Taipei to Ocean Home (海或) in Hualien
The five of us escaped the city on Saturday as the sun was setting and a storm was settling in. Van Life’s Ford Pronto was packed with camping gear, a large bean bag for the back seat, and anxious travellers. When night fell, the rain persisted through the winding mountain roads. A foggy front windshield became a visibility hazard since the defrost was out of commission. Luckily, my brilliant girlfriend knew a trick to fix it. Putting a dab of soap on a cloth or napkin and wiping down the glass keeps it crystal clear even in the foggiest of conditions. Driving through the series of mountain tunnels to Yilan County gave us a respite from the rain and took us closer and closer to our destination.
Our first stop was Drifters in Wai’ao for pizza to tide us over until we reached Hualien. Also fueling the road trip was homemade granola from Dino Taco in Taipei. With our hunger satiated and a tank full of gas, we set out down the East coast of Taiwan past Su’ao, Yilan City, and on to Hualien. The night masked the dramatic views of the coastal road, but traffic was light, and we made good time with music and travel stories to keep us entertained.
During a pit stop at a closed gas station bathroom to stretch our legs, we heard a loud crash on the roadside and went to investigate. A scooter with two men on it had ran into a tree, and they were lying motionless on the sidewalk. One of us called 110/119 to report the emergency, shielded the accident victims from the drizzling rain with umbrellas, and offered them water. Within minutes, the police and an ambulance came to the rescue. We piled back into the van; shaken by the accident but also grateful to be safe and relieved that at least we were there to call for help.
Just north of Hualien City around midnight, we stopped for a snack at a late night roadside Vietnamese restaurant. The staff treated us to a private table, but we could still hear the raucous other patrons. Service was quick and friendly, with delicious spring rolls, huge bowls of Pho, and one of the best papaya salads I’ve ever had.
By this time, I had contacted my friend and very talented artist Rose, who lives in Hualien and told her to be expecting us. She happens to be currently working and living at Ocean Home: a very special hostel/art community that holds an annual week-long free art & music festival around the first week of July located just south of Hualien City on kilometer 11 of the coastal Highway 11.
The rain had let up by the time we reached Ocean Home, so we set up our campsite overlooking the rocky Pacific shoreline. The beach below was populated by a few fishermen, periodically casting their glowing tackle into the sea, as the pulse of waves tumbling thousands of pebbles and smooth wave polished rocks echoed in the stillness of the night. Those of us restless enough stayed up to see the grey dawn and the fishermen pack their things and go home to dream of more colourful mornings.