Day 9 – Random Village Festival

On April 21, 2012 by admin
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Festival in Dawu

We were on the road pretty quickly today, since our hotel room contained our bikes it was simple to have them loaded and ready to go. Having eaten a quick cup of cereal from the fridge we powered southbound towards Daren, approximately a 60k ride and where we hoped to find accommodation tonight.

It didn’t work out that way.

Feeling good about biking earlier on in the day we made it to Taimali, a small town about 20k in, where we stopped for second breakfast. The 7-Eleven had some good salads so we veggied up while we could, and I had a nice cup of cold cafe au lait, they always remind me of Japan. Outside on the tables a group of 4 younger guys walked up and bought four tall cans of Taiwan Beer and proceeded to have a drink in the sun, even if it was 9:30 am on a Saturday! That’s another thing I love and respect about Asia, the rules aren’t so stringent, or laws I should say, and I always think that that is part of the reason why we as Canadians seem to act out or abuse alcohol when we get the chance since its so forbidden and locked down (ie: beer gardens or festivals).

Anyways back onto the days ride, heading south it’s been a big change since Taitung. The lane along the shoulder for scooters and bikes has disappeared and is now just a lane for all cars trucks buses scooters AND bikes. Countless times today we witnessed oncoming cars veer out over a double yellow no pass zone through a blind corner and try to make a quick pass. As oncoming cyclists, even on the shoulder viewing this, it’s harrowing to say the least. Today was definitely white knuckle biking. The shoulder doesn’t have much space to start with, and down to the right is a concrete drainage ditch about 2-3′ deep and 1′ wide, perfect to fall into and crash hard on a bike if you don’t pay attention! We rode faster today, averaging about 18km/h overall even with the many up and downs on this portion.

Ophee riding towards Dawu

Around noon we passed through a sleepy little town called Dawu, searching out a B&B to no avail. We smartly decided to buy some extra food in case tonight we end up somewhere with no restaurants nearby, we’ve learned that lesson a few times now.

Daren town, mural near the visitor center

Following the 9

Pushing on south to the town of Daren, where route 9 heads inland and up, we found no accommodation here either. It being only 1:30pm we weren’t overly concerned, but it was in the back of my head, where would we stay tonight? We were at a crossroads, if we push on the next town is a hilly 37km to Shyuhai Hot Springs, and we don’t even know if there is a room there. Our other option is to look harder. We saw a visitor centre and as we entered the usual panic in their eyes was evident. Through some huge charades and a few words, we found that they had no options for us. There was no hotel or B&B anywhere nearby, and even Shyuhei had nothing around. It seems to me that there’s a huge void of places to stay for this 100km stretch.

Feeling the stress of trying to find a roof to put over our heads, we looked up and saw a B&B sign for Anita’s. I called the phone number, where she said I was ten minutes away. We could not find it, until we realized she’s 100km north of here along route 11. Frustrated, we backtracked to the town just before Dawu where we had seen a small hotel we thought.

Around this time, I got a flat tire. Feeling it get lower and lower, I pulled over to inflate it to get me there, but the pump failed. On my previous flat tire my Topeak pump failed at a very inopportune moment, and here now the mini pump that giant supplies with all bike rentals was not working. Luckily, we rented two bikes so that meant two pumps. Out of the three pumps we started the trip with, we were down to one after only two flats.

Hotel on the right, 7-Eleven nice and close

Local fishing boats

We rolled into Dawu and the hotel room turned out to be pretty good, $1000 TWD ($33 USD), in an older building. Checking in at 3ish has its advantages, the biggest being a late afternoon nap…

My iPhone plan is expiring today as well so into the 7-Eleven I went hopeful to get a top-up. I have to say, I was impressed by the generosity of the staff to help me out. Them having no English, me having no Chinese, it was a battle. She actually called Taiwan Mobile and found an English speaker and while we crouched behind the register passing the phone back and forth we solved how to do it. Love the Taiwanese hospitality.

This also got me to thinking how different this bike trip is when I can’t speak the language of the land I’m touring in. Through Japan I had a basic conversational language set that allowed me to actually meet the locals, talk to them about where to go and what to see, and break down that barrier between tourist and resident. I think the amazing 87 day tour I had through Japan might be very different through the eyes of someone not able to speak Japanese.

Local kids carrying the shrine

Around 7pm, suddenly we heard drumming, then firecrackers. Wondering what the fuss was about I went outside to see people parading the shrine of their goddess Mat Su, the goddess of the sea, around town. There were painted up faces, costumes, drums, and a perfected ritual of the procession visiting each and every shop or house that had put out a folding table with some fruit and incense on it. As they approached the occupants would bow three times, and as they left a burning barrel would be put out and a fire started. Pretty amazing to see, and very lucky timing as it’s only once a year. It’s not even on a set day, only the third month of the lunar calendar, and is decided by tossing moon blocks during the lantern festival to determine which day the goddess would like to leave the shrine and visit the town. A local surveyor also staying at this tiny hotel spoke English and filled me in on the details, then invited Ophee and I down to try his homemade chicken soup that he prepares with roots from the forest and the entire chicken of course. What could’ve been a nothing day easily turn into a very unique cultural experience.

Bike stats 67km
Riding time 3hrs 40mins

 

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Carrying the Shrine

 

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Festival with fruit and incense offerings

 

Festival

 

The Cute Kid saying good night to us

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