So, I have definitely caught the bug. I have to be honest and say that I always thought that there was something a little off about people who ran long distances when something wasn’t chasing them. And, maybe something is off. But, I have now officially joined their ranks. This weekend, Chris and I went down to the east coast of the island to a city called Hualien.
We knew that when we arrived in Hualien that someone from the hotel would be at the train station to meet us. We didn’t know that she would bring with her an entourage including a friend, her friend’s daughter and another friend who spoke English. After all of the introductions, they escorted us to dinner where, at the table, the food kept coming and coming as they tried to show the Americans the best of Taiwan. It was this night that I learned a very important phrase for someone living in an incredibly friendly environment. “Wo bow luh!” “I am full!” When we tried to pay for the dinner, our hosts insisted that it was on them.
Bellies full, we went to bed for a very short night. Up with us at 4:30 in the morning was once again our host ready to take us to our race site shuttle and get breakfast on the way. Once again with full bellies, we boarded the bus with our instructions to call the hotel at the end of the race and give them the code word: “hello.” This was the password for them to know to come and pick us up.
When we arrived at the race site, we understood why this race is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It was in Taroko Gorge, a national park here in Taiwan. This time when I ran, I carried a cell phone with me as to avoid the fiasco of being lost and not able to find Chris at the end (see blog about the Human Race). The phone also served a double duty as I attempted to photograph the scenery along the race route, rather unsuccessfully, I must admit. But, you can maybe get the idea. Lush mountains dripping with waterfalls, rocky riverbeds and cave-like tunnels made for a spectacular backdrop for the race. After running, we snapped a few more pictures and headed back to the train station to meet our maître d’hôtel.
That evening, our hosts took us to a show of traditional Taiwanese dancing. We were pleasantly surprised to find the audience full of Taiwanese and not Americans. I’m sure that the show would have been much more informative if our Mandarin were better but we enjoyed the visual part, at least. Sleepily, we headed back to the hotel for a well-deserved night’s sleep.
The next morning, the hotel offered us bikes to ride to a beach not too far away. The path followed the coast and was spectacularly beautiful. When we arrived at our destination, we were reminded that beaches here are very different than those in the United States in that they are the opposite of touristy. We stopped around lunchtime and were hungry from our journey so we wanted to find a place to eat. In the States, the only problem would be which restaurant you would choose from in between tacky airbrush T-shirt shops. Here, however, it was a different story. We had to go into two different stores attempting to get directions to the one restaurant in town. When we finally did find it, however, the view was stunning and the food overpriced. We felt right at home.
Reluctantly, we got back on our bikes to head back to the hotel and go back to Taipei. On the return journey, I snapped a few more pictures as I thought of the Portuguese who first landed on Taiwan and gave it the nickname “Ilha Formosa” or “Beautiful Island”.