Moon Festival 2020 - Remote Taiwan - CycleBlaze

Moon Festival 2020

route options

My Carradice 'Super C' cotton duck saddlebag is probably from the 1970s, but there's not much wrong with the actual canvas-like material, which looks like it'll last another 50 years. It got a layer of wax applied a couple of years ago and might get another one any day now. The problem is the red nylon-like adjustable straps, which have degraded and become frayed and brittle. Their surface is rough and for the past couple of years it's been almost impossible to pull them through the plastic buckles to get them tight - or slacken them off. UV rays are likely to blame. They've been zapped good and proper.

My bigger, faded red Carradice saddlebag has some stitching on the seams coming apart and things were in danger of falling out as I rode along. so, with two bags in need or repair, it makes sense to see a lady a few blocks away who has done repairs for me before. I've got some replacement strapping and pieces of high-viz material that I'd like added, and decide to cycle over before lunch to see if she'll get her sewing machine working.

A Buddhist nun with a shaved head answers the door. Dressed in a grey robe, she looks to be in her thirties and speaks Chinese and beckons me inside, then offers me a large paper bag with a department store logo on it that is likely filled with clothing. I signal that it's not for me and she picks up the phone and speaks briefly and her mother appears less than a minute later, apparently just woken from a nap. I thought she slept after lunch, not before. She's around 70.

Heart 0 Comment 0

I present the red saddlebag first as the repairs to it are more straightforward. Communication is done with hands. She can see where the seams have split in a few places and sets to with her machine. After the four repairs are done, I give her a 150mm-long strip of yellow, high-viz tape and show her where on the rear of the bag I'd like it sewn. She marks the bag using tailor's chalk. It's a bit awkward for her as there's an internal pocket that's not apparent and she initially sews through both layers, but then corrects her error.

The straps on the cotton duck bag are a bit thick and I have doubts about the capability of the machine to cope, but nothing is said and after cutting off the two faded and disintegrating red parts to leave two short tabs to sew on to, she affixes the new black lengths. There's just enough black material left to replace one of the tatty straps on a side pocket and after that she follows my non-verbal instructions and sews a piece of pink high-viz strip on the back, even though there are factory-fixed orange pieces on both side pockets. In my opinion you can't be too visible and safe.

As I inspect her handiwork a plastic buckle falls to the floor. It's a bit of a surprise to find the red strap on the other side pocket has simply snapped. The elderly women reuses some of the discarded red strap to replace this broken piece, and when it's all done she's been working for over 30 minutes, but only asks for NT$100, which is about US$3.

Heart 1 Comment 0

It takes only two minutes to ride home and in that time I ponder which bag to use on my upcoming trip. Either one would work.

This might be hard for you to wrap your head around, but according to the lunar calendar, there were two Aprils this year. What this means is that Moon Festival - aka Mid-Autumn Festival - has fallen a little bit later than usual.

Traditionally, this annual holiday is a time for family barbecues, gazing up at a full moon and eating 'moon cakes': dry, slightly savory round things usually filled with mashed-up red beans that don't really float my boat. For me, what with the sweltering summer heat having dissipated somewhat, it's a good time to get away on the bike for a few days and my plan is to start cycling just before everyone else has their four-day break, meaning there won't be any crowds. I'm heading for the hills.

One of many screenshots of my route saved on a small tablet
Heart 0 Comment 0

Google Maps appear to label it Jianshi Township, actually a small place quite a few miles northeast, but it's really Zhenxibao (鎮西堡) I'm going to. This is a seriously remote aboriginal village that isn't on the radar of most cyclists and in fact I don't know anyone who has ridden there. Nestled up in the eastern part of Hsinchu County, it's reached via a dead-end mountain 'road' that climbs to almost 1,700 meters. The three characters 鎮 西 堡 translate to small town - west - castle, but to the Atayal tribe its name is Cinsbu, meaning something like "the place where the sun first shines in the morning". Hopefully the sun stays out during the four days I'll be cycling, because this mountainous area is not a good place to ride when it's inclement, with rock falls being a common occurrence.

The idea is to take two days to get there, stopping for a night in Baling, a one-street village on stupendous Highway 7 where I've stayed in a few times over the years. I'll have another night there on my return ride, then complete the eastern half of the 7, which after cresting at over 1,200 metres will drop me in zigzags to the sizable town of Luodong, close to the Pacific coastline. From there I'll probably catch a train home.

This promises to be a pretty strenuous trip and my legs will certainly be doing some hard work.

There's some accommodation here and there and I won't bother with a tent.

Rate this entry's writing Heart 4
Comment on this entry Comment 0