Another day, another ride through the farm-n-factory back country of Taiwan.
Sunday Jim (of Sponge Bear fame) and your trusty writer sped out to the hill country behind Houli to spy out the lay of the land. Here we stopped to view the reconstruction of a large bridge that was destroyed a couple of months ago in a storm.
As workers shift bales of recycled cardboard, a factory turns them back into something useful.
Our first stop was this interesting and usual looking Buddhist temple, not far from the bike paths and horse ranch east of Houli.
Completely unlike a stereotypical Chinese temple, it featured a garden in front, and extensive forested grounds with walking paths.
A worker informed us that the temple had been constructed in 1928 by a daughter of the famous Lin family of Wufeng, who had married out here and raised her own brood of girls.
The plain ceiling brought to mind a bank rather than a temple.
Obviously it was getting ready to hold an event.
Outside, as everywhere on the island, the unseasonably sunny weather -- we've had no winter this year, really -- brought out pretty girls in droves to be photographed.
There were other interesting buildings on the grounds.
We strolled through the paths behind the temple....
...where a music club was having a meet-up....
..along a path lined with lovely little scenes....
...and returned to the temple.
We returned the way we'd come, through plantations of pineapples in the hills....
...to the bike rental places near the horse ranch and the bike paths.
We hooked back into the hills. Despite the haze and the lazy gray sky, the views were excellent.
Jim guided me to another hiking path whose goal was a pavilion on a distant peak.
Along the way we ran into many old friends...
..and climbed many a stair.
The views to the west over northern Taichung county were stunning.
Past the nearby graveyard the government was installing another science park.
The hills sprouted small farms.
Another old friend was hanging out by the trail.
It was stairs most of the way up the hillside. I deny that I gave vent to unhealthy opinions of the stairs in pungent, earthy language.
But the peak offered some fantastic glimpses. Obviously on a clear day the sea would be visible...
Along with distant views we also encountered bugs....
....up close and personal.
We reached the pavilion at the top, where the tea shop owner apologized for closing early and gave us two free cups of tea.
A view across a local bridge, to the highway, to the HSR, and to another highway in the distance.
Of course I panned the place....
The place was set up for karaoke and snacks, because no peak is too remote to host a karaoke bar.
Jim outlines our next move.
We descended from the peak through small farms. The far off mountains made a lovely frame for the gravel-covered riverbeds.
In several places viewing towers had been constructed.
Along the river is this building. A temple? The control center for the dam?
We strolled back through the small farms.
In the February heat -- February heat? -- everyone was resting.
New fruit was coming online everywhere.
We stopped by another temple....
...empty of people, but rich....
Driving home we had to stop to get a shot of these animals, rare in Taiwan.
We traveled home on roads crowded with bike clubs both powered and not.