Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Biking the East Coast and Green Island
This week I spent four lovely days on the east coast with my friend Andrew Bott and the travel writer Joshua Samuel Brown, who co-authored the current Lonely Planet guide to Taiwan, which is why I haven't been posting here. Saturday we left Hualien and rolled down the coast to Chenggong. Sunday morning we split, Joshua heading over 23 to the Rift Valley, while we went another 60 kms to Fugang and got on the ferry to Green Island. Monday we returned on the ferry and then took the train from Taitung to Rueisuei. The next morning, Tuesday, we rolled back on 193 to Hualien and took the 1 pm express back to Fengyuan in Taichung. Click on read more for pics and narrative....
The remainder of the tale is quickly told. We visited the island's prisons, returned to the hotel, gathered u our stuff, and crossed on the 12:30 ferry back to Fugang. Another gorgeous day, with flying fish shooting through the air, their schools spooked by the prow of the ferry speeding back to Taiwan. From Taitung we took the train to Rueisuei, where we spent the night. The next morning, the dawn of a cool, overcast day, we cruised the 193 back to Hualien city, and picked up the 1:02 express back to Fengyuan. It turns out that 193 is much easier and faster done from the south -- I had underestimated the extent to which it is one long uphill slog from Hualien. It's a lovely road, one of the best on the island, never trafficked, and the views over the rift valley are incredible. Highly recommended.
The train proved to be another encounter with the TRA's bike train crapshoot. We bought the tix for the 1:00 pm express in Taitung the day before. There we were informed there were no bike places for our bikes and we would have to bag them --- even though it was a designated bike train with the special car for bike storage without needing to disassemble them and on which bikes could travel for free with a ticket for car 12. The spaces for the bikes were all taken, we were told.
The reality was that, as usual, the TRA staffer was wrong about the policy. In fact, we were able to pay the baggage fee and bring the bikes on the same train as luggage in the same compartment as the free bikes with the bike tickets. In fact, there were no such bikes, for the entire trip ours were the only bikes on the train -- meaning we could have had one of the four free bike spaces. The computer system associates the bikes with a seat in car 12, the car with the luggage facility, meaning that if the seats in car 12 are sold out, then there are no free bike spaces (that's right, bikes do not have priority in that arrangement -- it is impossible to get a free bike shipment if you have to sit in another car, as we did). Someone needs to give the brains of TRA planners are thorough scrubbing. There was absolutely no reason we couldn't have been treated as a free bike shipment and no reason not to reserve seats for cyclists in car 12, since it is a designated bike train. Argh!
But it was a fantastic trip, 330 kms of sublime east coast roads in four days. Hope to see you on the next one!
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