Friday, December 17, 2010

Taiwan -- Day 3 Cont'd ... Guanshan Bike Path and Papago Resort

On our way to Guanshan to pick up our bicycles we stopped for lunch at a tiny hole in the wall restaurant.  I ordered the curried chicken and rice and it was fantastic.  Again, I wouldn’t normally have ordered chicken unless I was assured it was white meat etc… but when in Rome… I topped it off with a nice cold can of Taiwan Beer.

I want to just reiterate here that it has been over twenty years since I have been on a bicycle.  When I agreed to go on this trip I didn’t realize that I would actually have to cycle in Taiwan.  I thought I would be learning about cycling in Taiwan. So I was a wee bit terrified to learn that we would be picking up bikes and doing a 25 km bike route to our hotel.  Out of our group I was the only non-cyclist.  Everyone else regularly bikes for fun, competition and exercise.  Cola Mark even brought his own specialty bike to Taiwan.  The last time I had a bike; it had a banana seat and a baseball card in the spokes to make that wicked click-click sound.  But off we went to Guanshan to pick up our bikes.

In the meantime, Cola Mark had discovered that he lost his brand new iPhone4. Since Cola Mark was on the trip on behalf of this was a crucial loss for him. 

Count of Lost and Damaged Items by Day 3: 
2 pairs of Sunglasses
1 HTC phone
1 iPhone4

We arrived at the bike shop and I literally didn’t know what to do.  Thankfully Bev and Wireless Mark stepped up and gave me a short lesson in how to choose and fit a bike to your frame.  First, when you sit on the seat and your foot is on the pedal there should be a slight bend to your knee.  You should not be able to firmly plant both feet on the ground while your bum is on the seat. Secondly, your forearms into your wrist should be a straight line when you have your hands on the handlebars.  This will put less strain on your hands, wrists and back.  Third, you should have good footwear and fourth, you should have nonrestrictive pants/shorts on so you get good leg movement.

Interesting large bike

Still, I was a nervous wreck thinking of the upcoming ride.  We had been up since 430am that morning and it was only early afternoon but our days were jam-packed and it was all beginning to catch up.  Luckily the shop had some fun bikes to take a spin on and it helped me to relax again and realize that I could do the bike ride. There were electric bikes, covered bikes, tandem, penny-farthing, sky-high and quads.  There were kids and teens bikes, and bikes with covers and roofs.

Mark hopping off the penny-farthing

Pretending to be cool and relaxed

The rows of bikes to choose from.

First we were going to do the Guanshan Circle Bike Path (12KM) and then continue down Highway 9 (13KM) to the Papago Resort.  Once we got going on the bikes, Wireless Mark explained the gears to me. Did you know that some bikes have 24 gears? My car only has 5 gears but my bicycle had 24.  What was going on here?  The first three kilometers I thought I was going to have a stroke.  Those beers from the bus and lunch were in danger of revisiting me.  I had no idea how I was going to keep up with the group.  My mind was frantically trying to figure out a way for me to get off and go home. It was screaming “No way can you handle 10 more days of cycling like this”.  My bum hurt from the seat but I had no core muscles to stand and pedal, I was constantly trying to figure out what gear I should be in.  And that was only the first 20 minutes…

Thankfully I was able to muster and keep up to the pack.  In reality I slowed them way down, but I am really appreciative of their mentoring and encouragement.  I couldn’t have down it without them.  They really inspired me to keep going and eventually the pain in the butt went away and I could look up and breathe and enjoy the scenery around me.

Flora of the Guanshan Bike Path

View from one of the lookouts

Wireless Mark and Cola Mark on the Guanshan Bike Path

The Guanshan bike path is absolutely gorgeous. It was the first dedicated cyclist path to be built in Taiwan. It has the most breath-taking scenery of rivers, mountains, rice fields, palm trees, country villages and water paddies.  The bike path is made of two sections: “Water” which follows the Guanshan canal and “Mountain” which turns inland.  The flora and fauna are just gorgeous and there are a lot of stops along the way for photos. For the more experienced cyclist the bike path would be an easy leisurely ride with wonderful sights.  Word of advice to other newbie cyclist: try and keep your mouth covered or closed while cycling. The butterflies along this path were black and  the size of eagles.  One hit me in the chest and nearly took me out. Of course that could have been because I started screaming and flailing my arms, but the advice still stands.

Guanshan Bike Path -- "Mountain" Section

Guanshan Bike Path -- "Mountain" Section

Guanshan Bike Path -- "Mountain/Water" Transition Section

Guanshan Bike Path -- "Mountain/Water" Transition Section

Stopping for a break at a check-in station

View from the Guanshan Bike Path

View from Guanshan Bike Path

Fellow cyclists .. doesn't that look like fun

Once we finished the Guanshan Bike Path we rode through a maze of rice fields and roads to reach Highway 9.  We stopped and took copious amounts of photos and were generally in awe of the scenery and peacefulness that emanates in Taiwan.  At one point we had to stop and ask directions of women working in a rice field.  They helpfully pointed us (literally) in the right direction.  Once we reached the highway we realized that we would have to get off and actually carry our bikes through a rice field and up an embankment to the road.  I really couldn’t believe I was doing these things. 

Woman in rice field directing us which way to go

Each day our trip seemed to get more and more surreal.  Here I was in the countryside of Taitung Country, portaging a hybrid bike through a rice field so that I could ride another 13KM to our hotel. Thrilling!

Our ride along Highway 9 was marvelous.  Even though there were many cars going by at high speeds, the motorists seem so used to cyclists that there seems to be an easy relationship between the two. We arrived at the Papago Resort in the early afternoon.  I couldn’t believe that I made it in one piece. I was elated. The whole ride had been such a heady experience.  I really felt like I could conquer the world. 

Crazy, this trip is so surreal but I can really understand why cyclists are passionate about this sport. Once you get that wind in your face (NOTE- keep mouth closed) it is amazing!!! The only down side is the pedaling. LOL!

We got checked into the resort and got to my room. Oh my gosh, breathtaking. A beautiful blue and white room, with two king size beds and floor to ceiling windows.  I walked out onto my balcony and looked right down on the lagoon pool, hot tub, massage area, pavilion and the Villas.  In the distance, the town of Chihshang and the surrounding rice fields.

View from my patio

Amazing lounger .. I can see this design hitting Urban Barn or Pier 1 in the near future

A nice reminder ...

I showered, changed and ran downstairs to meet Bev and Kate so we could grab a beer to celebrate my feat and head to the pool. We looked around the lobby and lower level of the hotel and couldn’t find the bar.  We asked the front desk where we could get a beer, and the lovely lady advised that we could get a beer at 8p.  I said no, you must have misunderstood me; I would like a beer now.  Again I was told at 8p we could have alcohol. 

Now, I’m Irish by birth and Canadian by choice, if you’ve met me, you know I like a beer now and then.  I especially like to have a beer after I’ve been up for 12 hours, rode a bicycle for the first time in twenty years, rode said bicycle for 25+ KM and want to celebrate.  I think maybe the rising red color in my face, or the throbbing vein in my forehead alerted the nice lady that I should have a beer before 8pm.  She kindly offered to bring us out some beer to the pool area.  That was fantastic.

Kate, Bev and I spent a few minutes in the pool before the attendant came over and gave us pool caps.  We explained that we didn’t need it but apparently it wasn’t a choice.  Hair caps are mandatory at the Papago Resort pools.  An hour later after a great swim and wonderful water massage the two Marks joined us and we relaxed and had a few beers before dinner. 

Posing on the fabulous chair with amazing light fixtures in the rear

Kate relaxing on the amazing pool "egg"
Completely reminds me of Mork and Mindy

Wireless Mark and Kate enjoying a Taiwan Beer

We met for dinner in the hotel restaurant and had another great buffet.  A few beers later and we all decided to have a relatively early night as the group was doing a 96KM bike road the next morning.  I know, that is correct, 96KM.  I laughed as well.  I politely declined on the long ride along Highway 9 toward Hualien and decided instead to ride the local bike paths. 

What I looked like at the end of my first ride.

My room at the Papago Resort



MB said...

"We asked the front desk where we could get a beer, and the lovely lady advised that we could get a beer at 8p. I said no, you must have misunderstood me; I would like a beer now. "

I am so so sorry I missed this.

VancouverBanshee said...

I think Kate and Bev actually got a little scared. I do have to figure out a way to control that popping vein in my forehead when I get irritated.