BY NELSON NG
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。
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 plantation—a 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 race—we 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.