Kenting National Park / by Mark Boyd

So here I was in the most southerly region of Taiwan.... The Kenting National Park.  It was very, very windy!  Windy enough to tear the visor from my helmet, windy enough to knock me sideway almost blowing my wheels from underneath me.... It was insane!  Having said that, the skies were blue and air was warm.

I followed the various little roads and tracks, exploring the the little view points over the Kenting Park, but if I'm totally honest..... and I am.... It probably wasn't worth the journey down.  Yes it's a beautiful area, there's low trees and brush running up to the sea, and the little village areas with tiny harbours were cute, but as a whole.... I could take it or leave it.  It's also one of those touristy areas where they charge for access to everything, including the Eluanbi lighthouse, which was a very average lighthouse indeed!  So much so I didn't bother photographing it.... You've all seen much better I'm sure!

So by 1pm I felt I'd seen all I needed to see.  The winds were strong, gusting to 45 mph at the really open spots and the landscape was 'nice', but I took the decision to begin my North bound journey back to Taipei..... and Taitung looked easily reachable by the end of the day.

The coastal road, once out of the high winds of the Kenting peninsular, was fantastic.  There were single track areas, there were main road areas, but with the sea on my right hand side for the majority of the ride to Taitung things were pretty good.

I rolled in to the city of Taitung city at around 4pm.  Accommodation was thin on the ground and I'd flitted between two different places both charging over the odds for what they were offering.  In the end I returned to the one offering a very average top bunk in what looked like a kids bedroom for £15.00..... But by that time the top bunk had gone and there was only the bottom bunk.  She now wanted £20.00 for the bottom bunk!??  Not a chance, she was just having a laugh charging separate prices for top and bottom.  I was annoyed by this and decided to camp.  I was riding on fumes, so needed to find a petrol station so that I could ride around and find a suitable camping area.  By the time I reached a petrol station I was almost empty, probably two miles worth of fuel left.  There was a Macdonalds over the road.... Not usually my bag, but they'd have wifi.  I ordered a meal and tried to login in to the wifi.... No success.  I looked at my offline downloaded maps and spotted a park area just around the corner.

The park was very nice.  There were locals walking around the paths looking at the little paper lanterns that marked where the old railway lines used to be.  If I waited until it was dark I could definitely get away with pitching my tent and sleeping here.  Then just as the light began to drain from the sky I noticed a temple area.  This was known as Liyushan Park.... Maybe this would be better.  I wandered around.  It was way quieter and it was quite photogenic.  Once the city had succumbed to darkness I would pitch my tent here around 11pm.  In the mean time I wandered around.

The park look pretty with the illuminated lanterns and the city had quite a nice bustling feel to it.  It felt very safe.  I had no qualms with regards to camping here, apart from the fact I may get moved on by a monk.

I decided to take some night shots of the temple.  It was almost 10.30pm and it was drizzling.  I set up my tripod then realised that the plate which screws in to the bottom of the camera to attach it to the tripod was missing.  I searched and searched.  Then I sat and thought.  I remembered throwing in to my helmet whilst setting up the camera to sit flat on a fence post.  I obviously forgot to take it back out of the helmet before I left, then it fell out on the walk back to the scooter.  Bugger.  I made do with balancing the camera on various bits and bobs to achieve some long exposures of the temple.

I pitched my tent quietly, turned my feet to face away from the temple, just in case it was a sign of disrespect (I hoped sleeping here wasn't) and bedded down.  

It was cold.... Too cold for a good night of sleep.  I was awakened by growling dogs..... Thankfully they weren't growling at me, but they were close enough to cause concern.  At 5.15am I decided that was all the rest I'd be getting.  I heard movement.... I sneaked over the edge to see an elderly gentleman performing some exercises and to his left another lady about 30 metres away performing her own version.  It was still dark.  I decided to unpitch my tent as silently as possible so as not to draw attention to what I'd been doing all night.  I walked down to my scooter and attached the tent and mat to the back.  The sun was on the rise and within the half light of morning I could see more and more 60, 70 and 80 year olds exercising.

It was only 6am.  A lady selling sandwiches approached me.  I was hungry.  I bought two.  That was breakfast sorted.  I walked up the steps at the back of the temple up in to Liyushan Park.  There were little tracks leading to wooden decked viewpoints all over the place.  These all overlooked the city from various angles. 

 I camped on the steps of this building..... Nice eh!?

I camped on the steps of this building..... Nice eh!?

I heard a woman making a strange sound up ahead.... I couldn't see her, but was curious, so walked on.... As I came around the corner she was overlooking the city waving her arms about and screaming.  Interesting..... Some sort of physical exercise combined with scream relief.... Each corner had someone exercising.  What a healthy lot!

 It was only 7am, the light was low, but not as low as the cloud.... Looks like rain.... Again!

It was only 7am, the light was low, but not as low as the cloud.... Looks like rain.... Again!

 The temple looked less 'Fairground Helterskelter' at night, don't you think?

The temple looked less 'Fairground Helterskelter' at night, don't you think?

I walked back down through the exercising oldies, and in to the main hive of physical activity.  By now there was an exercise based line dancing class going on.  No one under the age of 65!  Woman came walking up the road to exercise, but even as they walked they did something exercisey with their arms.  The stood chatting in groups, all the while exercising.  It really was a great thing to witness.  They were keeping their muscles, tendons and ligaments flexible and strong.... They appreciated their bodies and their health.

 The main temple by daylight.... Bright.

The main temple by daylight.... Bright.

I jumped on my scooter and rode to one of the hostels that I didn't stay in.  I'd got their wifi passcode.  I wanted to ride back up to Hualien where I stayed at Ms Chang's Happiness Station, Chocolate Room.  I wondered would she be willing to put me up for one more night on my way back up.  I sent a message and started the ride back towards Hualien.  It was around 200kms, not a massive ride, but I'd planned to stop a little bit here and there to check out the little fishing villages..... Hualien here I come!