Hello blog that I have neglected for sooo many months!!! When traveling it’s hard not to get caught up in all the people you meet, the new places to discover, the random adventures that take you off course but it doesn’t matter because you’re traveling and totally free!!! But now that I have settled for a little while I miss my blog and being able to relive those adventures. So I’m casting my mind back to volunteering in the surf town of Dulan and getting so caught up in the lifestyle there I stayed on a little longer than planned! This is also where I said goodbye to blogging for a little while! So here goes…
I Lift my rucksack with a grimace. My back is as red as it was the day I got horrendously sunburnt. The walk to the station is less than 10 minutes. I debate cancelling my trip to the surf town of Dulan to stay in Hualien just to delay carrying this bag. I know little about Dulan. I’m told it’s small; as in one road kind of small. Apparently it’s only good if your into water sports. I have no experience with water sports and I’m avoiding a beach currently. How I find myself on a train heading south is beyond me.
Surf Town of Dulan
What actually brings me to Dulan is another Workaway volunteering opportunity at WaGaLiGong Surf Hostel. The hostel looks to offer a chilled atmosphere and use of a surf board for volunteers. This is also an area that offers aboriginal music and an art scene. Unsure of how much of this surf town I’ll experience while still resembling a lobster, I remain positive throughout the train journey.
The excitement is stalled as I attempt to figure out where I’m going. I find Taitung’s bus station soon enough. From here I fail to find anyone who speaks English. I’m swiftly taken over to a different section of the bus stop once I announce my destination. Turns out there are three sections for the different local buses. Several locals are showing me various buses and their times for me to choose from. Taitung, as with the rest of Taiwan, is full of friendly locals willing to help where they can.
Welcome to WaGaLiGong
30 minutes later I leave the bus and find myself dropped on the side of the road. Looking down this single street I reach for my phone to use google maps and suddenly realize I’m directly outside the hostel. I’m greeted by a fellow volunteer from Czech Republic. There is also a Brazilian/American here, a Taiwanese/American and a stylish Parisian. Within an hour of my arrival another Taiwanese volunteer arrives. The first day is about settling in and exploring my new surroundings.
As I’ve said there is only one main street to this Surf town and yet there is a surprising amount to discover here. The area has the most charm of anywhere I’ve visited in Taiwan so far. The Sugar factory is a must see for its graffiti and quirky coffee shops and local souvenirs. I’m able to stumble into the abandoned side of the sugar factory to discover just off to the left is a recording studio! There is an endless row of hostels that lead all the way to the beach. I imagine the amount of beds must out way the amount of guests they receive. Who the hell knows about this little town?! So many people skip Dulan and find themselves in Kenting, the well-known surf spot that also caters for diving and snorkeling. They are missing out.
Beach, bonfires and pizza!
Wandering down the street with my fellow volunteers I quickly become aware of all the volunteers here via Workaway. We discover a beach bonfire is happening and that’s are evening planned. The waves are crashing as though angered by never receiving peace. There are people jumping in the waves screaming with laughter at every violent hit. Thinking of my tender skin I remain on the sand sitting a comfortable distance away from the heat of the flames. We have street dogs joining us as I discover they often do. Everyone is sharing travel stories and although tired I’m very much content.
The following day I start my training. The surf hostel has a restaurant and yoga room. It feels like you are visiting your surfing friends and kind of moved in for a while. They have amazing pizza here cooked by Tienie and the hilarious Mark who will take you on the water for surfing. The work is easy and often involves interacting with guests. The cleaning is a sweaty mission but you shower and are done for the day. Volunteers get half price on food and surfing lessons so once my skin heels I’m there! For now, pizza.
Finding my surfing feet
“So are you a goofy foot or natural?” Errrm, excuse me? I quickly learn the question is to ascertain whether I surf with my left or right leg forward. Having never surfed I didn’t know. So began the simulation on the sand. Turns out I’m a natural footed surfer. We stay on the sand for sometime creating a map of the water with stones. We learn the layout and the area which Mark calls the factory. It’s where we were to move onto next to practice going out and coming in like a factory line. Nice and slow first timer steps. Of course though there is a storm coming and Marks eyes light up. We’re going into the deep end!
Mark pushed us off a couple of times until we got the hang of that feeling when a wave catches you. Riding a wave and feeling the speed it takes you while looking down at the calm water below in comparison is really like nothing else I’ve experienced before. I didn’t even care that it was 7am anymore. We lost Mark a few times when he just couldn’t resist riding a wave. His apologetic self swimming back out to us open-mouthed newbies at the sheer skill this guy has! After a couple of hours we are starving and I need to return to work.
Forgetting to leave Dulan
After two weeks working with some amazing people in a beautiful place I wasn’t ready to leave. One of the benefits of volunteering with Wagaligong is half price on all future stays. I took up home in the yoga room for a further week and spent my days surfing, doing yoga and hiking with the street dogs. Wagaligong staying true to the spirit of surfing culture also participates in organised beach clean ups and so I was incredibly happy to get the chance to give something back to this magical place! I recommend the surf town of Dulan to every traveler, it truly is a little gem!
When I finally drew myself away I had a brief stop in Kaohsiung to see friends and babysit a bearded dragon followed by a reunion in Taipei with a previous workawayer. Then it was off to the Philippines 🙂