June 10th - Taiwan Lockdown - CycleBlaze

June 10, 2021

June 10th

Tea Fields

It's about 6:30 when my eyes open. Like yesterday, it's already sunny and hot and cycling isn't really on the horizon, but by 9: 30 things have shifted and it seems OK to get out and it's just a matter of deciding where to go. 

Doing a longer ride appeals and Google Maps show some options, but in the end it seems wise to simply stick with routes I know and my goal becomes a climb up through the tea fields on the south side of Longtan. It'll be getting on for a 60km ride with a strenuous bit of pedalling involved.

Only ten minutes from home
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It's getting on for 11 o'clock when I eventually venture outside into the mid-June heat knowing that getting decent snaps will be hard what with the sun now being so high. 

I recall seeing some great photos a National Geographic photographer took during lockdown in the UK that got published in The New York Times. Roff Smith is obviously a highly accomplished photographer, with many years experience and is naturally gifted with an eye for a good shot. The thing is, he was out before dawn to capture the best light, or waited until sunset. It seems to me that he's also a dab hand at using Photoshop to enhance colour and tones - as below. You can see his gallery of cycling photos here.

Photo by Roff Smith
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It's doubtful I'll ever be out before the sun rises at five. Sunset is a possibility, but it disappears very fast here. It's gone in about 10  minutes. 

After 15 minutes of riding I spot a piece of half-hidden graffiti on the side of a house. My guess is someone in the family did it, or a friend, as it incorporates bits of text and would have taken a some time.  It looks goofy but has a certain charm. 

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About 10 minutes later I take a photo of myself riding past a mural but the result isn't great. It's in focus and is framed well, but it looks a bit rigid with no real sense of movement. Soon after I try again, setting up the tripod across a field of rice, but the result is also a bit disappointing and a few minutes later I make do with a guy painting a wall of a small bridge white.  He's using a 6" brush is a casual way.

My energy is low, maybe because breakfast was at around 7 and it's now gone 11 and the road to Longtan is one of those false flats that rises imperceptibly but constantly, making you pedal harder than you think would be necessary. 

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It's like I'm on autopilot and my bike gets parked outside Starbucks and my order is a pasta with egg plant and an iced frapuchino, plus a small lemon tart as a treat. The sales clerk gives me two paper bags that go on either end of my handlebars and a park is just across the road and while it's one I've never been in, it looks like there'll be a place to sit and have my elevenses.

A slightly elevated terrace overlooks a running track and I sit on a bench at the end of many and tuck in to my goodies in the cool shade provided by an overhead trellis that's covered in some kind of vine. My view is more of the park than the track and the lasagna is better than I thought it would be.

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After making my way to the south side of town, which only takes about five minutes, my wheels roll along the farmers' lane serving ride paddies and then it's just a case of riding along a series of quiet back lanes which are bordered in many place by rows of tea bushes, some looking healthier than others. The good ones are higher.

My small tripod gets taken from the saddlebag and the camera gets attached, but instead of placing it beside the lane, I  decide to try and capture the painted white 'Slow' markings in Chinese character on the tarmac as I ride along.

Obviously the camera is upside down, but it'll just be a simple matter of rotating them 180 degrees on Photoshop. The camera gets extended in front of the bike and takes a few snaps as programmed after 15 seconds with it pointing back towards my feet.  It's just hit and miss. after a few tries it seems one of the dozen shots should be OK

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The lane T's into main route number 3, which rises for a kilometre or more and it's a wide stretch of road and at one point where there are some nice looking tea bushes I set the tripod up between two of them and attempt to capture myself cycling by. It doesn't work and after three goes I give up and head to a nearby convenience store called Family Mart to get a cold drink. I forgot to bring my water bottle. 

Each shop now has a pen and form at the door and people have to state their phone number and name, plus the time. Most customers likely just use their phone to capture the QR code pasted on the window, but I don't have a phone.

I buy a few energy bars and a bottle of cold water that gets half drunk before I get back on my bike. 

There's a long drop from the shop and it's a great route to whiz down, with very little traffic to worry about. Maybe a couple of cars come by as my wheels spin along the decent tarmac surface that dissects ride fields. 

My camera gets set up and I try taking a series of photos of me riding past the terraced paddies, but when I scroll back through them none look very special. Sometimes you really need to have a person taking the shot - there's a limit to what can be achieved with a timer and a tripod.

At the bottom of the hill at a junction is a traditional shop which is next to a handful of homes. It's rural here and there's a long climb to do now and I buy a couple of cold bottles of drink before starting the climb. From here it's relentless and the gain in height is nearly 1200 feet - or 360 metres.

It goes on and on and my plan is to rest in one of a few gazebos near the top, but when I get there they've all been taped off and signs say anyone found sitting in them will be fined. Consequently I just sit in the shade outside one for just a minute and down some liquid and then make my way up to the crest, where after getting to route 71 there's another traditional shop that has a couple of seats outside.

Once there I pop in and buy a cold bottle of tea and a Choco Mucho. My Spanish isn't great, but this seems like it'll give me a boost.

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Sitting outside the shop at a table I soon down the cold tea and the chocolate and then notice a bottle opener hanging on a cord near the shop's doorway. The plastic handle has four characters saying Taiwan Beer - 台灣啤酒 - and it looks like customers use it to open bottles of the stuff, because there's a pile of around 20 bottle tops nearby.

The road undulates a little along a crest and over to my left is a panoramic view of Taipei's suburbs. Often it's hazy here and while the air isn't exactly clear today, it's not too bad and I pull over into a restaurant's parking area and take a quick snap of the landscape before starting on the 50km/hr descent back down to Longtan.  

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View from route 71
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Scott AndersonI can’t quite get the orientation here. What is the high ground in the center?
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2 days ago
Graham FinchGood question, Scott... I'm slightly disoriented.

I've added a map with a viewpoint icon on to my other journal and this photo was taken looking northeast-ish, towards Taipei. On a good day you can spot Taipei 101... it would be just to the right of my shot.

I can't figure out how an expanse of ocean is visible. Weird!
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2 days ago

I cruise by a large pond - or a small lake - in the centre of town and snap a gold painted Buddha before cutting through the alleys where Longtan's market is usually held. The alleys are empty and most of the businesses are shuttered. Usually you can't move in this area and trying to ride a bike through would be ill-advised. 

I take a photo of a narrow lane where I tend to walk when shopping here.  There are just two women to see. 

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My energy is a bit low again and I pop to McDonald's for a small portion of fries then head off to sit somewhere and eat them. The main road home is what I take and it's probably the first time I've cycled along it in about 10 years. 

There's a Hi-life shop on a corner which wasn't there last time and I find a low wall next to it and get the fries inside me and pop into the shop to see what the IPA situation is and find they have some so get three and a small carton of chocolate milk. 

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What was a slight rise heading out is a gentle cruise coming home and the sun is getting low as it's gone four o'clock now and  it'll take another 20 minutes before my bike gets wheeled through the front door.

Once there, the IPA goes in the fridge and one will likely get sampled later on as it's been a decent ride and a reward is in order.  

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Today's ride: 52 km (32 miles)
Total: 184 km (114 miles)

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