The cycling is done and we’ve just dropped off the last of our Pedal Taiwan cyclists at the airport – we can’t quite believe it’s over! But let’s put that aside for a second and what have we been up to since our last day on the road?

Chris MJ – November 5th – 5.01pm

Well the short answer is a heck of a lot. Firstly, dinner on the final night in Kenting was a memorable experience – with yet more new dishes on the menu. Seafood was the star attraction and we tried some fantastic dishes including puffer fish soup (don’t worry we all survived!), jellyfish (surprisingly crunchy) and some huge snails. After our massive lunch a few hours earlier it meant everyone went to bed absolutely stuffed – myself included!

Friday started with an early alarm call as the team jumped into a van to take them to the High Speed Rail station in Zuoying. So whilst they flew with James up the west coast in less than two hours at speeds approaching 300kmph, Rob and I had a 6 1/2 hour drive in the van to look forward to…

Fortunately however once the group arrived in Taipei they headed straight for Elephant Mountain in the east of town. The 1146 steps (thanks again Clare) were well worth climbing for everyone to get a fantastic view of the city and in particular Taipei 101. It meant that by the time they returned to the hotel in Ximen, Rob and I had caught up to check everyone in and also hand back the bikes to James before he set off on another tour that night – what commitment!

Before I move on I want to say (on behalf of everyone I’m sure) just how good James was throughout the entire tour. Not only is he a super strong cyclist, but he led the group with a great attitude and a smile on his face. His food recommendations were always spot on and although sometimes our unique British humour was perhaps slightly lost on him (it was lost on some of us too…), it really was a pleasure working with him. Here’s to the Spring 2018 Tours and hopefully many more with James! James, LishanBut back to Friday night. We met for one big blowout dinner to celebrate the end of the tour at one of Taipei’s best hotpot restaurants. Arriving early to avoid the queues that always form outside, we were also joined by serial liker of the blog and Clare’s friend Chloe – who’s out here teaching English. With our usual speed, everyone dived into bowl after bowl of delicious beef hotpot, supplemented with all kinds of greens, mushrooms and seafood.

After dinner we found ourselves a great little Japanese style bar to have a few beers at before the main event of the night – KTV karaoke. Karaoke is huge over here and the main venue in Ximen is 12 storeys high and dominated the skyline by the MRT station. Much to our dismay Rob left us to it – sadly I lost my duet partner for the Robbie Williams classic, Angels – but we still had a great time. With some food and beers, it’s not bad value either for £6 each.

By the time we left it was soaking wet but a few last Taiwanese beers tempted the team to Red House, a popular area of outside (and fortunately for us, under cover) bars. We made it through until around 12.30am – not bad after a 6am start but it was definitely time for bed! Clare and Robin were the first to depart the following morning, presumably crawling out of bed with slightly sore heads only four hours after getting back in from the night before. For the rest of us, a lie in was much needed! June then left at around 11 and with Ash practicing his MMA skills at a local Taiwanese kickboxing gym, Rob and I took Julia, Phil and Jane up to Yangminshan National Park.

In just over half an hour the hustle and bustle of Taipei could not feel further away as we climbed a steep windy road surrounded by lush forest. But the higher we got the worse the weather got, and by the time we had reached the visitor centre near the top the weather had a distinctly British feel to it… Howling winds and lashing rain were not the ideal companions for our walk up the mountain, but equipped with ponchos and some British spirit we made it about halfway to the summit before turning back. But turning back meant we could head straight to the traditional hot springs below the peak. Heated to around 40c by the dormant volcano, the warm water was the perfect thing to warm up with after getting soaked to the skin on the hill.

We then headed back to the city for a huge lunch of dumplings and warming soup before grabbing some R&R back in our accommodation. As darkness fell, there was just time for one final meal (very good pork rice) before Julia and Phil headed home, I went to bed and Jane went shopping for presents.

Sunday started with some fantastic green onion pies and dropping off the last two – Jane and Ash – at the airport before Rob and I set off to return the van in Taichung. It felt sad handing back our home from home over the past two weeks, but fortunately all was in good order and we hopped straight on to a High Speed Rail train back to Taipei – from which I’m writing this!

So from the moment I finish this blog, the tour will be over – what a crazy thought after two incredible weeks on the road. We could not have asked for a better group, a better guide or better weather. Although for Rob and I it was a very full on two weeks of hard work, it was immensely rewarding, enjoyable and fun – despite the early starts and long hours in the van. The next set of tours in Spring 2018 have a lot to live up to… Oh and keep an eye out as we’ll be launching these tours in the next week or so!But I must stop now – I think it’s time for a couple of well-earned beers…