30 Oct 2018

Miaoli County

Hills, Hakka, and Hints of Home

My legs became noodles as we entered our first hill - it was actually a little concerning. The first half of the day was spent predominantly with beautiful weather, the wind in our favour, flat roads, and dedicated bike lanes. I thought so many times “Wow! This is easy! I’ve already gone 30 kms!” but caught myself each time the thought entered my mind - I knew that sooner or later we would leave Taipei and enter the winding, and sometimes even steep foothills of Miaoli county.

On our way to Miaoli, we stopped for lunch in a Hakkanese town for some tradition Hakka food. We had pork, rice, various seaweed dishes and a host of seafood ranging from shrimp to an entire fish. The Hakka - as far as I understand it - are one of the more indigenous populations of Taiwan and seeing their culture first-hand was one of the trip mandates.

As you can see, the hills in the background were part of what we were up against on the bikes (but it looks worse than it actually was). This part of Taiwan reminded me lots of my home on Vancouver Island - rolling hills lush with green - minus the palm trees and jungle sounds… Oh, and 25 C weather in November.

The next 15 kms were the hardest of the trip. I think the combination of lack of sleep, eating and abundance of jet-lag (all completely my fault) contributed to this and my body crashed when the first slightly modest gradient hit. I should mention that for a cyclist, these hills were hardly challenging. But for me, only having trained briefly for the trip, and in combination with the other things - I just couldn’t produce much power.

I instantly felt like a child while watching these umbrellas danced in the wind.

Cassandra - one of our tour leaders for the first days - walking back to our luxurious support van.

This small town was very photogenic. And as we cycled through the hills to get to it, I lost count of how many overwhelming surreal moments I had while gazing at the treeline and endless jungle. To be on a bike getting lost in Miaoli, just enjoying the sounds, smells, and lighting of this place was extremely magical - especially with noodles for legs and winded lungs.