We were due to ride down from Taipei to Shitoushan (Lion's Head Mountain) on the Hsinchu (Xinzhu) - Miaoli border, then spend the night in a small guest house (minsu) close to there, in the Nanzhuang area. It was not to work out like that.
Although we made a good start, the ride down took a little longer than anticipated and we passed the entrance to Shitoushan in the early afternoon. We decided to go straight on to the guest house, dump our luggage then come back to Shitoushan. We went through Nanzhuang town then climbed up into the hills behind there, seemingly getting further and further away from civilization. After a missed turning, we eventually found the place. It was not immediately easy to sort out rooms, keys and paying for these things. The landlady, once we found her, was friendly and kept offering us hot rice wine with ginger, and barbecued wild pig. When we saw the rooms, though, Mum immediately had her doubts. They were in little stone huts and the wind came through the windows and doors. One key was not available because the previous customers had walked off with it: the other did not work. The toilet and shower facilities were very basic and in a separate block. Yet there was a pile of duvets in each room and although the price was excessive for what we were getting, it was where we were booked in, we were tired, and there was no certainty of other available rooms in the area. I paid up and we headed back towards Shitoushan.
Our spirits rose once we were there; it is a beautiful area with about six temples dotted around the hill. As the sun set, the roofs and the red lanterns looked very pretty. On the way back through Nanzhuang, we had a reasonable dinner; the restaurant staff did not normally cook vegetarian food but cooked it specially for Mum and I.
Going back to the guesthouse I took a wrong turning and we went up the wrong hill for a while before I realised my mistake. It was 9 o'clock when we finally made it. It was cold up there. Mum discovered that the duvets were damp and smelt bad. We put on all our clothes: I was wearing seven layers of clothing on top and five on my legs. Mum was the same. Still we were cold, and getting more so. At 9.30, we looked at each other. We both had exactly the same thought- to get back on the bike and head straight for civilization, hot baths and beds in Taichung. Mum said she had thought of that before but thought I would be too tired after riding for so long already. Although I had felt tired earlier I now felt alert and awake, enthusiastic at the prospect of getting away from the cold stone huts.
We packed the bike one last time and headed down the hill. There was virtually no traffic all the way back to Taichung. We got back at 12.30. We had been on the bike for a total of 9 hours that day.
The next day the sun was shining and it was warm. We visited the folk park behind B & Q and Mum bought some nice traditional Chinese things as gifts. In the evening, we went to a vegetarian restaurant with friends. The next day, my boss and her husband took us out to a vegetarian buffet restaurant with maybe a hundred different dishes.
Despite the physical hardships, Mum had a great time in Taiwan.
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