Rockin Rollin Ridin out along the Pacific

Trip Start Sep 30, 2005
Trip End Jun 04, 2006

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Flag of Taiwan  ,
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Taiwan reminds me of an island in a children's TV story. There's a railway line down the west coast and the South China sea, and another on the west east along the Pacific Ocean, so buying a ticket from Taipei is easy. I was heading east, and the ride down the coast to the port town of Hualien seemed to take forever, stopping every 10 or 20 minutes. Even the people seemed to get on and off in slow motion. The scenery though was spectacular, squeezing down the narrow gap left between mountains and ocean as we were. Tremendous swathes of green reached up above us and a vast expanse of blue stretched out beyond empty beaches on the other side. Many of the beaches were so bleak

After the huge, grandiose, awesome scenery I'd just passed through, the station at Hualien had me thinking I was back in toy town. It wasn't antiquated or tatty, just incredibly low key. I managed to get the bus out of there looking for the hostel I'd phoned the previous day. The bus driver had an electric guitar on the shelf above his head - I liked this place already. The low key attitude got a bit much though when I was dropped outside a closed summer theme park and pointed across the road. Of the hostel, there was no sign. A bit of wandering found me exactly what I needed - the police! White faces wandering around in this part of Taiwan are not exactly common place in this part of the World and they were happy not only to give me directions to the hostel but to give me a ride too. They also kindly offered me one of the local chewing nuts that look like acorns - and taste like acorns! Vilely bitter, but when you're in the back of a police car you can't open doors or windows so I had to smile and keep the mush in my mouth until I could slip it into a tissue.

I don't know what Roger, the owner of the hostel made of the sight of a guest arriving in a police car, but once I'd explained, he laughed and took the hint that the map on the back of the hostel's business card might want changing. Actually, this is less of a hostel and more of a family home with room for lodgers on tatami mats or thin mattresses on the floor. It is incredibly friendly, almost in the middle of nowhere and a good base to explore the mountains and the vast Pacific beaches. If you want to party or to come and go late at night, it is not the place to go! It's part of the great experience of hostelling that there are so many different places to stay, and this is just another one.

Within a couple of hours of arriving, I was out on a borrowed bike and having dodged a few semi-wild dogs in the nearest village, I got down on the beach looking out across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean. The typhoon that had passed through the previous week had caused havoc and the swell of the Ocean still thumped in sending spectacular plumes of spray flying down the wind. In places the beach was covered in debris and in Hualien port a container ship snapped in half. It was brutally rough, but beautiful, and even the F16's continually taking off and thundering overhead seemed to fit with the rugged beauty of it all. The proximity of a military base does mean you have to be a bit careful where you point the camera though!
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