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abandoned due to rain - September 21, 2020

Morning light shows the basic bedroom's style would have looked dated back when it was built, which my guess was in the 80s or 90s. There's a wobbly wooden chair squeezed beside the bed and a TV sits below the window, which has curtains that don't open and when I do peel them apart the view is just of a rough sloping concrete slab that serves as a parking area for a single vehicle.

Last night I felt too knackered to shower, so I get that out of the way by 7:00 and then lug by various bags downstairs to find myself alone in the stark dining room with the roughly 10 round tables bare. No doubt many of the singers from last night are nursing decent hangovers.

In my pannier is a less than half-full bag of crunchy cereal and in the fridge is a single bottle of yogurt and after finding a bowl I polish off enough to get me going. A few guests wander in and help themselves to the warm rice congee that's in a huge cauldron of a pot. Rather them than me. Sadly the coffee machine is out of order.

The sky is overcast, but there's been no rain and the tarmac is dry, which is a bit surprising when I wheel my bike out the door. That's as far as I get. The front tyre is completely flat.

About to fix a puncture in Baling
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The hole must be tiny as it's impossible to find. In the end it's a case of trekking back up the two flights to my room and sticking the tube in the water-filled basin. Sure enough, a stream on tiny bubbles makes its way to the surface.

Back outside, one of the young guest's faces seems very familiar. She must have been a student of mine, but I can't figure out when or where. She notices me looking over and must know me. It's an odd situation and I don't have it in me to stroll over and strike up a conversation mainly because her name is elusive and she's chatting with friends.

By the time the tyre is pumped up it is 7:30 and a shop across the road is doing a decent trade in coffee and other bits and bobs. I sit on a stool outside the shop which has a narrow area with a thin, rudimentary table right beside the road and it's not too much of a shock to find the coffee isn't very good.

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I put a NT$10 coin in the public phone and call Debbie and she tells me it's raining there and was all last night. She thinks it'd be wise to ride back now and while the sky has become a shade darker, it seems like it won't rain. Not yet, anyway. I tell Debbie my plan is to cycle for a while and just see how it goes.

The bike cruises slowly down Baling's one street and after a couple of hundred metres I make a sharp left and cross a narrow concrete bridge that spans a tributary where I stop and take a shot upstream of the water that looks knee deep and clean like mountain streams do. The road only has me on it and it immediately climbs and keeps on rising and soon has me wondering how long the incline goes on for. It must be about 2km, but it seems longer. My heart rate is up and my legs don't like it.

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The road curves down steeply to an aboriginal village close to the river and the other side of the valley looks quite a way off. My eyes are peeled for a long pedestrian bridge that's slung across. It's quiet here... very peaceful.

There's a short climb to get to the bridge and as I spin away below me on the flat gravel sections of the river valley are trucks that seem to be involved in a major construction project. Then my heart sinks when I pedal up to the footbridge as the entrance is blocked off. It's hard to say why as the thing looks usable, but there's no way to get around the barrier so I get my 7" tablet out and look at the maps saved on it and ponder what to do. This is crap.

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There are two options: make a roughly 7km or so detour by going back to Baling and riding north around to the other side of the river, or just carry on along this side, which involves doing a fair amount of climbing. Or maybe do as Debbie suggested and ride home.

My legs are not up for a lot of extra climbing. This day has enough of that included already and the small road running along this side of the valley rises up again before dropping to cross on a bridge higher up the valley. It'd make today a real killer, what with a mountain to conquer to get to Zhenxibao.

Going back to Baling and making the detour over to the 113 route means quite a bit of time lost - having a puncture to fix didn't help -  and it's already getting on in the day. I'd probably end up cycling in the dark again and what with the sky looking too dodgy with rain increasingly likely.

Decisions - decisions. I opt to ride home.

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The road back is in reverse order to a few minutes ago and en route to Baling I pause in the aboriginal village to take a snap of its basic, bungalow-style church, which is now holding a Sunday morning service. A discordant hymn comes from the open doorway and inside a congregation of about a dozen sing quietly below florescent strip lighting.

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At the edge of the village is a public phone, but I don't have another NT$10 coin and it won't accept the smaller ones I have so Debbie will have to wait for the news of my intended return until later. She's pleased to hear the news when I call from Baling again but it's hard to say time what time I'll get back as it's gone 10:00 now. I've literally gone nowhere this morning.

After a short drop to the river the 7 then starts to climb but it's nothing too serious until the junction with the 113, where I took a snap last night in the dark. It occurs to me that this is where my detour would have brought me and know that the day would have been a long one if I'd stuck to my original plan of riding to Zhenxibao.

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Once over the bridge a 5km climb warms me up and the views to my right are of green slopes that look like they could be hiding dinosaurs. The Dahan River flows way below, winding its way between me and them and the 7 drops to cross a couple of bridges and the further I get the clouds become more common -  delicate wisps at first that float slowly around the ridges above, but then fluffier and darker. It's looking very dodgy now.

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My shirt is damp with sweat and a couple of times when I stop to take snaps, wasps appear from who knows where and buzz around my head. Maybe they like my bright yellow shirt, or the smell of the hotel shampoo. Around 10 or more circle in front of my face and to be on the safe side it seems wise to pedal off with my camera still attached to the tripod.

Drizzle starts to fall and my trusty old oilskin cape is rolled up in the saddlebag, but the drizzle isn't too bad and I'm wet anyway from sweating on the climbs and it seems pointless to stop to put it on.

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Lunch time comes and goes, but there's nothing to eat along the 7 - not for a while, not until I get to Fuxing and the climb up to village is horrible. It doesn't look too bad, but it's a few kilometres of steepness that always tests my strength and resolve and after a while I opt walk my bike and just hope to see one of the ramshackle stalls by the side of the road open and selling sweet drinks, but they are all locked up. Rain has absolutely soaked me and my energy has gone and that cereal I had at 7 o'clock this morning feels like it was last week.

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Although the convenience store at the crest is open, I don't stop as it seems best to press on and get to the historic town of Daxi where there's a roomy Starbucks.

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A row of fruit vendors gets my attention soon after and the peaches around here are the best and one women has them on display. Although they're pricey it's impossible to resist and I scoff one down as raindrops splatter on the road and as I stand under her vinyl awning, she seems to pity me. 'Drowned rat' is probably what she's thinking. You wouldn't argue with her.

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Daxi is my goal, which is a bit daft. It's just much further than I imagined and I'm too fatigued to enjoy the few kilometres that drop to the town, with the curving road being a bit dicey with traffic having increased.

My soaked shirt gets changed in Starbuck's washroom and a dry one feels much better. The snack and cake hit the spot and when I get up the seat has a pool on it which I mop up with paper towels before going outside to dig out the cape, even though it won't be too long before I get home. 

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There's just one more climb away but this is another nasty one - worse than the one to Fuxing because there's no shoulder and cars zip close by like they're in an F1 race. The zipping sound of their tyre on the wet surface is anxiety inducing and an inch of water flows down the edge of the road and my front wheel cuts through it and sprays my feet. It goes on like this for a couple of kilomteres before the crest and home is now about 10km away. Debbie will be a bit surprised to see me so early.

Today's ride: 65 km (40 miles)
Total: 135 km (84 miles)

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Scott AndersonUgh. Looks like a wretched day, all in all. Thanks for sharing it though.
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1 year ago
Graham FinchYes, the rain was a bummer. This time I cycled a slightly different route home and the weather was a real contrast - blue skies. That last page of the blog has just gone up.
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1 year ago