Day 1 – A Tough Start: Taipei to Keelung

On April 8, 2012 by admin

They say it’s best to get the tough ones over with first, to eat your meatloaf before the dessert, to have a really tough bike day before the good riding days..

Today was tough. It definitely wasn’t supposed to be, but on bike tours and in life, an obstacle comes your way and it’s how you deal with it that defines you (or the bike trip ). To start, this is our first ride ever on these new bikes, not usually recommended before embarking on a long bike trip. The bike is a Giant Great Journey 1, and it is a tank of a bike. We are perhaps a bit spoiled in that the bikes we usually tour on are set up nicely for us and are fairly light. This bike with gear must have weighed 25-30kg. It’s also a very upright bike, so you’re blocking a lot of wind. The other point to mention is the seat, it’s a wide spring loaded granny style seat. Perfect for pedaling to the supermarket for a few things, also perfect for acquiring a very sore ass and chafing when riding it for 6 hours in a row.

By the time we were geared up and out, it was 10:20am. A bit of a late start. The route today was to survive the Taipei traffic and get to the river pathways then make our way north to the northernmost tip of Taiwan, then south east to Keelung where I had pre booked a hotel.

I had thought ahead and made a hotel booking in Keelung thinking it would make our first nights stay simple since we could just bike up to the hotel and drop our bags and go eat…rather than dealing with negotiating and finding vacancy, unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way.

Getting out of Taipei was sketchy, getting used to the traffic and the motorbikes cutting you off. The skies opened up on us and at 6k we pulled over to put head to toe waterproof gear on. The rain was coming down hard by now. Eventually we made our way to the river pathway which is an excellent cycling path, it reminded me of Sapporo’s Toyohira River pathways, or even Asahikawa’s. Taipei is doing a great job of promoting itself as a cycling city.

Heading north and on the outskirts the rain came down even harder, so seeing a large food stand area that was covered and across from a temple, we pulled in at 18k for a bit to eat. Little did I know then that this 20 minute break would be our longest of the day. We had a bit to eat, saw some eels and turtles, also for sale I’d assume, and started up again. It was about then we realized that Ophee’s bike didn’t have a front fender and water was shooting up. These bikes were supposed to come prepped and outfitted properly, so in Tamsui we stopped at a Giant bike shop and asked. We had to purchase our own fender since the original shop had forgotten to put it on, and I ended up buying a buff bandana to lessen the effects all this pollution and scooter smog I’m sucking back while biking is having on my lungs.

We got on highway 2, but it turned out to be somewhat of a mini 2, not the real 2, and it took us a little out of our way. Route finding today has been a challenge, especially with all the Chinese characters. Once on route 2 we were rolling along only slightly faster, but never have I felt like I was riding in quicksand like today. The bike is heavy no doubt, but the headwinds were bearing down on us hard. Biking speed for much of this was a very pedestrian 10k per hour. Knowing we had about 50k to go I was getting worried. Normally today’s 80k would have taken 4hrs bike touring tops. Today it took us 5 and a half hours of riding time alone. We passed by the northernmost point of Taiwan but to be honest I didn’t even notice the sign, and I was looking for it too. The rain was letting up but many of the coastline sights we had been excited to see here when we planned this trip weren’t visible.

Arriving at Jinshan Town, about 65k mark, I suggested we just eat the loss on the Keelung hotel we had booked and stay here. The day had taken much longer than we thought and it’s not a race, we both wanted to bike tour and enjoy ourselves, not punish ourselves with long rides into the dark. Perhaps it was low blood sugar but we ended up carrying on. When we got to Wanli Town the light was fading fast and I called it and stopped us at a bus stop. Not really knowing if there was a bus coming or if it would even be able to take bikes. Either way we were done. We were 15km from the hotel, and our speed was less than that so we would be in the dark the whole ride. A minute later a bus came in and I flagged him down. In hindsight, I should have asked where he was going! Or even looked at the sign on front. I was so excited to just safely get to our destination I threw both bikes in and we clambered aboard. I asked a girl if it was going to Keelung, no said.. Its bound for TAIPEI ! This was not good news.

Panic ensued and for the next few stops I leaned over the bus driver doing my best charades to tell him we need to get off and go back. A young guy heard me pleading and helped to translate from then on. The bus driver was a good guy though, and wouldn’t accept any fare from us even, he saw the desperation in my eyes along with the exhaustion. He let us out about 7k from Keelung, where he would carry on to Taipei. By now it was dark, and we were riding in towards Keelung, a very big and busy city. The traffic was getting crazy, and as the scooters cut me off one by one my stress levels rose. We just wanted this day to be over with. The final fifteen minutes were harrowing, bikes don’t really get much respect on the road. Eventually we just went over to crosswalks and went the long way to get to our hotel, at 715pm. A full 9 hours since we set out. We stayed at the Hua Tu hotel, half a block from the very famous Keelung Night Market.

We were both pretty fried mentally and physically from the day, so after a quick shower we went out to get some good street food.

You never wish for your tough day to be on the first day, but on the positive side it’ll only get better from here on out!

Stats for the day:
Distance 82km
Riding time 5.5 hours
Taipei to Keelung via north coast

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