Kaohsiung - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

January 9, 2019

Kaohsiung

We both slept badly last night, and woke up unrested.  Not the best way to start our last traveling day.  Our unrest was triggered by Rachael’s train research last night, as we will soon need to come to grips with how to get ourselves back to Taipei in a few days.  We know that several options could be possible, including getting bike bags (folders in bags are ways allowed on Taiwanese trains), or shipping them ahead of us, or taking them unbagged to the baggage station as we did two weeks back in Yilan.  We won’t really know what’s possible until we get to the station though.

For that matter, we don’t really even know where ‘there’ is exactly.  We haven’t even researched the location of the Kaohsiung train station, or know how far it is from our hotel.  Waking up thinking about these things, doing a bit of research and then falling back to a fitful sleep again was the story of our night.  

When we finally woke for good, we agreed that a trip to the train station (which I now knew to be 1.5 miles from our hotel) would be our first order of business when we arrive tonight.  I drew up the map to load into our GPS devices and Rachael managed with great difficulty to load it (a story in its own right - she’s having steadily more problem in loading routes, for unknown reasons.  She’s planning some extensive GPS research when we get home to see if it’s time for a different solution).

Tainan at dawn. It looks like another beautiful day to ride, but it depends where you are exactly. If you get a few miles inland from the coast it’s quite smoggy.
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Not long after nine, we left our hotel and started biking south out of Tainan, beginning with the usual few stop and go miles of traffic stops surrounded by scooters.  At one point we came across another scooter accident, our third in four days.  This one looked more serious, with the rider lying on his back waiting for the EMT team to arrive.  A sobering way to start the day.

Today’s ride continues to cross the Chiayi-Tainan plain, so once again it is absolutely flat.  It really isn’t that far from Tainan to Kaohsiung if you take the direct route, so we choose a meandering route that maximizes our time along the coast.  Our thinking is to arrive at our hotel about 3, check in, and then head straight to the train station.   The first half of the ride goes quickly but uneventfully once we escape the city.

We mostly biked through the smoggy interior this morning, but occasionally saw glimpses of Taiwan Strait.
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The sky is odd here. Looking straight out to sea, it’s blue; straight down the coast, whitish grey; and inland, grayish brown. Not the healthiest day for a ride.
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Three grey herons
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About half-way through the ride we come to the first sight compelling enough to stop: the Yungan Wetland.  This broad, flat wetland was once one of the most important salt pans in Taiwan; and until recently belonged to the adjacent giant power plant, which had plans to use the area for dumping coal waste.  Fortunately that plan was abandoned and the land was acquired for preservation as a wildlife habitat.

It’s a wonderful place to just sit and watch the huge wintering bird population.  The flats teem with thousands of black winged stilts, shovelers and a variety of other waders, with large rafts of birds floating in the distance.  We’ve included quite a few bird photos in the blog already, so feel free to jump down past these to the day’s big drama if you’ve had your fill already.

At the Yungan Wetland
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You surely recognize this bird by now. If not, the long legs might tip you off. These birds have the second highest leg to body ratio of any species, after the flamingo.
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More of the same.
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I’m not sure, but I think these are lesser crested terns.
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The little ringed plover wins the cutest bird award for this tour.
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Common moorhen
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With our tour winding down quickly and nothing else too exciting happening in the day, we decide to spice up the journal a bit by playing that old favorite, Who’s in Front, or Chase or Turn Back.  The setup for this emotional game is to arrange a situation where neither rider knows if their partner is in front of or behind them.  Much fun ensues when each must decide whether to speed up and try to overtake the other, wait, or turn back the way they came in an attempt to find the other.  They’re free to use all the tools available - their map, their instincts about what their partner would do, their basic agreements about how to find each other again, and their phones. The classic running of the game occurred in the Pyrenees, when we were separated for a frightening length of time on the Col d’Agnes.  If you’d like to first brush up on how this game is played at its best, Read here.

Today’s running began when I fell behind Rachael, and came to an ambiguous fork in the road - a bike path separated from the road, rising up to the top of the sea wall.  In a major judgement error, I decided to take the high route.  I got some nice views of the sea out of it, but before long I realized we had a problem as the path continued along for perhaps a half mile before dropping to the road again.  When I finally came down, Rachael was nowhere in sight.  Who’s in Front?  Game on!!

Which makes much too light of what is of course a serious concern, which can quickly become very upsetting and frightening.  To make a long story short, I biked forward for almost two miles, until finally coming to a major intersection where I was certain she would not have gone on past alone.   Somewhere along the way I tried to phone her, but for reasons we still don’t understand my phone failed to  work.   Turning back,  I returned toward the last place we had seen each other, and finally was relieved to see her in the distance, biking toward me.

Rachael was in quite a state at this point.  After biking back and forth on the same stretch of road for a half hour she had given up and was on her way to the hotel, hoping we would find each other at the end of the day.  Very upsetting, even traumatizing.  Not the best way to end our five months on the road, but not the worst either - we found each other at last, and we’re both fine.

But totally exhausted.  We still have twenty miles to go, and are both totally emotionally drained.  We don’t really notice the ride, and are impatient with how long it takes to bike into Kaohsiung once we arrive. Kaohsiung is actually a surprisingly bike friendly city, and we enter it following a very nice cycle path along the Love River. Under different circumstances we would stop and look around more, but we just want to be done.

Do you see anything wrong here? Just the one thing - the long, empty road ahead.
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Smog and a calm sea = not much contrast.
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So I did stop for a photo in these last miles, exactly once. Too pretty to take a pass.
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Well, twice. This is from the fine bike path along the Love River.
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We arrived at our hotel about 4:30, checked in, and then took a few minutes to regain our composure before biking to the train station.  Our hope was that we would leave our bikes at the baggage station to be shipped ahead and then just walk back to the hotel. stopping off at a restaurant on the way.

It didn’t go down like that, of course.  We found the baggage station, but the two attendants patiently worked through with us in very limited English what the constraints were and our options.  We were at this a long time, with much confusion over what we were trying to do, where we were trying to go, and sorting out the very similar names of different stations here and in Taipei.  Finally though, we understood that:

  1. You can ship an unbagged bike from Kaohsiung, but not from here at the main station.  You have to go to the next one up the line, about four miles away.
  2. You can ship an unbagged bike to Taipei, but not to the main station.  You can ship it to the Wenhua station (about four miles from our hotel) and pick it up there.
  3. There is only one train each day that allows this.  It leaves at 1:30, and arrives in Taipei seven hours later.
  4. It will cost us about 450 $TW for each bike (about $15 USD).

So, we have a viable plan.  But not tonight though - it’s too late, and we don’t even know where the other station is yet.  We’ll go there in the morning.  

As we wheel off, the older of the two men chases us down.  He points to our bikes, which are folding.  Get a bike bag, he says.  You can take them on any train, and it’s free.  Good plan - tomorrow, we’ll look for bags.

It’s a slow but safe ride back to the hotel.  After dropping off our bikes we immediately turn around and walk off to the restaurant we had planned for the evening, which proves to be excellent - we’ll return tomorrow.  Walking back to our hotel, we stroll along the bank of the river, which is bright and alive with spectators.  From across the river we hear a Chinese voice crooning John Denver’s Country Roads.  Take me home.

 

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Ride stats today: 52 miles, 600’; for the tour, 778 miles, 33,400’

Today's ride: 52 miles (84 km)
Total: 710 miles (1,143 km)

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Steve Miller/GrampiesThere is nothing more scary and upsetting than losing each other. Fortunately we have always managed to reconnect, but it is not a good feeling until that happens. Looking forward to reading about the bike bag search and train ride tomorrow. Sleep tight, love Grampies
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2 months ago
Jen GrumbyAfter that game of Who's in Front, would have been nice to get to the hotel and Do Nothing.

Very impressive that you were both able to re-gain composure and take on the bicycle/train logistics task.

Hope all goes smoothly getting the bike bags and getting on the train!
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2 months ago