East in Yunlin - Two Gs on a Taiwan Trip - CycleBlaze

October 10, 2019

East in Yunlin

climb and camp

Forget 5G - this journal has two Gs. We're both sweaty and wondering if this 9.44 AM train going south is looking to break the Guinness World Record for the number of passengers packed into its carriages. It's impossible to get into a carriage and along with about 10 other souls, we're wedged into the doorway area with our panniers and saddlebags stacked up in a lopsided mess on the dusty floor. Periodically it's a case of having to shuffle slightly so that fellow passengers can squeeze past to get off or on when the train pulls in at a station - Hsinchu... Miaoli... Taichung... Wherever... 

Fellow sardines on the 9:44 AM train to Dounan on a sweaty, almost a three-hour journey
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It's stiflingly hot because the coolness of the AC system doesn't reach the doorway areas from the adjacent carriage, which is jammed solid. I'm spending my time trying not to make eye contact with the people standing right in front of my face while g is sitting down in the door-well, below a sign which states no sitting in the door-well

As luck would have it the train is running about 15 minutes late and it's around three hours of discomfort before we stretch our legs and collect our bikes from the baggage dept at Dounan's humble station.

Harris Tweed-clad Carradice panniers that g recently bought
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It's overcast, yet the heat is intense and we sweat more as we load up outside the station. We sense the town is sleepy and after putting on some sun cream,  head off to get a bite to eat. There's a McDonald's not too far away. It'll have AC.

Off at Dounan station into 30-odd-degree heat and high humidity
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We ride up to a main road, but when I glance back after crossing a set of lights, g is nowhere in sight. Without a phone, it's impossible to connect, so I quickly double back and eventually decide to ask a couple where McDonald's is, banking on him being there. It's not far and sure enough his bike is parked outside when I roll up.

After 15 minutes of cooling AC we pop across the road to a 7-Eleven because we need to buy some drinks to keep us hydrated on the ride west. As I stand outside with my bike, a woman in her twenties or maybe thirties makes eye contact and seems quite shocked to be looking at a white guy. Then g comes out and she's now looking at two white guys. Dounan clearly doesn't get many white guys. In fact, being an unremarkable town in an unremarkable county, Dounan likely sees hardly any white guys, period. Her excitement can't be contained.

She speaks decent English and tells us she loves to party and has travelled overseas and visited Canada, the UK and Australia. She then mimics a kangaroo by hopping around and follows that by imitating a koala - hugging a nearby concrete pole. She wants to spend more time chatting, but g has already left me to it, so I say bye and pedal after him. A few minutes later that we dip under the rail tracks and find route 158乙 that runs southwest. We're actually on our way.

Heading east on the 158乙 - the character looks like Z and is similar to 158B
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The 乙 denotes it's a B road and it's arrow straight with a minimal shoulder but traffic is quite light. Today it's probably heavier than normal with it being the start of a long weekend and cars pass in mini convoys of six to 10 every few minutes.

Yunlin County is rural and we ride beside fields, some with pineapples growing in neat, low rows. 

Thankfully trees line a lot of the 158乙 and they provide dappled shade that makes it slightly cooler. We're both dressed in black, which doesn't help. The temp is 32°C but g's phone says it feels like 34°C. That's 93°F. Sweaty.

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After over half an hour we reach a village called Yonguang and as we pedal through the centre dripping sweat I tell g there's a FamilyMart store on the far side and when we get there we pop in and sit with bottles of cold drinks and buy bowls of instant noodles for dinner tonight, just in case we can't find anything. We're heading into the hills and away from villages and convenience stores with AC. The camp site we've booked doesn't have anything.

It's sweltering, but there are trees to give us welcome shade
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It's the end of the 158乙 for us and we're now on route 210 that soon goes over Highway 3, which we see is full of holiday traffic heading north and south.

The road kicks up at a junction and we're in our lowest gears for a few minutes before it dips back to a wider two-way section and our clothes are sticking to us and we pull up at a small roadside temple and sit under its curved canopy so that both of us can finish off the bottles of drink that have become lukewarm.

Chilling at a small temple beside the 210, about 15km into the ride
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A couple of kilometres of cycling up a gradual incline, near a one-street place called Dahudi, g answers his phone. It's my wife calling to say the campsite owner is wondering if we're coming and we tell her to let the owner know we'll be there in a couple of hours. The place must be fully booked. Certainly all the B&Bs were when I shopped around for accommodation, which is why we're staying at this organised campsite with yurt-type tents for rent.

The road increases in difficulty and we're in our lowest gears for kilometre after kilometre. We get another call asking about our progress and this time say it'll be gone six when we arrive as our speed is pedestrian and we're going to stop and eat at a place I'd spotted on Google Maps during planning.

Route 210 becomes the 149 and we climb for about 15km in total
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Our rear LEDs are blinking when we eventually reach the place, with the sun having turned orange, hovering just above the horizon. It's 5:00 PM.

We share a 'hot pot' as we're not that hungry and drink lots of water and as far as beer goes it's Hobson's choice of Heineken. The glasses come half full of ice, even though the cans are chilled, so we drink the beer on the rocks and before you know it it's dark and almost six.

Heineken on the rocks
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The camp site isn't too far away and it's just a matter of minutes before we're cycling up a side road that climbs to it. I know from Google Street View that it's right beside a school and we find the school gate, but as I walk up to it an loud alarm sounds and then g's phone rings. It's the owner of the site who says she'll come and find us and she does, and as we ride up an adjacent concrete lane we see below a police car arrive to check the school's alarm.

The site is pretty big and very busy. It's packed. Fellow campers are loudly enjoying themselves, and some kindly invite us to eat, but we're too tired to socialize and just want to rest inside our square tent. It's at the very top of the site. Jeez... I'm just so tired.

We lug our bikes up some metal steps and park them on the terrace area and crash on the pair of double mattresses for a while. It takes me over an hour to recover, then I walk down to the shower area. We're in bed before 9:00 PM. 

We didn't cycle far, but it's been a long and difficult 27km.

Today's ride: 27 km (17 miles)
Total: 27 km (17 miles)

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