TOUR JOURNAL: DAY 2, KEELUNG – FULONG BEACH
The second day in the saddle saw the Pedal Taiwan team take on the first big hill of the tour, tackle over 1000m of climbing, eat yet more delicious food and a take dip in the Pacific, all on a fantastic route from Keelung to Fulong Beach.
Chris MJ – October 24th – 7.01pm
After an evening spent in the jacuzzi at our hotel in Keelung and eating fresh, locally caught seafood, the Pedal Taiwan group woke up fresh (well mostly – jetlag sadly got the better of Clare and Robin’s night of sleep) and ready to take on Day 2, a 43.4km ride through the hills of northern Taiwan to the east coast.
We met at eight and under the guidance of James headed to Keelung’s most famous breakfast destination, a 50 year old local institution. Think of your favourite greasy spoon and transport it to the streets of Taiwan and you get the picture. A queue snaked out of the entrance and the only tables left were upstairs and surrounded by stacks of spring onions. We soon understood why when James explained the menu. It had one item – spring onion pastry/dough fritter fried within a fried egg. They were so good that everyone ordered second helpings of this delicious cycling fuel and we set off from Keelung at 9.30, ready for the day ahead as the photo below obviously shows!The wind was blowing hard from the northeast, making initial progress tough along the coast with a strong headwind buffeting the riders. But the smooth roads and slipstreaming effect from the group sticking close together helped get everyone smoothly to the base of the climb to Jiufen, a 10km windy route through Taiwan’s gold mining country, rising over 500m to the summit.We took a short break at the Qingyun Temple, an impressive landmark half way up to the town, before pulling into the historic mining town of Jiufen. Everyone unclipped to wander around the narrow streets and markets, catching occasional glimpses of the choppy Pacific and the port of Keelung far below to the north.
Twenty minutes of exploring later and we were back on the road, leaving the tourist crowds behind and powering up to the summit at 546m – after a sneaky false peak of course. The views throughout the ascent were stunning and without a soul on the road after Jiufen, the climb will be hard to beat (we’ve got a feeling it might just be beaten but will everyone be this happy at the top…?). The descent was fast and took in some awesome hairpin turns through the lush jungle and bamboo forests of the southern slopes of the Ruishuang Road. 10km of effort-free downhill cycling later and we rolled into the town of Shuangxi. James once again came up trumps for our lunch choice – a real gem on the main street in town.
Another selection of incredibly tasty, flavoursome and interesting food appeared in front of us. Locally caught fish – prepared as both a light gingery soup and baked with fresh veg and spices – was the highlight, but the deep fried pork ribs and super fresh squid caught last night in Fulong ran it close.
In the van we were stuffed after such a feast, so we were extremely impressed as the cyclists wheeled out of town for the flat final 13km to Fulong Beach. Or what was supposed to be the final 13km – but James had other ideas and everyone was keen to join him on his “secret” route just out of town. The exact details will remain a secret, but the route does involve an awesome cycle through a disused railway tunnel to a spectacular viewpoint over the Pacific…
Returning to our accommodation – a quirky and arty B&B right next to the beach – most of the team headed for their first Taiwanese swim of the trip. Yes the sea was rough, the main section of the beach closed at 5pm, and the water wasn’t crystal clear – but it was the perfect way to end another great day.
So as I type, the snacks are finished, highly competitive card games have already started and dinner is on the table – everyone is set to sample a local “lunch box” – I best head off and join in, oh and apparently the loser of the card games buys the beer…