Tuesday, December 25, 2012

LCSG Taiwan Cycling 2012: Day 3

Day 3: 垦丁 to 旭海渔港

Today is the first real day of cycling! As shown below, we will be cycling to the very southern most tip of Taiwan, then up along the eastern coast.

 Our cycling route shown in purple. Although it may seem short on the map, don't forget that Taiwan is actually many many times larger than Singapore!

Zoomed in view of our cycling route. Going to the southern most tip of Taiwan.

It was a cool and cloudy morning at Kenting. Although we were at the southern part of Taiwan, the weather was not warm as it was winter. The wind was pretty strong, which was why most of us had our windbreakers on.

At the hotel lobby, preparing to load the boxes and baggage onto the lorry.

All riders ready to go!

 Smooth flat road, about the only flat area we will encounter today.

The flat road soon gave way to winding slopes. Windbreakers are shed due to the extra body heat from the exertion.

At the entrance to the southern most tip. You can only reach there by foot or by bike.

One of the platforms along the way, overlooking the sea

Some pictures of the rocky coast, the blue seas and the white waves

When we left the southern tip, the sun was out, and so the weather was quite pleasant for cycling. However, once we hit the eastern coast, we were greeted by strong winds from the Pacific ocean. The direction of the wind and the road was such that we were either cycling into a headwind or getting blown all over the road by sidewinds.

The headwinds are unlike anything I have experienced before. As a simple comparison, there is no wind in Singapore compared to the wind at Kenting. And the headwind you can find at Pengerang is only a mild breeze compared to the wind at Kenting. Cycling hard into the wind only yields you 10-15 km/h on flat ground. On upslopes, you can barely go above 10 km/h. Imagine cycling in a wind tunnel, that was how it felt like to me.

What can be worse than strong headwinds? Strong sidewinds! The wind blows continously inland, making it difficult to keep your bike moving straight. It takes a lot of arm strength just to keep your front wheel pointing straight. Even then, when a sudden gust of wind comes, your bike just slides across the road from right to left. There is no way you can keep going straight when the sidewind is that strong. That was about the only time I regretted getting the Wheelsport wheels with the high profile rims! My arms were actually more tired than my legs.

Good weather for cycling! However the wind was also super strong due to the exposed landscape. Upslope plus headwind equals grind grind grind...

About the only thing that kept us going was the magnificent scenery 

We arrived at this place called 风吹沙, which is literally what it means, wind blowing sand. The winds are stronger than ever here, and it just keeps blowing the sand from the beach across the road. The wind is so strong here that we can barely stand still. During strong gusts of wind, the sand hits your face so hard that it actually hurts, it is like sandblasting the face. At the end of the day, I actually had sand coming out of my ears, no joke.

 From a still picture, you cannot see the strength of the wind. But look at the angle of the vegetation on the ground.

It takes a tremendous amount of effort just to keep the bike moving straight. Drafting is too dangerous as the wind blows you all over the place, and sticking too close to another rider can cause a collision when a sudden gust of wind comes.

After the energy sapping ride along the coast, we were all glad to ride a bit more inland, along the country roads.
Nice quiet countryside roads, with no strong winds

 Rain is coming!

 Took a break from the rain and the undulating terrain

This signboard lied to us. We were expecting a downslope, but it did not come. Instead, it was upslopes after upslopes.

The rain stopped, the sun came out and the route soon took us back to the shoreline.

Great view of the shore. More strong winds!

The road brings us practically to the edge of the land, with the sea just beyond the low wall.

 View of the sea and the mountains

 Another slope and mountain, plenty of this in Taiwan!

The wind blowing the mist from the waves across the road

It was a really special cycling experience that day, cycling in a "wind tunnel", rolling up and down the endless slopes, while also admiring the beautiful scenery along the eastern coast. According to George, the route is actually considered flat, as the total elevation is less than 1000 m (if I remember correctly). After that day's ride in Taiwan, I realised that Singapore's terrain is practically flat, even along Mandai road, Selerang or any other so called rolling hills in Singapore.

As our end point was not at our hotel, we still had to pack our bikes onto the lorry and take a van ride to the hotel. Packing the bikes onto the lorry was not easy, as the bikes are unfolded and take up more space. Luckily there are quite a few Bromptons and they pack really well back into the boxes, which allow the bigger bikes such as the KHS, Bike Friday Tikits or the Dahons to fit onto the lorry.

Packing the bikes onto the lorry. From Taiwoon's camera.

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