Day 3 – Hualien and scooters

This morning I was tired. I went down down to breaky and faced yet another selection of dishes but lacked any motivation to sit for a while.

Returning to my room, I collected my things and headed off to see if I could get a scooter. Morning does seem to be the quietest time on the roads as few places are open before about 10 or 11am. I approached the first place that had scooters only to find out my international permit was only valid for cars. Well, that was a waste of money! I’ll know next time to ask for one that includes scooters. I was somewhat devastated, so I went to the next place – no they would only accept a Taiwanese license. Feeling extremely disappointed by this stage – mainly because I really didn’t want to walk far today – I tried a third place. ‘Taiwanese license?’ But then came the question, ‘do you have a passport?’. They rang their boss and then took me to where I could go to hire the scooter – and a lovely thing she is!!!

Yeah! I can finally test my driving – on the right!!! My first venture has been to ride around Hualien looking for the beach – all the while trying to follow a straight line and staying on the right. I did miss one set of traffic lights – oops!

The ocean, the beaches and the parklands along the shoreline are fabulous and the kites were amazing.

I didn’t really know where I was going but I have followed the shoreline until I came to a familiar road – the one to Taroko Gorge. But I am not heading back but am going to visit one of the stops before the gorge. But as happens I turned off the main road and in the process spotted a sign that said ‘coffee and cake’! Guess where I went???

It’s a beautiful little cafe, very peaceful and calming and yes how could I resist a long black coffee and mixed berry sorbet. Almost thought I was back touring France!! Feeling much better now!

After that I rode and rode. The whole afternoon was about exploring and discovering. One minute I’m riding along the beach, through a cemetery, surrounded by jungles-like forests, passing army areas fenced at the top with barbed wire, along major double lane high ways, country lanes, towns and villages.

Sometimes I felt concerned about where I was and how far I was traveling. Thankfully I had puchased a sim card with unlimited data when I first arrived. Even when I was officially ‘no-where’ on Google I could still guage where I was in relation to Hualien.

I rode up and around Xicheng but steered away from heading any closer to Taroko.

Along the way I stopped at a beach where there were many people. I thought that it might be a good spot to go to the toilet but alas no seated toilets so Janet hung on. I was sure I would find something more suitable down the track!

It was here that I spotted what I thought was a rose stone on the beach. I thought about going down to pick it up but the steps were so steep that I wasn’t sure that I could get down safely. Yes I hear the irony – safety about steps versus safety and scooters. But those who know my story will know that walking downhill is way scarier for me than most things. So I thought twice and decided that it probably wasn’t worth the risk. Mind you, it crossed my mind that this might have been a challenge from life to step out of my comfort zone but I chose to let this one go. It’s funny how something so little can be captured in your imagination.

Along the way I stopped off at what looked like a food place that might have a toilet. It was a mochi shop. I can only decribe these things as balls of dough with stuffing of all varieties. The taste is okay but I struggled with the texture I was chewing. It felt like soft rubber in my mouth.

After that I traveled back in the direction of Hualien and then took a detour towards the mountains. It was here that I discovered Sanzhan. The water was unbelievably clear. If I hadn’t seen it with own eyes I don’t know that I would have believed it to be possible. Even the deeper parts of the stream were clear. Of course there were no swimming signs everywhere but people seemed to be enjoying themselves anyway and others were also swimming.

I took time out here to just sit and contemplate the beauty all around.

In the village itself there were signs of the rose stone being used to decorate the place. I just love the rose rhodonite.

After leaving here I kept meandering along the back roads, enjoying the scenery, the cropping and the housing. Some places were old and decrepit looking while others had been built more recently and at times were rather ornate. What amazed me was that the same kind of cars could be found in both new and old places. This made me wonder if there was some kind of value system at play where the kind of car you drove was more important than the kind of house you lived in.

Every so often I would stop to check where I was. At one point I spotted this massive temple-like building and so I rode up to see what it was.

It seemed to be a public place with all the signs posted…

…but as luck would have it I was wrong. As I rode in the dogs barked and a man came out and told them off. Next thing on had jumped onto my scooter as if it wanted a ride. As the man couldn’t understand me he called out to some and a lady and some kids popped their heads out of one of the upper floor balconies. ‘Where you go’ she asked. I tried to tell her that I was exploring and came across this place. Turns out it was their home. Oops! I apologised and left. I didn’t dare ask to take a photo – the view from their place was magnificent!

After that, I thought I would ride back to Hualien, return the scooter and go back do my hotel and maybe get something to eat. Other than water I hadn’t eaten since the coffee and sorbet at around 10.30am.

But as things would have it I saw another sign that took me towards another part of Hualien County and I ended up on the Maplewood Trail. Again another fabulous discovery of great scenery and ultimately a view that overlooked the entire area l had traversed that day.

While I was taking in the view, these two Taiwanese guys came over and asked me where I was from. They were teachers and local to Hualien. We enjoyed a great conversation and they gave me some good advice about going further or heading back the way I came. Given that it would be dark soon, l decided to return the way I had come and return back to the hotel. Mind you, finding my way back was a challenge but eventually I worked it out. I saw the man who helped me hire the scooter again and l thanked him for a wonderful day and then returned the scooter and had my passport returned. Maybe one of the things I need to do when I get home is to get my scooter licence.

One of the best things that also happened while I rode was that I was able to share this adventure with a couple of friends who happened to be online at the time. I love traveling on my own but I miss having someone to share in those special moments. It was great to share today with friends. Technology is such a great way to connect.

Next – Food! By now it is after 6pm and I am starving. As I walked, I came across some interesting sights and yes – Cat Planet!

E

Eventually I found a restaurant called Jiu Jie Beef Noodle Restaurant. Gene had told me she liked beef noodle soup so here I tried that – although it was braised beef – and it was absolutely delicious.

Again l finished the evening with ice-cream and this time – Harry Potter and the Goblet of fire!

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