Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Four Day East Coast Loop

For the first time in a couple of months I took a little mini-vacation of four days of riding on the east coast. Arriving in Hualien on Friday night, on Saturday morning we rode 90 kms down Highway 11 to Changbin and overnighted there. On Sunday we did another 90 kms to Taitung. Our little group split up on Sunday, but on Sunday night I met up with my friend Andrew Bott. On Monday the two of us took the 197 over the low ridges on the east side of the Rift Valley from Taitung to Chihshang, then finished with a 50 km sprint to Rueisuei to pile up 120 kms on the day. On Tuesday we rolled back to Hualien, 75 kms. Just under 400 kms for the four days for me. Moving a bit slowly today at school...... click on READ MORE for pics and discussion...

This businessman's hotel was no-frills for $600 NT a room just across from the train station. Here we are organizing in the morning.

My redoubtable henchman Jeff Miller joined me for this ride, along with my friends Charles, Rica, and Peter.

Charles takes the Bike Friday over Niu Shan. I've been down this road many times, so I'll keep the images of this section to a minimum.

At the overlook on Niu Shan I cranked out the long lens.

Rica rounds a bay.

Landslide stoppers saving motorists a few headaches.

Busloads of Chinese tourists hit the coast at Shitiping.

Rica strikes a pose above Shitiping.

Chthulhu rises from the earth to ravage the Chinese tourist hordes.

Jeff and Charles plummet toward the red bridge.

Another lovely Taiwan smile greets me at a rest stop.

In Changbin we ate at this place on the left side in the center of town as you come in from the north, incredibly cheap -- all this food was less than $800. It is packed on weekends so come early. We stayed at the Guanhaiyuan B&B outside of town, for around $400 apiece. Really nice operators who treated us well.

The next morning we were greeted by a double rainbow. Would have been nice if it had signaled good weather, but it rained the whole day. Nevertheless, it was a fun ride.

Charles and Rica horsing around during a rare dry moment.

Even the animals looked bedraggled.

Charles takes a break. Unfortunately his bike wasn't adjusted properly so he bowed out early while Rica and I went on to Taitung to meet up with my friend Andrew and his family.

Monday dawned gloriously, but it would turn out to be one of the most exhausting and demoralizing rides I've been on to date. Rica went off to visit friends, so Andrew and I met up at the entrance to 197.

Taitung's beauty is limitless.

With good views even from the low altitudes, 197 looked promising.

The opening sections of the road itself were a dream -- few cars, easy grade, fantastic views over Taitung to the south and out over the ocean to the east.

I walked into a nearby pasture to grab some pics of the coast.

I was utterly entranced with this road and its amazing views over the Taitung plain.

Gradually we turned into the Rift Valley. The skies began to darken as the sun hid its face.

Views remained spectacular.

The slopes were overrun with bugs.

Population expansion activities.

Wouldn't want to meet this one in a dark alley.

Bright colors.

The road was crawling with creepy-crawlies too.

The area was dotted with farms and temples.... here a farmer has named his trailer "Little Red."

The day grew cooler and cloudier as we climbed. There were several small peaks on this route, the highest of about 450 meters.

Butterflies, always a source of frustration for photographers.

Finally, we reached the absolutely nadir of our experience on this trip. The entrance to a national forest. And 14 kms of gravel road.

The gravel road actually stretched more than 15 kms. It was not a good experience on a cold day, light rain and mist, just the two of us. On a bright sunny day with a large posse of riders it might have been enjoyable. Or if you are a committed enthusiast to getting away from it all -- the road is desolate; we saw only two vehicles. But you couldn't pay attention to the views because you were too focused on not falling on the gravel. Moreover, most of the climb takes place behind the ridge, so that there are no spectacular views over the rift valley.

Plenty of good bugs, though.

Landslides had taken the road out here. Not pleasant.

Downhill was no fun either. Would have loved to take a look at the views, but I was too focused on keeping the bike upright.

Finally we made it back to paved road.

I was not a happy camper. It took us more than two hours to clear the gravel, and the constant tension left every muscle in my body aching. It had been a cold, demoralizing, exhausting ride. I'm not sure if I could make myself do it again...

Luckily there was plenty of good Taiwan scenery about.

We ate a late lunch in Chihshang where 197 ended, then bolted 50 kms up the 9 for Rueisuei. FYI: the 9 sucks, trafficked and trucked. Avoid at all costs -- the government has thoughtfully put in a bike path next to it -- use that, or take the 193.

As dusk closed in and we neared Rueisuei, we passed this man taking his dogs out for a ride.

In Rueisuei we stayed at this el cheapo place right by the train station (behind the blue car). $350 NT a person in the center of hopping Rueisuei.

In the morning we took off on the last leg of the trip, the 193 back to Hualien. The 193 is one of the prettiest and most enjoyable roads in Taiwan, hilly without being back-breaking, bucolic, and full of friendly people. We had intended this to be a sprint, but I was out of spare energy, so it took an hour more than it usually does.

Plenty of lovely moments on 193.

Lots of birds out too.

A ruined temple.

Farmers hard at work lined the road.

I saw many, many pheasants hiding in the fields, like this male....

...and this female. But no matter how quick I was, the baby ones jumped into the bushes before I could photo them.

Andrew rounds a curve.

Finally, I went around a corner and there was a young one, just sitting there. I got off one crappy shot but still, it didn't react to me. Overjoyed, I lined up for a second shot and then Andrew luffed up. Sensing the situation, he stopped pedaling to avoid making noise and scaring the bird, enabling me to get this one good shot. A great end to four days of riding on the east coast. Hope to see you on the next ride! UPDATE: Not a pheasant, but a Chinese bamboo partridge.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


Lorenzo said...

I saw your comments to KE's article in FP. Bravo!

Now stop riding so much bicycle and start paying attention to the coming tsunami!

Paul said...

Looks like you guys had a great ride - having just ridden around the Island I must agree that anything from the along the East Coast is awesome - there were very few roads I didn't enjoy on that side of the island. The gravel road seemed tough but at least you did it - I can understand the difficulty in staying up though. Too bad it was raining.

P. S. said...

When you crave cold, wet, hilly, demoralizing rides ... come to Seattle :)