Taiwan - Moto-tour - Sun Moon Lake to Kenting National Park - Day 4 / by Mark Boyd

Well at least the weather was dry and it looked like I may even get treated to some blue skies, but the Taiwanese weather had been such a mix there was no real point in second guessing pleasure or pain.

Once again the road was quiet, smooth and an absolute joy to ride on.  The air was still cool so I was wearing plenty of clothes.  As the morning progressed the road climbed higher and higher from the bottom of one of the valleys all the way to the top of the mountains.  The serpentine road curled it's way up and down through stunning countryside of mid Taiwan.  The tight hair pins required good judgement and focus at all times.

Every now and again I'd stop to take in the incredible views.  By 9.30am I was ready for a coffee and breakfast.  I pulled over at a 7/11 convenience store, just as a little drizzle began to fill the air.  I pulled on the chrome tap freeing the almost boiling water on to the cardboard cup of dehydrated noodles..... Fine dining this was not.  I pulled the stool from underneath the long narrow table which lined the window and sat down.  The noodles would take at least five minutes to re-hydrate.  

As I stared out the 7/11 window sipping my hot, black instant coffee a brief movement caught my eye.  I refocused my gaze to the pane of glass. The gentle breeze buffeted the delicate feathery form of this wonderful looking moth.


This well groomed 'Hipster' made me smile. His proud looking moustache and eyebrows gave him an incredibly distinguished appearance, whilst his gleaming white flamboyant suit suggested he may well be on his way home from a 60's revival night.  As I gulped back the last of my cheap, lukewarm coffee the little white hipster continued his battle with the elements.... and with darkening skies and another 190km until I reached my destination I was about to join him in this battle.

As I rode I noticed my own personal sense of speed didn't seem to correlate with the scooter speedometer.  I placed my iPhone under the visor of the scooter and checked the scooter speedometer against the speedometer application.... It was way out...  Whilst the speedometer app showed 80kmph the scooter was only showing 60kmph.... at 50kmph the scooter was showing somewhere around 35kmph.... Rubbish.... That along with my 'flappy' left mirror which required  continually adjustment left me wondering about the overall health of my two wheeled compadre.

By 4.30pm I noticed that the oil light had come on.  I pulled over at a petrol station hoping to grab an oil change.  The young staff members looked befuddled at my request.  They didn't really speak English, so it was just good old finger pointing and facial expressions.  I'd removed the little dipstick to check that the oil light was illuminated for all the right reasons.  Who was I to doubt this shaky little beast?  As it happens she was pretty darn empty.... I'd dumped my bag, camera and hoody on the ground beside the scooter.  For some reason the non mechanically minded pump attendant decided to fire up the scooter.  As it coughed out the final remnants of oil over my belongings I indicated for him to stop revving.  My hoody was obviously ruined.... When I say ruined, I could obviously still use it to maintain warmth, but appearance wise it would look dirty.  Engine oil and clothes are not a good partnership.  There was one young Taiwanese girl who could speak English, but her stammer was so strong, and she was obviously nervous trying to communicate which made it worse made for difficult communication all around as she attempted to explain that the dipstick was out and that was why her friend had just covered my belongings in oil.  This was pretty obvious, but I listened as attentively as I could so she could see I was appreciating her efforts.  As I cleaned the oil from my camera I decided to call Jeremy (scooter rental dodgy geezer) to ask about the scooter.  I wasn't particularly happy that it already needed an oil change.  The Kymco website suggested 2,000km per oil change.  I'd hit just over 500km which again suggested that this little Kymco scooter had seen better days.  He informed me that I needed to go to a bike shop for the oil change..... I was probably a tad grumpy with him and it was difficult to hear him over the noise of bikes and cars at the garage, but I felt I also had every right to be grumpy.  I jumped back on the thirsty two wheeler and continued for another 5 minutes looking out for any broken bikes up on the side of the road.  This would indicate bike repair 'shop'.  I spun around as I spotted a couple of knackered looking bikes and some tools on the pavement.  I pulled up and pointed at the bike's oil light.  

The lady didn't speak a word of English, but knew what I was here for.  She performed the oil change at the side of the road had me back enroute within 5 minutes.  Great job.  A little over £5.00 for the oil and the change.

My ETA to Hengchun was somewhere around 6.30pm.  It had been a long day..... and much of the afternoon had been spent on fairly big roads.  Having said that, the big roads were not too busy.  I noticed a couple of folks heading in the opposite direction wearing ponchos, but the sky was looking pretty good.... Up ahead, maybe 300 metres I thought I could see what looked like wet road.  As I drew ever closer I could see other motorcyclists pulling over to the side of the road to don ponchos and waterproofs.  I pulled over and grabbed my poncho just in time.  The rain was torrential and it continued for around 20 minutes of fairly miserable motorcycling before the blue sky reappeared.

I was now on the South West coast road.  It was nice to be back beside the sea.  There were beautiful rock formations and very surfable looking waves!  The light was fading quickly, and as the light faded my eyes began scouting for suitable shelter areas for pitching my tent.... This was for a back up, just in case I couldn't find any backpacker affordable hostel/dormitory style accommodation.

It was dark as I pulled up outside a 7/11 on the outskirts of Hengchun town.  I wanted to log onto their internet connection, which tends to be a bit hit and miss, mostly miss.  Bingo!!!  I logged on to 'Booking.com' had a quick search and to my utter amazement there was a hostel called 'Light Blue Hostel' a couple of kilometres away and it was the equivalent of £4.00.  If this was a goer it would be the cheapest accommodation I'd found on my entire trip.  I booked it there and then and headed Light Blue Hostel bound.  The place was great.  It was pretty new, lovely and clean and best of all it offered free use of a washing machine on the roof terrace.  Super clean clothes were only an evening away.

I sorted my bags and laundry, and chatted with an incredibly amiable Taiwanese guy who was exploring his home country.  He went out to eat, then returned with a beer for me!  How kind!  The following morning we breakfasted together and then he took me to the a place where the flames burn gently from the ground due to gases seeping from down below.  Whilst the flames appeared briefly in the bright sunlight a huge Apache Gunship helicopter performed military exercise manoeuvres overhead as machine gun fire popped through the air.

We said our goodbyes, and I said my thank yous.  I had a 10 minute ride down to Kenting National Park.