Monday, January 03, 2011

Taiwan -- Day 10 Sun Moon Lake and Ita Thao

The next morning I was up so early I managed to catch a magical sunrise over the lake. We had a very big day planned and I was a little nervous. Since the Taiwan Cup had been cancelled the Taiwan Tourism Board had instead arranged a media opportunity ride around Sun Moon Lake with all the professional cyclists. To my greatest fear our group had been invited to participate as well. Everyone was super excited but this newbie cyclist was hesitant, maybe even horrified to take on a 32 KM ride around Sun Moon Lake with Team Rabobank and Oscar Freira. 

Sign outside the GIANT Store Sun Moon Lake
Don't you love the Nourishing Room?

We were meeting at 9:00am at the GIANT Store to pick out our bikes for the day and then joining all the professional cyclists for the media interviews and the 9:30am ride start. The plan was for the pro-cyclists to ride the round-the-lake route twice at a leisurely pace so that some photos and tourism promotions could be done. The rest of the cyclists would start off in the same pack and try to keep up. It was my first experience at this kind of shotgun start and pack riding. It was wonderfully exciting to line up and ride with these professionals when I had only been riding for six days or so.  As soon as the shotgun went off everyone blasted out of there. I can’t imagine how fast the pros actually race at if this was their “leisurely” pace.    After freshening up we would meet as a group and go  for lunch in town before boarding our yacht for a cruise across Sun Moon Lake.  
Professional Racers waiting for the start of the ride around Sun Moon Lake.
Dario of GIANT Team Asia and myself
The ride around Sun Moon Lake

I was pretty proud and giving myself a little pat on the back when I approached the first hill. It looked quite deceiving at first but it was hard work and soon enough my legs were killing me and my “biker bum” had kicked in. I was also having trouble understanding the gears on my bike, as they didn’t have numbers on them only black and white lines. That meant I wasn’t prepared properly in the right gear to take on the hills. I was only five minutes into the ride, and already at the back of the pack. As I slowly made my way up the hill I ran across Wireless Mark.  Unfortunately his chain had broken and the GIANT support car was unable to fix it.  He had to head back to the start and pick up a new bike. I continued to ride, mostly by myself along the undulating road. The road follows the shores of the lake quite closely. It has some high climbs, many curves, and steep drop offs. The sun was shining bright, there was a nice cooling breeze and scenery was majestic.

Photo I took of myself when I thought I might "stroke" out on the ride around Sun Moon Lake

On my bike was an odometer that I was following.  I knew the ride was 32 km long but by the time the odometer showed 14KM I thought I was going to have a stroke.  I was beet red, had labored breathing and was sweating profusely. I actually stopped and took a photo of myself in one of the traffic mirrors just so people would know how far I made it in case I couldn’t finish for some reason.  I couldn’t fathom how I was going to ride another 18 KM back to the Finish/Start line.  The GIANT Support car had already asked me if I needed help earlier and I had waved them on.  For those that live in the Vancouver, BC, area the road would be most closely described to the Sea-to-Sky or Grouse Mountain roads.  I had several drinks of water and a few minutes rest before taking off again.  Soon after, Wireless Make caught up with me on his new bike.  It was then that I figured out I had been reading the odometer wrong.  Mark explained it was telling me my actual speed and then my AVERAGE SPEED, not my distance. It turned out that I was almost two-thirds through the ride.  Wireless Mark continued on and I resumed my cycling with much more enthusiasm and a lighter heart.  Near the end of the ride all the pros actually lapped me as they came flying by laughing and joking. The GIANT support car also made one more invitation to help me in but I declined.  I had ridden that far and I was not going to give up for anything less than death.  In the end it took me over 90 minutes but I finished the ride.  I was so incredibly proud of myself, I felt like I could take on the world.  I met up with Kate and we rambled back to the hotel and went up to the Observatory floor to get a view of the lake. Incredible! Thank You Taiwan and Taiwan Tourism Board for making me feel like a million dollars and giving me memories of a lifetime.

Sun Moon Lake

Wireless Mark in Sun Moon Lake

Lunch in Sun Moon Lake

Lunch with John and Wireless Mark

The cruise was beautiful but unfortunately the commentary was in Chinese so I didn’t learn a lot about what we were looking at. I know that we toured around Lalu Island before docking at the entrance to the Syuenguang Temple.  What a gong show. It is the only way to describe the thousands of people that descend on the temple. Dozens of yachts bring people to the wharf and drop them off for some sightseeing and pick them up again. The paths and walkways were so packed that it was actually unpleasant to walk around so we decided to skip walking to the temple and went back to our boat.  This was the first time since arriving in Taiwan, that crowds disturbed our sightseeing.  Once on the yacht again the next stop and point of departure was Ita Thao. 

Temple Area of Sun Moon Lake.
Crazy touristy. Way too busy!!

Sun Moon Lake

Look closely at the hotel.  Isn't it private?
Ita Thao, Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake
Again the most gorgeous water.

Bev and our provisions for the afternoon bus ride.

Amazing food on the local stalls.

More local seafood.

Deep Fried Fish

View of the Sun Moon Lake Hotels from the boat.
Gorgeous water of Sun Moon Lake
Sun Moon Lake
View looking down from The Obstervatory Floor at The Wen Wan Resort
View out onto the lake from The Wen Wan Resort

Sun Moon Lake

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