand of alkaline ion water here as well as other foods and beverages containin salt. They even had a “Museum of Salt” at their headquarters here. For our snack at this rest stop, the Giant guides brought out salty popsicles in many different flavors. I managed to get one of the last almond flavored popsicles, which was sweet and savory, tasting like the almond milk teas that they make here in Taiwan. It was a fun treat! The second stop was right after lunch at headquarters for Giant Bicycles. It was there we learned that we had among us the former CEO of Giant Bicycles, who is now retired and enjoys going around the island with his wife. He and she were respectively on their eleventh and eighth trips around the island. How’s that for impressive? #lifegoals We also got to see some of the cool prototypes they had on display, even though it was a Sunday, and the factory wasn’t open.
Today was a big day, because for many people including me, it was our first day of riding more than 100 km. Yesterday, we made 92 km, and today 110 km. It is pretty empowering to see these numbers that would have made me wince just last week. We now all have a much better sense of our bodies and our strength and how much we can accomplish in a day. When they announced at our last stop it was only another 12 km until our hotel, a cheer rose up because everyone saw that as being pretty light work of less than an hour! Tomorrow is going to be relatively light too – an easy, flat 83 km to Chiayi. But the day after that will be significantly more challenging – 130 km from Chiayi to Kaohsiung. And we haven’t even really started climbing the mountains. That will be Day 5 and 6 in Pingtung and to Zhiben (near Taitung).
Tonight, we stopped in Lukang, a small town near the coast which is just outside of Changhua. After dinner at our hotel, I went with some people from our lunch group (a woman from SF, her cousin from Toronto, and a couple from LA) to a nearby massage place. I got a 30-minute full body massage that focused on my lower body for just 399 NT (~13 USD). It was a lovely experience, and I now have many of the kinks in my spine worked out as well as some of the knots in my quads and hamstrings. It was such a good idea I’m thinking we should do it again tomorrow night!
For tomorrow, I want to remember to write about my new philosophy about climbing hills (and physics), our Giant tour guides, and accommodations in more detail! Maybe when I’m not scrambling to finish everything before getting to bed, but that’s not going to be tonight.