Standing in my room, naked, waiting for an excessive amount of mosquito spray to dry. My phone goes off. “Fancy a trip to Yehliu Geopark?” This is my temporary housemate. He’s a few feet away in the kitchen. We start a dialogue through my door until I’ve dried off. Discussing the details; what time? shall we take food? how will we get there? These are details which are usually straight forward. But we are both impulsive travelers and combined our personalities are a little mischievous. It’s decided. Breakfast, pick up snacks, convince a bike rental place to give two foreigners a bike. Straight forward with a twist.
To rent a motorbike in Taiwan you need a Taiwanese drivers license. Mine is British, Chook’s is Australian. He has paperwork for driving in Japan though and we’re hoping this will give us some positive leverage. With neither of us speaking Chinese my initial thought is that this is never going to work. But then I hadn’t tried to challenge someones legal stance with Chook before! Chook knows people. He reads them perfectly. It helps that he genuinely loves people, for all their worth. Still, we are asking people to break the law partly in sign language, partly holding money out, and partly showing a smile and some leg. It would be shameful if it wasn’t so much fun!
Of course we could go to Yehliu Geopark via two buses. But buses are no fun, particularly when there is a coast line route. We fail initially but persist. After the third shop and third failure I’m starting to resign myself to the bus. “There is always a solution” echos in front of me. This time we go in each with money in our hands to lay out the deal. I flip my hair to one side and start playing with the owners dog. Chook approaches with his persistent charm. Same response. Hidden from the owner behind the counter I start to tap my partner in crimes leg. Quickly shaken off, he continues. I stand at his side to smile wide eyed and play my role. This is the longest we’ve stayed in one rental shop.
Without breaking a sweat, Chook is starting to win him over. Trying to act sensible in front of someone who you’re trying to convince to break the law is very difficult when you’re boiling over with excitement. The owner asks if we have a Taiwanese friend who could rent it in his name for us. It’s all over. We’ve won. “Aren’t we friends?” We have the biggest smiles on our faces. Two minutes later Bony and Clyde have the keys. “Never give up, there is always a solution”, this is one of Chook’s rules he’s kindly sharing with me.
The route to Yehliu Geopark
We leave the city behind us. By now it’s the afternoon and we’ve promised to return the bike by 6pm. Not wanting to lose any more time and with the roads being fairly quiet we hit an intense speed. Not exactly the most inconspicuous foreigners illegally on the road. We’ve already made a pact that if the police pull us over it’s a high speed chase. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware what we are doing is illegal and I’m not recommending it. But when someone looks at you and says yolo…..
Overly excited we are both a mixture of screams of accomplishment and attempted singing of one or two lines from every song either of us can recall. At the speed we’re traveling we hit the coast within 12 minutes. Our first sensible act of the day is to pull over and apply suntan lotion. Coming from mainland China I didn’t have high expectations of Taiwan’s coast line. I am completely taken aback by how stunning it is here. I didn’t consider Taiwan to have a surfing community and I especially didn’t expect it to be in such easy reach of Keelung city. Back on the bike we continue for maybe another 7 minutes when the town of Wanli, home of Yehliu Geopark, welcomes us. Quite literally. The locals here are incredibly warm.
Always finding comfort in the beauty of nature, I had never considered rocks to be beautiful. But then this is my first time to the natural landscape of Yehliu. At first I thought it was sand I was approaching when actually it is a unique weathered bay formed by the powerful ocean stretching around it. These rocks contain weathered rings that once again prove natures authority at forming patterns more striking than that of any artist. With honey combed mushroom rocks, decorated cliffs and a smoothly formed cave, we are distracted before we even reach Yehliu Geopark.
By the time we’ve finished using the rocks as our playground a festival makes an appearance on the road below. Not something we wan’t to miss we scramble down and move through the assembling crowd. The procession is full of life, music and love, Everyone smiles at us and welcomes us to Yehliu. They are celebrating their sea goddess Mazu. Photographing and half joining in we are rewarded with badges. I’m near ecstatic and Chook is off chiming the bells in perfect rhythm. Both of us can’t get over how perfect this spontaneous trip is shaping up to be.
Side tracked, seeing the Yehliu Geopark might be a crazy rushed experience at this time of the day so we decide to continue on our spontaneous antics. We drive past the geopark and keep on the road, camera and eyes out looking for the next interesting location. Swaying in the air over a wall are the shipping lights I’ve become quite fond of. We pull over to investigate. Here is where one of us takes on the role of sensible adult. I’m determined to get onto a ship to take photographs and Chook’s prior experience is a road block to my plans. Fortunately this debate rouses the fisherman from inside the boats I thought to be vacant.
We end up in conversation with the fisherman, mainly from the Philippines and I settle for photographing the area around the boat. I become captivated by a crabs desperate bid for freedom at a seafood restaurant nearby. Places to sample local dishes line the surrounding area, but we are losing time if we decide to keep our promise of a 6pm return. Referring to google map we try to find an alternative route home.
Thinking we’ve found a route in the mountains, I’m hanging onto the back of the bike, phone in hand and we steeply ascend into the mountains. Turning the corner we descend just as quickly and come out onto the familiar road! Apparently the mountain is just a loop to take in the scenery. We settle for the main road and it quickly becomes apparent that we are in the middle of rush hour traffic. Police are on the road everywhere. We are at the front of a queue of traffic lights manned by a police man and slowly trying to reverse. Putting my phone away I prepare for the possible chase. We’re ignored. With the hope that we are not worth the paperwork we speed on as soon as we see green.
Returning to Keelung with just as much excitement as when we began, we reach the rental shop at 5:58pm. The relieved owner clearly wants us gone quickly so we say goodbye, high five, and buy some more beer to fill our empty fridge. We may have missed our intended destination of Yehliu geopark attraction but the day has proven that having a spontaneous soul leads to incredible adventures.