I set off early Tuesday morning heading along the old Number 3 highway going east past Shimen reservoir. The week before Taiwan had been hit by a massive typhoon so most of the rivers were still swollen and murky gray, full of large trees, drift wood, boulders and the remnants of dams and bridges that had been destroyed.
The day was still young and as I was not tired I decided to head south following the scenic coast road with its beautiful and sheer cliffs dropping down to stunning turquoise waters below.
As I came around a bend in the road I saw a stunning beach several kilometres long with clear water and an amazing mountainous backdrop. I decided then and there that this, (Dong-au), was where I was going to stay the night!
But where? I cruised through town down to the beach and towards the fishing port looking for a quiet place to pitch my tent. I took a small goat track heading over, between and under some large boulders and found myself on a secluded small bay! Perfect!
By the time I got back to my camp spot, over a dozen different families had swarmed in to the bay... go figure! You are never alone in Taiwan no matter where you go!!
Some local guys invited me over to their BBQ- they were some of the roughest (but friendliest) people I had met in a long time. I noticed one of the girls was using her teeth to chew the top off a beer can so they could use it to cook mussels... no word of a lie, her teeth became a can opener, scary stuff. By the time the sun started to disappear everyone headed back to the safety of their homes, and left me, finally alone! I set the tent up and watched the stars roll by with the sound of the ocean lapping against the rocks..... the same rocks that were now embedded in my spine... no wonder nobody camped here........
The next morning I jumped on my scooter early (not getting any sleep due to the rocks that were lodged in my back) and headed south again.
Following the east coast road is such fun and so easy to do.
I tried to stop off at the camp grounds in beautiful Taroko gorge to have a shower but, alas, the road to Taroko was closed. No shower, and no river tracing in the gorge. Boo hoo. I was a little disappointed but it just meant it was time to keep heading south towards my plan B.
Rob and I had camped at Shihtiping several years ago and I knew it was a nice place to relax and enjoy the scenery so I headed straight to there.
I arrived in the early afternoon to an empty park and set my hammock up and waited till dark to claim a camp site.... not smart Roh, not smart. I headed into town to get a late lunch and stock up on single mans provisions yet again, only to return to find a full camp site. In less than 45 minutes over 60 people had arrived... Goodbye tranquility!
Still, Shihtiping is such a beautiful place! I can hardly blame everyone for wanting to camp there!
There was no way over the mountain due to landslides...WTF?! I was furious! Why, WHY would you let me drive up the mountain, through all of the checkpoints, only to tell me I can't cross it as I neared the end?
Angry and disheartened, I turned around to start on the 4 hour journey back...
And then the rain started.
I was cold, tired, angry, and wet.. Poppy was exhausted and shivering and miserable and everything was dripping wet. I decided that was it, I was going home. Nothing would stop me!
By 5pm it was pouring with rain, freezing cold and blowing a gail. I could go no further. After 11 hours of driving I was wrecked. I made my camp under a shelter at a bus stop in Dawu, next to the train line with trains going past every 20 minutes, trucks going down the road every other minute and buses continually pulling into the bus stop, not to mention with the ocean roaring and the wind trying it's hardest to blow my tent over... I slept an hour and then gave up once again on the thought of sleep..
At 9 pm I packed the scooter up again, and even more determined now, I didnt stop driving till 1am when I reached Pingdong. I remade my camp in a parking lot at a 7/11 and had the best 4 hours sleep I've had in a long time. (Side note - I love how you can camp anywhere in Taiwan!)
A friend had told me it was possible to make it from Kenting to Hsinchu in 9 hours, so I decided to accept the challenge and headed home!
Staying on the good old number 3, I wound my way through the mountains of Neimen to the rivers and lakes of Dapu, watching Formosan monkeys jumping in the trees, and driving through tiny Aboriginal villages and bustling cities. But by the end, I was really starting to tire. Firstly, I'm not a fan of cities and towns, and secondly, my arse was so unbelievably sore from spending days and days on a scooter.
Finally, my journey ended at 3pm on Friday when I rolled back into good old Jhudong after a whopping 12 hours!
All in all it was a fun journey and I enjoyed almost doing a complete lap of Taiwan over 4 days. 1400km on a 125cc scooter isn't bad!
But I promise I won't be doing it again.