Having been awake since 5am and having wandered about and seen all I needed to see of Taitung I hit the road around 8.30am. I'd decided to take a route that crisscrossed the Eastern ridge which dived the East coast from the centre of Taiwan. That way I'd be treated to coastline and mountain vistas. Perfect!
Unsurprisingly the day began chilly... and the rain was coming. The coast road was awesome again, I just loved this coastline. Every now and again I'd stop to peruse little perfect surf breaks or stunning rocky outcrops.... Just wonderful.
From time to time I'd take little side roads down to sandy or pebbly beaches or off in to little villages just to explore.... and each time it was always worth it.
This coastal section of road was new to me, as coming down once I hit Hualien I headed inland to Taroko National Park and across to Sun Moon Lake. I was really enjoying it. I'd also received notification from Ms. Chang that I was welcome to sleep in the chocolate room once again. How very kind!
I pulled over for a coffee at 7/11. I watched huge carp and other fish swimming in an outdoor tank just outside the window.... The weather had so far remained okay.....
I continued to cruise North along expressway 11 Shortly after passing through Chenggong I threw a left up in to the mountains (1,700m) across the East divide. The road was winding and the views were once again stunning. The air become cooler minute by minute but the scenario made for a great distraction.
I reached the township of Fuli and picked up the 193. I was still surrounded by peaks, but my altitude was way higher than sea level.... I cruised through these very different looking towns where flooded paddy fields blanket the land.
On reaching Guangfu I took the number 11 eastbound. This took me through some very rural areas indeed. A tiny road for the most part which wound up and down through more stunning landscapes. The sky was still blue and sun was still shining. This was wonderful!
This sign..... It's interesting isn't it? It's a perfect example of the importance of punctuation and correct translation.... 'No plant picking, hunting allowed.' As soon as I read this I pulled out my rifle and went to bag me a Formosan Black Bear, endemic to Taiwan. I hoped the sign didn't mean 'No plant picking or hunting allowed'.... as I thought it might.... I put my valuables ie. passport and large amounts of money in my pockets as the sign suggested to keep my valuables on me or I may get pickpocketed.
'Beware of Pickpockets: Keep Valuables with You'. Hmmmmm.... Is that not exactly what the pickpockets want? Was this sign erected by a ruthless pickpocket... Or is this a simple ruse to lure pickpockets from the undergrowth to within firing range so as they can be hunted?' Confusion abounds!
I managed to get a little lost for half an hour, but half an hour of being lost whilst the weather is great is all good. But sky was slowly filling up. I was only an hour or so away from Hualien and I was back on the coast road. I cruised with speed all the way to the city and back to Happiness Station B&B.
I grabbed a hot shower and kicked back for an hour in my chocolate themed room.
The previous night camping outside the temple in Taitung had caught up. At 4pm I headed out for a bite to eat. I went straight to Salt Lick, the American Diner I'd stumbled upon a few days ago. I sat down and ordered some sort of combo.... I was hungry and tired. I a large plate of something substantial not necessarily nutritious food, and when it arrived that was just what I got. It was delicious!
That night I slept heavily.
The following morning I rose at 6.30am.... and then returned to bed when I heard the rain. I set off at 10am as the rain began to ease off. Today would be a simple ride from Hualien back up to Dharma's place 4 Seasons B&B in Yilan. I'd just take it easy and enjoy the ride. With only 120km to cover and with the ever brightening sky I found myself zipping down to more little harbours and villages along the way.
There were large bridges being constructed along expressway 11, these were spanning the little enclaves made up more often than not by one hairpin corner bordered by two tight right angle bends. They were obviously attempting to make the road a little more direct and little safer.
The tunnels on the coast road were absolutely freezing at this time of year.... and they were also very long. If there was more than one or two trucks travelling through, then the fumes became pretty nasty. When possible most of the tunnel rides were spent holding my breath from one end to the other, the option of either passing out or grabbing another breath had to made on many occasions and opting for the latter seemed like the lesser of two evils.
A little tree surgery operation on the main highway held traffic up for 25 minutes..... in the middle of the day... on a main highway!!! Ha haha ha! I shot through two or three minutes before any cars on my side were going to get by as the approaching traffic was being let through. This gave me 45 minutes of traffic free riding on my side of the road! The row of traffic the other side was only 1km which was surprising for a main road being stopped in the middle of the day for 25 minutes. At least it wasn't raining!
I noticed the sky darkening.... It looked very threatening indeed.... Would I make it to Yilan before the heavens opened? I some how doubted it.
The rain came... and when it did it came with wind. I'd spent far too much time relaxing and enjoying the ride and the stops in the previously broken cloud and partly sunny weather. I could easily have been in Yilan a long time ago. My poncho by now was a series of wind torn strips, more halloween costume than poncho. It required constant attention to ensure my backpack remained dry. A little tactical tucking here and there solved the problem in the short term, but whilst my backpack was benefiting from the main strip of poncho I was not, and it wasn't long before I was wet through.
As I broached the outskirts of Yilan I popped MapsMe on my iPhone and let it guide me back to 4 Seasons B&B.... It was 3pm which gave me plenty of time with plenty of cloud filtered, rainy natural light to put together the portfolio of room images I'd promised Dharma on my first visit. I showered to warm up and then got to work.
I rose early the following morning.... I wanted to take some dawn pictures of Yilan.... The sky was heavy with a dark blanket of cloud.... I knew there was going to be more rain. It was already beginning to drizzle.
I spent 15 minutes out photographing before returning to the B&B. Dharma invited me to join her at the fruit and veg market about twenty minutes drive away before she prepared breakfast. How lovely!
After the market we took a stroll along the river where she talked about her life growing up in Taiwan and her university life in the US.
We spent half an hour walking and chatting before heading back to the B&B where she prepared a delicious wholesome breakfast to send me on my way. She took pity on the state of my poncho and provided me with an ill fitting lavender number.... It wouldn't go over my backpack so I popped it in under the seat.... It was raining pretty heavily already.... How far would I go today?