Cycling into the clouds

PHOTO: Adrian Tay

Taiwan's Wuling Mountain, which is nestled in the heart of the country, has an intimidating peak reaching 3,275m above sea level.

It is also the site of the Taiwan King of Mountain (KOM) Challenge, which many cyclists consider one of the most unforgiving hill climb events in the world.

When Star Cruises unveiled their cycling route for their 7th Star Cruises Cycle Cruise (Taiwan and Japan) which included Wuling, I signed up for it without a second thought.

View from Jun Yue Hanging Garden Resort.

Well, to my defence, it did seem like a good idea at that point in time. The Wuling route was to be the finale as well as 4th and final cycle of an 8-day cycle-cruise trip.Our start point was Jun Yue Hanging Garden Resort, which is about 20km from the peak of Wuling Mountain.

It was intended to be a relaxed trip anyway, so I thought the 20km to the top was an acceptable climb.

Boy, was I wrong.

After a restful night at the resort, we got off to an early start at 8am with the intention of reaching the peak before noon.

While we were told to dress warmly, we were fortunate enough to have a bright and sunny start, and our troupe were all smiles as we pushed off.

We were fortunate enough to have a bright and sunny start, and our troupe were all smiles.

There were numerous photo opportunities as we made our way to the top; the lush mountain scenery and the ascent towards the cloud-covered peak really took our breath away.

And it did literally; as the gradient got steeper and the air became thinner, my speed dropped to about 8km/h or at times lower.

I looked forward to each rest stop, which, besides offering me another photo opportunity, also gave me the chance to rest my fast tiring legs.

But with each stop, while we refuelled with bananas and energy drinks, I found it harder to get back in the saddle.

We were told to dress warmly, as the temperature would drop as we climbed.

As we neared the peak, it started to drizzle, and the rain and wet road made cycling uphill more miserable than it should be.

Then it happened - about 5km from the top, my left thigh cramped up. It was a helpless feeling I was familiar with, where my muscles aren't paying attention to my commands.

I had no choice but to get off my bike and push.

Where both my legs finally cramped up, about 4km from the peak.

Once I felt good enough, I got on and started pedalling, albeit at a much slower pace this time.

Inevitably, my left and subsequently right leg cramped up big time, with just 4km to go, and just before a major hair pin turn.

With the rain coming down fast, I made the call to let our safety guide know to call in the 'rescue' van.

My climb was over, but boy was I glad to hobble into the warm and dry van.

The warm & dry lift to the top.

It took a few minutes to reach the top by van and soon enough, everyone was crowding around for some much-deserved hot instant noodles.

After the customary group shots at the peak, our group boarded the bus for our trip back to the resort.

It was a one-hour journey just to reach our start point - no wonder they said we would be too tired to cycle back, even though it was a downhill ride.

I doubt I would have been able to complete the entire 105km route in a single day, but I'm really glad I got a taste of it.

It was an awesome feeling to be among the clouds.

As I took photos on the way down, I realised that while I didn't manage to cycle the entire 20km route, I had actually made it among the clouds already.

So that's another one off the bucket list.

Cycling into the clouds