The Final Tour (before-lockdown!)
The guys from STEAM (Sydney Triathlon Endurance and Multi-sport Club) joined Pedal Taiwan for a 14-day tour from the South to the North of Taiwan in mid-March, just weeks before the borders closed. It turned out to be the last tour that would run for months.
So how did it go, and did they make the most of it?
If you’ve seen our recently released video you’ll have seen some guys in orange slugging it up hills and across incredible landscapes. The STEAM crew; David, Damien, Rob and Mark, lead by Amanda and guided by James, can be seen battling Taiwan’s challenging topography, often making it look easy (and sometimes not!). That video footage was recorded on this tour, so here’s the behind the scenes to that awesome watch.
At a time when lockdown measures were starting to be put into place in Australia, it would be fair to say there was an air of uncertainty about the trip. However, once the guys got to Taiwan, those anxieties were left behind thanks to the minimal impact the pandemic has had on Taiwan. The trip turned out to be a great success and Taiwan was probably one of the only places in the world where it was possible to have such an experience.
The Start of an Adventure
“Settling into the vibrant local culture”
“And then up into the mountains”
The trip started with a couple of days of settling into the vibrant local culture in the capital city of Taipei. James, the team’s local guide treated everyone to some local food specialities and showed the STEAM team the area’s best attractions, such as The Beitou Hot Springs, where the team relaxed, ready for the big ride ahead.
The cycling began by riding out of the city along the riverside cycling paths, and then up into the mountains to get the first glimpses of the incredible scenery and to see one one of Taiwan’s most famous teahouses. A great little warm-up day.
Upwards and Onwards!
“Ultra-modern roads through mountain jungles and past golden beaches, all under a clear blue sky”
“A look at the statuesque Sansiantai “Dragon” Bridge”
After a 300kph transfer to Kenting National Park (by train, not bike!), the guys started the epic journey from the Southern tip of Taiwan up to the North. The first day heading North involved a 1.5km climb over almost 90km, riding on ultra-modern roads through mountain jungles and past golden beaches, all under a clear blue sky.
The next day was mostly coastal riding, with expansive jungle to the left and pristine tropical beaches to the right. With a quick Baozi stop, a look at the statuesque Sansiantai “dragon” Bridge, a passing of the famous Baxian Caves and their Stone Age ruins, and finally a nice sharp climb, the team made it to Ruisui and its Japanese-style Hot Springs.
After some well-deserved recovery time in the hot springs, the next day the squad got back on their bikes for a spectacular ride through the rift valley. The route cuts through traditional farming communities and rice paddies, and offered an up-close glimpse into how Taiwan’s rural communities live and thrive. Lunch was dumplings in Fenglin, but the real food of the day was the Reu Chou in Hualien, which was decidedly a fan-favourite for the STEAM crew. A really good day of riding was topped off with a stay at specialist cycling accommodation, The Kadda Hotel.
The designated rest day was neglected by the super-fit team, and instead, a 50km leisurely, but beautiful route around Liyu Lake was opted for. A swim in the lake and a barbeque topped off another amazing day for the gang!
“A distance of 108km and a climb of 3275m was a real test”
“A well-appreciated 100km descent accompanied by breath-taking views”
Then it was time for the iconic climb up Taroko Gorge to The Wuling Pass; the route of the famous KOM Challenge. A distance of 108km and a climb of 3275m was a real test of endurance, and one that Mark really took to, getting to the top first while some others struggled a bit (naming no names!). Despite the hard work, the climb offered some stunning views coupled with silky-smooth tarmac, a winning combination for any passionate cyclist.
The next day was a well-appreciated 100km descent accompanied by breath-taking views. The team got to Jiaoxi in no time, perhaps encouraged by the thought of the whiskey distillery and yet more hot springs waiting for them! The team loved relaxing in the hot springs and afterwards got to stay in a gorgeous accommodation in Jiaoxi.
Finishing on a high
“The 75km day started with a big climb”
“Yet another evening was spent eating the wonderful local food”
And then it was the last day of riding, but what a day it was! The 75km day started with a big climb, and then a coffee stop in Shifen Old Street. The team also got to see Shifen Falls, as mentioned in Pedal Taiwan’s Top 6 Natural Wonders post, the largest and probably the most beautiful waterfall on the island. And then it was time to head back to Taipei, via those river cycling paths from the beginning of the trip, that seemed like so long ago. The evening was spent in some of Taipei’s best restaurants, reminiscing about the last two weeks of incredible riding.
For the last day the guys explored Taipei, seeing the Chiang Kai-Shek memorial (AKA Taipei 101) and hiking up Elephant Mountain for a beautiful sunset view. And needless to say, yet another evening was spent eating the wonderful local food in one of Taipei’s best-loved restaurants. A heartfelt goodbye followed the next day before departing to the airport to head back down under!
Rob – Pedal Taiwan: “The guys from STEAM were a pleasure to tour with and held nothing back when tackling the 765km route, which we always love to see. The team conquered an overall climb of almost 12,000 metres, whilst immersing themselves in the local culture like true explorers. Hats off to the STEAM team!”