BY NELSON NG

不知何時,我突然有了去臺灣東岸騎行的想法,然後強迫了女友一起陪我去。但這不只是簡單輕松的騎行,而是從花蓮到臺東、有相近200KM的路程。

我們完全沒有為騎行做任何準備。至少我沒有。當你每天都在做編輯的工作,就是經常坐在電腦前吃蛋糕喝咖啡。也意味著身體完全不健康,體力也非常差。但我並沒有為此事操心。我想:會有什麽事情能發生?

我們用了簡單的數學來算每天需要騎多遠的距離。處於四天,大概是一天50KM;對我這種不健康的人類已經算很多了。當我們在臺灣和一些當地人提到我們的騎行計劃時,他們都會笑我們的速度有多慢。記得在第一天的騎行裏,我們遇見了一個年紀比較大的阿姨,一天就騎了90KM。雖然覺得有點羞恥,但我們還是決定按照原計劃,不把自己逼得太過分;能活著完成路線就已經謝天謝地了。

就這樣,我們從花蓮出發,一路順著內陸的高速公路往南、往臺東的方向騎行。選擇這條路線的其中一個原因也是因為一直想看看臺灣的鄉下。果然,鄉下和城市的風景非常不一樣。我們經過了很多小鎮和農園,讓我想起了東南亞的風景。但另一件在騎行中讓我註意到的是見到很多原住民以及他們的部落。大部分的原住民好像都是信基督教,一路上也看到很多教堂。我從來沒有看過臺灣的這一面,也讓我改變了對臺灣的看法。之前,每次想到臺灣只會想到臺北,但經過這次的騎行後,我發現其實不止這樣。

在騎行的每一天,我們都面對不同的挑戰。這次的‘旅行’完全不是‘度假’。第一天從花蓮到光復,天氣非常好,藍天白雲,太陽強烈地照在我們身上。但過了幾個小時後,我們開始發現皮膚曬紅了、也快要被烤熟了。12月來臺灣以為是冬天應該會很冷,但我們大錯特錯。天氣熱到我們只能一直在有遮擋的地方停下來休息喝水。

第二天,老天決定下一整天的雨。溫度降了很多,我們甚至穿上了一些冬天的衣服。整個路程完全被霧遮蓋,什麽也看不到,為了安全我們也只能以更慢的速度繼續騎行。在路上的一整天,我們的衣服和頭發都是濕的,單車和背包都是潑滿了泥土。雖然一路上都很難受,但我一直跟自己說,只要到了民宿就沒事了。跟第一天的天氣對比,差別真的很大。當我們抵達了終點玉裏,也已經因為天氣而累壞了。

而在我們以為已經征服了全天候,第三天的挑戰更艱難:山路。因為我們需要從內陸的高速公路騎到海邊的高速公路,必須穿越山脈,別無他法。加上炎熱的太陽,我們差點就死掉了。大部分的山路都非常斜,我們也只能下車直接推了。(我記得在路上遇見了兩個英國女生也在推單車,但她們好像因為很投入在跟彼此聊天,沒有因為太陽或山路覺得煩惱。)但我們一旦到達了穿越山脈的隧道,上坡路就終於結束了,而我們也開始下坡的騎行。從隧道的黑暗飛奔出來後,直接踏進光明的海岸風景,感覺就像重生一樣。那天接下來的路程都比較輕松,旁晚抵達了成功休息。

最後一天,我們一路都是順著海邊騎行。天氣也沒有太熱,也沒有下雨,也沒有斜坡。但是那天的挑戰是天黑之前抵達臺東,而距離比前幾天都要遠,要差不多60-70KM。這意味著減少停止休息拍照的次數,以及保持一定的騎行速度。那天大部分的時間,我和女友都沒說話,兩人默默地堅持騎行,一路上經過很多部落和農園。當你快速地路過這麽多不同的生命和故事,你不得不反思自己的人生,以及思考它與宇宙的關系。當時,我只是一名路過別人農園的騎行者;一個在他人腳本裏的路人。


但盡管沒人認識我們,也不知道我們去哪,似乎經過的的每一個人,不管是店主、屋子裏的小朋友、或其他的騎手,都會向我們喊:“加油!”。每一天,當我們經過任何部落或小鎮,當地人都會給我們打氣,雖然他們從未問我們到底在幹嘛。我心裏一直想:如果他們知道我們以這麽慢的速度騎行,他們會不會就不給我們打氣了?我們又不是在比賽!在那四天裏,我聽到的 “加油!”比我一輩子聽到的還要多。對於每一個為我們打氣的人,我們都會揮手說聲謝謝。後來,我們也開始向路過的其他騎手和跑者喊 “加油!”。雖然我們不知道他們到底在幹嘛,或者究竟在往哪個方向、想完成什麽,但我們能看出他們在努力奮鬥,而這就已經足夠讓我們為他們打氣。

到了第四天,每一次有人向我們喊 “加油!”,我都會覺得很感動。我開始發現,其實每個人,不管在哪裏,都在自己的路線上奮鬥,按照自己的方法努力地變強。不管每個人做的事情是什麽,大家的旋律都一樣:每天早上,我們起床,然後我們再一次嘗試。在路上的每一個人都在往某一個方向前進,想達到某一個終點,希望通過行動改善自己的生活。每個人都在努力,就像我們在騎行一樣,只是以不同的方式罷了。我當時好想對路上的每一個人說 “加油!”,但也擔心他們會認為我神經病。我很感動,也可能是因為聽到一直很需要聽到的鼓勵。之前我認為我們沒有在比賽,但其實我錯了;我們每天都忙著在人生的比賽中挑戰自己的極限,有時候都忘了給自己打氣。

我們最後能順利地完成騎行的路程,也是因為路上為我們打氣的當地人;雖然抵達了臺東後,腳都已經不是我們的了。不管怎麽樣,我們都不能讓大家失望。

為了啟動新的一年,覺得分享這次的旅行經歷還挺恰當的。記住,不管你在做什麽,不管挑戰有多大或多麽渺小,不管你失敗多少次,只要你還沒放棄還在堅持你就很棒。

加油!

 

Somehow I came up with the idea to cycle 200km along the east coast of Taiwan, and forced my girlfriend to come along with me.

We were not really ready for the trip. At least I wasn’t. When you’re doing editorial work most of the time, you’re usually seated at your desk eating cakes and coffee. Which also means you get really unfit very quickly. But somehow I didn’t let it bother me. What could go wrong?

We used simple math to chart out how much we could cycle each day. Dividing by 4 days, it was roughly 50km a day, which sounded quite a lot to non-athletic people (like me). When we were in Taiwan and we told some people about our cycling plan, they laughed at our slow pace. We met an older lady on our first day, who cycled 90 km in a single day. Still, we stuck to our plan, not wanting to overdo ourselves. We only aimed to complete the route in one piece.

And so we set off from Hualien, heading south towards Taitung along the inland highway. One reason I chose to do the route was because I had always wanted to see the countryside in Taiwan, having seen the cities such as Taipei, Taichung and Tainan. And true enough, the scenery was quite different. We passed by many towns and many plantations, which reminded me very much of Southeast Asia. But the other thing that struck me was seeing many of the local indigenous people and cycling past their villages. Most of them were Christians, and we passed by many churches along the way, which was surprising for me. I had never seen this side of Taiwan, and it changed my perspective of the island. In the past, I would only think of Taipei when someone mentioned Taiwan, but after this trip, I realised there was so much more.

Every single day we would face a different challenge. It wasn’t an easy ‘holiday’ at all. On our first day cycling from Hualien to Guangfu, we had very nice weather with the sun shining brightly down on us. But after a few hours, we were getting burned and our skin was turning red. It was December and we had come to Taiwan thinking it would be cold in winter, but we were so wrong. The weather was so hot we had to take many water breaks in the shade to keep going.

On the second day, it rained the entire day. The temperature dropped so much, we actually put on some of our winter clothes. The entire route was foggy and wet, and we maintained a moderately slow speed for safety. Throughout the day, our clothes and hair were wet, with mud all over our bikes and bags. As uncomfortable as it was, I had to keep telling myself to keep going, and that things will be okay once we reach our hostel. It was such a big contrast to the first day, and by the time we reached our destination in Yuli, we were super exhausted by the weather.

And just when we thought we had braved through the elements, the third day presented an even greater challenger: going up a mountain. Since we were going from the inland highway to the seaside highway, we had to cross a range of mountains to get to the other side, and there was no way but up. This, plus the scorching heat, nearly killed us. We pushed our bikes most of the way, as it got too steep to cycle. (I remember seeing two young British girls also pushing their bikes up the mountain pass us, but they were so engrossed in chatting with each other they didn’t mind the heat or the climb.) But once we hit the tunnel (that went through the mountain), the climb was over and we began going downhill. Coming out from the darkness, we sped out of the tunnel into a glorious seaside view, and we felt reborn again. The rest of the day was a breeze and we made our stop at Chengong for the night.

On our final day, we cycled along the seaside the entire way. The weather wasn’t too hot, and it wasn’t raining, and there were no more steep roads. But the challenge for the day was to get to Taitung by nightfall, and the distance was longer than any of the previous days, which was about 60-70km. This meant stopping less to take breaks or photos, and being disciplined about the pace. For most of the day, we didn’t talk, we just kept pushing on silently, cycling pass many villages and farms. When you whizz by so many different lives and stories, you can’t help but reflect on your own life, and think of its place in the world. Right now, I’m just a random cyclist passing by a farmer’s tea plantationa passerby in someone else’s narrative.

But even though no one knew who we were, or where we were going, almost every single person we passed by, whether it was a shop owner, a little kid staring at us from his home, or even other cyclists, would shout to us: “Keep Going!” Every day, whenever we passed by any town or village, the local people would cheer us on, without questioning what we were doing. I kept thinking, would they stop cheering us if they knew how slow of a pace we were going? It’s not like we were in a race! In those 4 days, I probably heard more instances of “Keep Going!” than I ever had in my entire life. To every single person who cheered us on, I would always wave back, and say thank you. After a while, we started shouting “Keep Going!” to other cyclists and runners that we passed by along the way too. It didn’t matter whether we knew what they were trying to accomplish or where they were going. What mattered was that someone right there and then was trying hard and giving their very best, and they deserved to be recognised for their efforts.

By the fourth day, I felt a little emotional every time someone cheered us on. It was this sudden realisation that everyone, no matter where, was always in their own little race, struggling to be better and stronger, in their own little way. It didn’t matter what you were doing; every morning, we get up, and we try again. Every single person on the road was doing something to get somewhere, in hopes that their lives can be changed through their actions. Everyone was working hard, like how we were cycling, just in a different way. I almost wanted to say “Keep Going!” to every single person on the road, but didn’t for fear they might think I was crazy. I felt emotional, perhaps because it was something I needed to hear for a very long time. I was wrong to think that we were not in a racewe are always busy pushing our limits everyday in the race of life, and sometimes we forget to cheer ourselves on.

I think we made it in the end because of the encouragement from the local people, even though our legs were numb by the time we got to Taitung. There was no way we could let all those people down.

And so I thought it would be nice to kick off the (lunar) new year with this travel story. Just remember, no matter what you’re doing, no matter how big or small the challenge, no matter how many times you fail, you are awesome because you haven’t given up trying.

Keep Going!