After the rigors of the Vipassana course, I continued on my journey with a truly relieved
heart and stopped, first of all, at a 7-Eleven and treated myself to an ice cream.
I stayed that night in the middle of Taichung in the city park. In reality, I wanted to afford a
comfortable bed in a small hotel as a reward for suffering my way through the Vipassana
course, but the hotel prices were just too high, so in the end I camped anyway.
The genial thing about Taiwan is that you can simply camp anywhere safely. That made things so much easier because it gave me such a feeling of freedom.
I had placed my tent, however, somewhat in the wrong place, because already at 6 a.m. a group of retirees came for morning exercises and, not far from my tent, the exercise group leader began to call cadence to his troops. Ceaselessly, the people slapped around on their own bodies – really an interesting way to get the blood circulating.
I was also astounded when I saw people dancing tango downtown amid the skyscrapers.
I made my way towards the mountains, but I had to make it through another rainy day and camped on a school ground in a dry place. The students were very enthusiastic about me and asked me one question after another.
“Please don’t wake me up tomorrow morning so early; I like to sleep late.” I told them, and when I got up in the morning, a bag was lying next to my tent with a note:
“For you! Your class 203”. It was a Vesper package with chocolate, rain capes, tissues and peanuts. I was overwhelmingly happy about it and had an even wider grin on my face that morning than usual.
Taiwanese make people simply happy, that’s for certain.
From then on, the road wound up into the mountains. Slowly but surely, I crossed through several vegetation zones. I came through a mountain village, where mostly Aborigines lived. Here too I camped again on the school grounds and pitched my tent this time in the stadium.
Unfortunately, I had once again chosen a strategically unfavorable place, because again at 6 a.m. lilting Chinese music sounded from a loudspeaker and the first women lined up for morning exercises. This time however, I was totally in the way, because they seemed to use exactly that spot where I was sleeping every day for their exercises.
It was ultra-embarrassing to me, but I didn’t have the feeling for one second that it bothered anyone that I had camped there. So for one whole hour, a bunch of women hopped around me and clapped themselves into the day.
Immediately afterwards, the first children arrived and school music blared from the speakers. All in English. The alphabet, numbers, days of the week, the weather, and so on.
Their first words in English were packed nicely into umpteen different songs and, while the children cleaned the stadium, they sang along.
One of the boys was very curious and wanted to know exactly what I had in my tent and in my pockets. He was a cute boy who even managed to pronounce my name right, which seems to be impossible in most countries.
I had already arrived at 2000 meters and filled my water bottle at a police station. The police were particularly good to me and gave me a lot of oranges and even organized a place for me to stay about 10 km further up the road. It was at another police station where there was allegedly a bed.
The police at the next station were already in the street waiting for me. I was invited to dinner and then taken to a room. It was almost like a hotel room because it had a comfortable bed and a shower.
Just great! When we started talking, one of the policemen was completely impressed and could not believe that I had really cycled all the way from Germany to here.
There were more than 1200 meters of altitude awaiting me before I would reach the summit, the highest pass on the island. Again, several racing cyclists overtook me; they clapped and gave me a thumbs-up while pointing at my panniers. Surely they had cycled that morning all the way from the bottom and already had 2000 meters on their legs.
However, one of them had severe condition problems and was not able to go any faster than I.
At the pass I was photographed by tons of people and everyone wanted to know where I came from. Since Germany always comes across well, I was doubly celebrated – as a heroine on a bike and as a woman from a great country.
Germany is really becoming very popular and people have forgiven us of our past long ago. We ourselves and no one else are the only ones who still have a problem with our history. I keep getting told that we can be proud of our country. Germany is a great country; it has great functioning technology and very nice people.
Well, let’s not discuss that in detail. For the most part I don’t comment further about such statements. Of course, I am happy to come from a popular country and it helps me again and again because people immediately have confidence in me. They always tell us that we are reliable, accurate and honest.
The scenery was amazing and it was really worth it to climb the mountain. But where the road goes up, at some point, it goes down again and so I headed downhill at a good pace – along beautiful trails and endless serpentines surrounded by dense vegetation.
In the evening I camped on the roof of a visitor center and enjoyed the beautiful morning amidst flowering fruit trees. All the slopes were white, a fascinating sight.
But now it was time to bid farewell to the island, so I headed for Keelung in the hopes of getting a boat to Japan or Korea there at the harbor.
The fire fighters again were happy to allow me to stay with them, but I was brutally attacked that night by mosquitoes.
Unfortunately I could not leave from the harbor; there were no boats. Willy-nilly, I went on to Taipei and camped in one of the many parks. The next day, I stayed overnight at Michael’s place, a man from Germany and owner of a bakery and restaurant there.
As always, I was pampered royally.
The parting was approaching, the flight was booked. Korea my next goal.
Before departing, I picked up my new passport at the German Institute and persuaded the officials to let me keep my previous pass and afterwards, sent the new permanent pass to Germany to a Russian Visa agency, hoping for a smooth process and a 90-day visa.
I organized a bicycle box for the airplane and gave an English Interview for a Taiwanese online cycling magazine. Besides that, I had another appointment at the German radio station in Taiwan and also enjoyed schnitzel with chips for the last time.
I spent the last evening on the island at the airport. After spending the night on the floor in the airport foyer, I packed my bicycle into the box and was really sad, but also very grateful, for the great seven weeks that I had spent on the island.
Taiwan had been sensational. The nicest nation since I’ve been underway. Thanks to everyone who made my stay so very positive.
But now, off to South Korea.