Monday, May 26, 2014

NETT Travelogue: Taiwan (subtitle: Of mountains, magpies, and earthquakes)

Frank and family just got back from an exciting trip and was able to file this extended report to the NETT news room:

"We just got back from Taiwan. This time I was lucky enough to rent a bike and do two rides in the Yangmingshan Mountains. And two mountain runs as well. The added bonus this time was that Nicholas joined me for one of the rides, and Tina for one of the runs. I have added links to the recorded GPS and photos so you can get a sense of the workouts.

By the numbers:

  • 35 lb. tour bike with triple cassette rented from the friendly people at
  • Two rides covering 66.5 miles with 11,040 ft. of climbing. Average speed not even 11mph.
  • Two runs covering 17.2 miles with 3,985 ft. of climbing. Average pace around 8:40
  • Number of 7-11 stores in Taiwan: 4,910

Ride 1 -
Nicholas at mile 0.6

At mile 3 (can you find Nicholas?)
I asked Nicholas on the flight if he was interested in joining me for the 1st ride and he said yes. I told him about the climbs, heat and humidity and he still said yes. So off we went early in the morning. It was a warm sunny day with fairly low humidity so pretty ideal for a ride. The first 2 miles have 2 extremely steep sections with grades over 20% so Nicholas quickly took to walking instead of biking. It took 25 minutes or so to cover those two miles. The next 1.8 miles follow a beautiful winding road with bamboos lining the road, waterfalls and great views over part of Taipei. At one point I was even lucky enough to see two monkeys (formosan rock macque) cross the road in front of me. There are constantly sounds coming from the lush green around you – birds singing, amphibians croaking, or monkeys chattering. There is a small town here which marks the entrance to the Yangmingshan National Park - - and the remaining 4 miles to the gap. Some of the things you need to get used to in Taiwan are: stray dogs that luckily are too lazy or hot to bother chasing you, cars and scooters driving fast and close to you and likely paying more attention to their phone than their surroundings. On the flip side most the roads are in excellent condition and there is typical a shoulder. And there are actually a good amount of cyclists on the roads. With lots of stops, walking and pep-talking we finally make it to the Xiayoukeng fumaroles. It took us 2.5hrs to cover the 8 miles! After a few photos, we carry on. While Nicholas rests at Lengshuikeng with its volcanic landscape, I continue down the other side the mountain for a few miles before returning back to Nicholas. I have great views over the mountains and the Pacific Ocean. From here on it is pretty much downhill the entire way back. Sounds easy right. Well not when you have very steep descents with lots of hairpin turns and poor brakes. Let’s just say our fingers were numb when we returned the bikes. Great ride and kudos to Nick for doing it with me.

Didn't get a photo of the monkeys but this is what it looks like

Taiwanese blue Magpie

The road up Mt. Cising with the fumaroles in the background

At the sulfur pits aka fumaroles

Resting near creek colored by sulfur

All smiles at the end of the ride

Ride 2 -

For this ride I went solo. It had been raining the day before so the days were a bit went. And it was a bit overcast which is actually not a bad thing in Taiwan. It was about 78F at the start of the ride and at the end it
My companion for the day
7-11 Pitstop
was 84F with humidity of 66%. Pretty much right of the gate there is a 2M climb with an average grade of 4%. Then it is 3 miles downhill to Beitou known for its hot springs. Next, followed the first real test of the day – the 1.7 miles up Xiaopingding with an average grade of 9% and some parts well above 20%. Sweating from punching the pedals was quickly replaced by sweating from fear of skidding out on the steep slippery downhill with multiple hairpin turns that took me down to the main road. For the next 9 miles I followed a busy two-lane highway; nothing like being at a red light surrounded by countless cars and scooters filling your lungs with CO2. I saw a girl on a triathlon bike with deep rims wheels in long pants, long sleeves and face mask – guess that’s the way to stay healthy and avoid sunburn. Luckily the air quality and scenery changed as soon as I turned back up into the mountains. Over the next 13 miles I would climb 2800 ft. along small roads lined with rice paddies, banana trees, and bamboos. The grade was not too bad and pretty consistent so I could pedal smoothly up. I even passed a number of people on road bikes so that felt good. After that it was all downhill to Taipei.
A few low-hanging clouds over Mt Cising

Roads are good and all is green 

  Flower Clock in Yangmingshan Park
Run 1
Somehow, I managed to persuade Tina to do this run with me. Probably, because she really likes to run uphill. It was a nice sunny day without too much humidity so we were lucky. We started by going up the same 2 miles that Nicholas and I biked earlier. We ran it faster than we rode it. In total we ran up 1,800 ft. in just over 5.7 miles but with the downhill sections here and there it was closer to 2,500 ft. of total climbing.

  End destination is the building up on the hill

Run 2:
My last run is a run I have done before when visiting Taipei. Maybe not quite Mt. Washington but it is brutal. Just 0.6 miles from the apartment is a road that goes 2.6 miles up, up and more up – 1,221ft or 9% grade to be exact. Add to that 1) cars and scooters driving fast up/down the mountain will little attention to runners, 2) torrential rain and thunder creating ankle-deep streams of water in several places and 3) toast legs from hiking and carrying Emma a lot in the last 3 days. It wasn’t pretty but with several stops and jumps to the curb I made it safely up and down again. After the run, Tina told there had been a small earthquake while I was out there.

Soaked after 60 minutes in torrential but warm rain

1 comment:

Karyn said...

Awesome travelogue! Bring us next time!