Cycling Around Taiwan: Episode 1

Some days ago I posted I had an accident while riding bicycle around Taiwan. Just that small part of the adventure took me a whole post so let’s see how it goes trying to summarize the whole trip.


2sZW4m5.gifDuring this winterbreak I decided to stay in Taiwan to be able to save up money for my tickets for the summer (it did not actually work, damn it). Luckily, one of my best friends and 學妹 was also staying in Taiwan so we decided to plan something together. I came up with different “budget” ideas, such as being couch potatos for two weeks, going to an island in Taiwan, or even traveling to Okinawa and backpack around there for a week, which she thought were cool, but then I decided to share with her one of my crazy ideas. I had already shared with others this plan and always received an answer such as “You are crazy”, “Sounds cool but… no”, “Good luck with that”. So here I went:

“What about cycling around Taiwan? Like, around the whole island.” Oh my God, she will think I am crazy and run away…

OMG. WHEN? YES!!!!!“, and that my friend is how I got my adventure buddy for the next crazy adventure.

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When you think about cycling around Taiwan, you think of fit persons… so, we needed training. Training that did not happen. When you think about cycling around Taiwan, you think of meeting and planning thoroughly every detail. Meetings did happen but theefwd.gif planning was lost among eating pizza, going to tattoo parlors, watching movies, and so on. But somehow a couple of days before the scheduled date we had our bikes reserved, all the gear bought, 30 granola bars each, and our route sort of traced plus tons of CouchSurfing requests sent and friends’ houses along the route. Not bad for last minute planning, right?

The night before the date of parting we went to pick our bikes (before that we almost set fire to my house while making a tomato soup, but that is another story). We did not count with the massive rain though, by the time we were back in my apartment we were soaking wet. Nata (Guatemala) was using the clothes she was going to use for the first day of cycling and our backpacks were dripping water… We had eight hours to wash and dry our things for the adventure of next day. So, there we went at 11:00pm in the look for 24H Washing and Dryer Machines.

Of course, we had Google Maps and Nata gave a look to the location where the place with the machines was… the thing is “giving a look” is not understanding exactly where and none of us took her cellphone. So it was cold, still rainning, dark and we were both tired, but we spend approximately one hour roaming around the streets of Taipei until we found the small shop with the coin washer and dryer machines. It took approximately one hour for the things to dry up (we had already washed them at my place, at least)… Did I mention we were tired? Well, we ended up sleeping on a 0.5×1.0 meter table… Yes, both of us in one single table.

At least this proved a point: we could sleep A N Y W H E R E.

(…and that is good if you are planning on backpacking)

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We were planning to leave at 6:00am and it was already 4:00am by the time we got back home. I slept an hour and woke up to have a champion’s breakfast. Eggs? No. Bacon? No. Peanut butter jelly sandwich? No. Tomato soup and spagghettti? YEEEES. Two hours later we were ready and since it was still raining we had to be witty and create our own waterproof technology gear.

Two hours later we were on our way…

Let’s remember that we were two unexperienced girls on the road, so it did not take long before our first near-death experience. Somehow, when trying to exit crowded Taipei we ended up on a highway. Yes, you read that: A HIGHWAY. Speeding loud cars passing a couple of centimeters right beside us, with no space for motorcycle or bicycles. I am not sure how long it was before we found the first exit but by that time I was already sweating ice cold and praying inside my head. Could have been just ten minutes but I felt it as a long eternity.

12592496_10153903195776948_190081193327582707_nOnce we were out of Taipei everything got better. We went on the wrong way a couple of times, climbed some pretty steep hills, had dumplings for lunch in a small restaurant close to Taoyuan (yes, where the airport is)… but then it started raining.

As we got closed to Hsinchu it started raining a lot. Poor Nata was all dirty with mud since she was riding behind me so all the dirt of my wheels was flying directly to her. It was getting colder but I would lie if I told you we were feeling cold, when you are pedalling for over half an hour nonstop it is impossible to get cold, but as soon as you stop you would freeze. Soon enough, we started seeing buildings and there we were, at our first stop.

Welcome to Hsinchu City. 

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We smelled like wet dogs. We were soaked in rain and sweat. We were tired and hungry. But we had a nice apartment waiting for us. Juan (Panama) had given Nata the keys to his apartment where a hot shower, a big bed and… two hosts were waiting for us! We entered and talked a bit about the adventure of the day with our hosts: Jovane  (Panama) and Luigi (Nicaragua). Then I ran to the bathroom and discovered the nirvana in that hot shower. I could have stayed there all night under the hot water…

Our host Juan was not home but he left a whole arsenal of new toothbrushes, mini toothpastes, a list with food we could take from the refrigerator, the wifi password, and clean towels for us. He took seriously the role of being the greatest host, even if he was an absent host.

Dinner, of course, was nothing but a huge Costco pizza which we shared with Jovane. Plus one ice cream and two churros. (Hey! Come on, we needed extra carbs! Don’t judge)

Oh, and let’s not forget that we had no Processed with VSCOappropiate clothes for the windy weather in Hsinchu except for the one we used during the day which was dirty, sweaty and wet… So we were saved by fashion expertee Jovane and had some really nice outfits to go to Costco in, including shoes which dangled around since his feet are way bigger than mine.

Tough first day, really tough…

Next day we tried to wake up early but our hosts wouldn’t let us leave (we are that good guests) so we got on the road until  9:30am after a quick visit to the washer-dryer machines and a breakfast in delicious gourmet restaurant 7-11.

Our next destiny was Taichung which was 95km away… and we were supposed to be there before 7:00pm since we stayed with a host we found on CouchSurfing but she is currently in New Zealand so the ones receiving us were going to be her parents. The road of this day was specially full with steep slopes and my knee was starting to hurt. I kept on telling myself “mind over body” but it got to a point in which every time I saw a mountain coming I would rather just stay there and wait for… anything, but ride my bike up. Of course I could not do that so I found myself cursing under my breath and riding while Nata did small stops to let me catch up (have I told you before how amazing my adventure buddy is?) 

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We did a stop in Miaoli to have lunch, it was close to Chinese New Year so ALL restaurants were closed but we saw one Vietnamese restaurant in the road and we stopped to check it out. Our surprise was when we asked for our menu and they just started laughing and they said “There is no menu, we serve what you see here”, what we saw in the glass showcase looked like cold pork knobs, chicken legs, other unrecognizable meat, transparent noodles and next to it inside a boiling cauldron a weird soup… Nope. This was not the place to eat at. We slowly went back to our bikes and escaped.

12646926_10153903219871948_4896531704592050731_o.jpgA couple of kilometers later we saw another open restaurant where they sell 便當 which can be translated to “lunchbox” which normally is: white rice, meat of your choice and vegetables. Everyone there seem really happy to see us and after answering the common questions they served us soup, an extra piece of chicken (I told you, EXTRA CARBS IS THE KEY), chocolates and candies. We were back on our way but time was flying by and we were not even half way to our destiny.

Faster, skip some red lights, faster, faster… and itProcessed with VSCO was 6:00pm and according to our guide Google maps we were 2 hours far away from our destiny when we took the decision: we had to ride a train. NOOOOOOOO… But yes, it had to happen. To our surprise what we would have made in two hours of mountain trails the train accomplished it in 15 minutes. Yes, three train stops later we were in Taichung train station in the search of the address we were given.

First of all I have to say Taichung, in my opinion, was the least bike friendly place of all. Or maybe I was already in a bad mood since it was COLD and my knee was seriously killing me. We arrived to our host’s place to find the most cheerful sweet lady I could have think of. We were going to stay on the third floor of her office which the family has exactly for that purpose: to receive guests of CouchSurfing. We had a comfy big bed, warm water, shower, washer machine, sandals, shampoo, toothpaste, everything ready for us. But before I could die in bed she asked us if we wanted to go have dinner with her and our tummies roared YEEEES!

We went to Taichung night market where she invited us to different night market snacks, we played darts, walked around, met one of her friends who is owner of one of the boutiques, and then she drove us (so weird to go around Taiwan in a car that is not a cab) to her home where we met her husband and their three dogs.

Did I metion already that my knee was KILLING me and that it was COLD? Well, there she gave me ointment and some special patches for my knee, and then she gifted Nata and me a coat and a pair of warm tights for each of us. Since she believed we were going to die otherwise. Yes, you read that: food, medicine and clothes. Plus, her husband made a really nice tea and had chopped fruits waiting for us. Kindness to its maximum exponent. Welcome to Taiwan.

We went back to our home for the night. Shower. Bed. Sleep… Next morning we had a trip to continue.


So I just found out our adventure has TOO much to put on a single entry. So I will divided in 3 or 4 parts. I hope you liked Chapter 1! 

Special thanks to all our hosts and people we met on the way! They are the highlights of all this crazy trip.

Oh and that day I discovered why my knee was hurting. I wasn’t using the changes of velocity and gear properly in my bike, specially when going uphill. So I was technically killing myself. At least we made this discovery in day 2… further on I also discovered my seat was too low for my long ch0pstick legs. For real, riding a bike around an island is no recreational activity for amateurs (meaning, me)… still… IT WAS FUN. 

 

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When You Fly, but Fall…

…against concrete and rocks and boom bam BOOOOM… blood.

champagne-celebration-gifFirst of all… HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO THE BLOG! Well, it is not today but it was in February, a couple of days before of Valentine’s when I wrote my first entry while I was in one of Inese’s class which were taught in Latvian so I did not understand anything. Since then it has been a year of writing nonsense but feeling great about it, plus thanks to this blog I’ve gotten to know better more people and all of you have gotten to know me as well. Just in time for this special date someone wrote an inbox to me, she is not my friend, I have never seen her before and I got this amazing inbox in which she told me about reading me and liking it a lot. Her words were so beautiful that made me realize how worth it is to write all these messy thoughts and share them with all of you.

So, thanks to all of you. I am really happy about this small blog and hope to continue it through the pass of months and years.

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Recently I was on a trip around Taiwantumblr_o0p9rn4CUP1v3tw04o1_500… on bicycle. It has been one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. The goal was to go around the whole island but on Saturday, pass half of our way I had an accident in the middle of nowhere. Thanks to God no bones were broken but I swear I flew from my bike and for a moment I felt like time stopped and I just thought “This is it”… but it wasn’t pheww.

Now my knee has a hole, or well it had a hole now it is just full of stitches. My right hand is not really useful. My chin has a scar… and I am traumatized after having stitches being made without local anestesia or anything to soothe the pain (yep, that badass I am… ignore the fact that I cried like a baby during the whole process and I was trembling like a chihuahua after that).

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The whole point of this is that:

I am thankful for all the wonderful people that exist in this world.

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetStarting with my adventure buddy Natalia who has been with me through all this mess and now is taking care of me even when our trip ended (because of my fault). We took two rides and three trains to come back to Taipei, the accident happened in the middle of nowhere and it felt like the end of everything, we were rejected from buses and trains since we had our bikes with us, I am pretty much an invalid so I can’t help with anything… and she does not hate me but keeps a strong positive mind.

Let’s continue with the scooter man who stopped in the middle of his way to somewhere just to help two foreigner girls. One almost dying but eating a protein bar because she did not want to faint and the other one having a nervous laughter attack. He called one of his friends to help us get to the police station after seeing that I had no way of gettin back on the bike.

His friend came with his blue truck, and let me in even when there was a high risk of me messing his car seat with blood stains, taking us to the nearest police station which was not that close at all.

Following this hero, we have the two police Processed with VSCO with t1 presetmen and the lady of the police station. They gave me first aid, and then asked us if we had eaten anything. So they shared their lunch with us (the greatest fried rice and sesame noodles I’ve had), made us peanut butter, chocolate and jelly sandwiches for our way back home. Packed lunch for us, gave us cookies, candies and everything they could find in the station that was edible. Then they packed our bikes, and took us to the nearest town.

Snapchat-4228567293218695639In Hengchun (the closest town) the police man who drove us there helped us contact SongGe, a guy who has a mini bus and takes people around all the South area. For a minimum fee he was going to take us to the station which was actually really far, but then he decided to take me to the hospital where a doctor healed me really badly (he filled my knee hole with cotton… technically, and told me stitches should be made three days after). While this happenned SongGe was taking a nap on the lobby of the hospital waiting for us. Before taking us to the train station he made a stop and bought us three types of different breads for us to take on our way home since we would get hungry. Oh and on our way he kept on singing and dancing and teaching us Taiwanese. Cool guy, right?

We arrived Kaohsiung in train, since no trains went directly from Fangliao (the station SongGe delivered us to) to Taipei. There we received the terrible news that no train left for Taipei that night and the HighSpeed trains rejected us since they wanted us to take off the wheels of our bikes, fold them (how the hell was I supposed to do that?), and put them inside some fancy bags (that we did not have). Oh, and I was still bleeding during all this time… so I was pretty much weak, stressed, crying, hopeless and planning to stay on a 7/11 convenience store until 10am to wait for a train that would take us… but I decided to bother Maru.

Person #8: I called Maru and in less than an hour she was there… scolding me for not calling her before and taking me to the hospital in Kaohsiung which is a bigger city than Fangliao. In the hospital I had X-rays taken and… No broken bones. Then they tortured me for what seemed to be an eternity but at least my wounds were closed and I had pain killers. We went to sleep to Maru’s house and next day we were on our train to Hsinchu.

5 hours later we were on Hsinchu, taking another 2 hour train to Taipei… and finally back home. Where Jose Mario went to pick us up to the station and helped us take my bike to the store we rent it from while I took a cab home. Oh, by the way… it was Valentine’s! So when they came from the store we decided to celebrate with two pizzas and a movie.

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During all this time I walked around through train stations half hopping and half cursing so I decided to leave shame aside and ask on Facebook if anyone in Taipei could lend me crutches. No long after, Aura had already commented offering hers and Irina brougth them to me the day after… in bicycle.

Adding to this I have not been alone in all these two days back home. Natalia is staying with me, Irina has spend all day with me today also, Luisa came to visit and brought me Oreos (I LOVE OREOS), Ari (my roommate) dropped by to say hi and prove with her own eyes that I was still alive, Laura (who also lent us her house while our stay in Tainan during the trip), Adela and Michelle came on the afternoon bringing cheesecake, coffee and a cat (no, we did not eat the cat)… love, love, so much love. (and food)

And last but not least… the persons who have kept their love and caring coming through phone calls and messages, even when they are far far away,  travelling around the world, or somewhere in Taiwan. A thousand million infinites THANK YOUs.

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In conclusion, I can’t help to smile for all the love and caring I’ve received during this mess. I hate the fact that I cannot do almost anything on my own but… it is not so bad to be pampered for a little while, I guess.

I am blessed for all this. Still alive. Had an amazing trip even though it finished a bit earlier than expected. With a future pirate scar on my chin. And with hell of a story to tell to my someday to be grandsons and granddaughters.

Oh and of course, with Natalia we are still thinking on finishing the whole island in bicycles… someday.

Meanwhile I will read all the books I have on my list, finish my painting, write on my blog more nonesense, have serious long meetings with Netflix, and jump around in my crutches.

 So, see you soon! And for real guys, thanks for being soooo amazing.


PS: Blog entry of the AMAZING trip is coming soon. Wait for it.

Food-stories

First of all: thank you to my Facebook friends who replied to my status. This is for you. 

Second: Yeah, I know I have been away from the blog for a bit, but these vacation weeks have been crazy. It was already my second week of vacation and I was STILL going to university to solve some small issues and by the time I was done with that I had to start planning for my bike trip around the island. Adding to that, crazy random “business” meetings with the owner of the future best pizza restaurant in Taipei… when I mean business it is like 40% eating, 30% talking nonsense 20% being mean to each other and 10% actual business talk.

So now, what I come to talk about…

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For the ones who don’t know the story behind this post… I posted a status at 12:00am on my Facebook asking my friends “If I should write a post tonight, what should it be about? First comment goes.” (big mistake) I was actually waiting for something deep. Love, forgiveness, how is my winterbreak going, the most romantic gesture I’ve had, what I believe a prince charming should be like, my plans for a future, etc… But, of course, I did not count with the fact that all my Facebook friends are food junkies. So the comments were the following:

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Exactly what you read. Pizza, tamales, mojitos, BBQ, and baleadas. 

When I ended up with that list I felt the same way a competitor in Master Chef feels when he is told he needs to do a soup of marshmellows, spinach, cranberry and sour cream. But as any someday to be artist and bad writer, I should try to be able to be write about anything. So… here it goes.

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We Need More Art

I have so much I want to talk about. So much going on this big head of mine that I don’t even know what this post is going to be about. Or well, first I’ll tell you a story and then I’ll move to the post, since I just figured out what I want to talk about, but I also want to share with you something.


It all started when I was running late for Salsa (I was planning on skipping for second time in a row but then that tiny voice in my head made me feel guilty and lazy so… I left my bed). I was running in the streets, some raindrops hitting on my face (and annoying me since I was wearing my normal glasses nad not contacts) and with music booming in my ears when Bloom – The Paper Kites started playing. All of a sudden my mind just traveled back to the past. It was February 2011, I was (almost) 15 and I was in the rooftop of my old apartment building.

In the morning when I wake
And the sun is coming through,

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The Story Behind the Brushes

DSC02803Yesterday, after sitting in front of my evil Physics book for 30 minutes and just absorbing half of the content I intended I decided that my brain was too tired and I… no, didn’t go to sleep. I took out some of my favorite paints, a couple of brushes and the mini canva I bought in Latvia and started working at midnight (perfect timing, right). There had been an idea rounding my mind some weeks ago and I wasn’t planning to go to sleep without creating it and putting the canva in some random spot of my room.

Most of the people who know me relate the idea of Ericka with painting; some of the persons I know don’t even remember or can’t conceive the idea of an Ericka who doesn’t draw or paint. But actually there was! I would love to say that the starting point of this colorful mess was an epic moment or a holy revelation from God with angel’s singing and a blinding ray of light hitting me on the face, but NO. I started drawing to impress a boy. Yeah, that simple. No, he wasn’t the love of my life and no we are not together and… no, I don’t even like him now, but he was the reason (oh Lord, that sounded like such a cliché).

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