Monday, July 23, 2012

Big Skies in the Big Rift

This weekend did a lovely ride on Saturday and Sunday with my partner in climb Jeff Miller (blog). Rode from Taitung city on 197 to Luye, then to Guanshan for lunch, then took the 20 to the 20甲, then followed Wanchao Rd straight to Yuli, then took the 193 to Rueisuei. Highly recommend this route -- from the turn onto the 20甲 to Rueisuei is about 50kms of downhill incline. Absolutely gorgeous day of puffy blue clouds in the Rift Valley. Bonus: as I was leaving Taitung, I saw myself on TV in the breakfast shop. A map of the route on Saturday.

It was rainy on the opening section of 197, so I didn't get many pictures.

Foggy too. In the distance the mouth of the gorge can be seen.

Farms along a river.

Clouds and fog above Luye town.

A shrine by the side of the road.

Jeff crosses the bridge into Luye.

The 9 before Guanshan. The 9 is a detestable, truck-ridden wasteland. Avoid like plague.

Still, even on the crappy 9, there are good views across the Rift. The rice was just going in so farmers were out working....

We went into Guanshan for lunch. As we arrived, the skies cleared on the west side of the Rift Valley. A gorgeous clear day began.

The cloud formations were fantastic.

From Guanshan we turned onto the 20, the southern cross-island highway.

The 20 -- the line of trees on the left -- climbs gently up to 340 meters, with excellent views down the rift to the south before it disappears into the river gorge.

Approaching the big bridge that marks the turn onto the 20甲.

Jeff crosses the bridge at the beginning of the 20甲.

From the bridge there are gorgeous views north up the river gorge that the 20 follows...

...and southeast across the rift valley.

After crossing the bridge, we went a short distance and turned north onto Wanchao Rd, which quickly became Nanxing Rd. The opening is a long downhill.....

This road goes more or less straight to Yuli, gently downhill the whole way. There are a couple of short inclines but no serious uphills. On this day it was wonderful, for the air was clean and cool -- on a hot August day it might be painful, because for most of it there is no cover.

Jeff enjoys himself.

The weather on the west side of the Rift Valley was gorgeous.....

...but on the east side of the valley it was pouring.

We stopped in one of the many farming villages that line this road for drinks. Here some local Vietnamese wives pose for a photo after exchanging pleasantries with us. One of them narrated the tale of how her sister married an American. "I could have done that, but I was already engaged to a Taiwanese." "Why didn't you just break the engagement?" one of her counterparts asked her, incredulous. "You could have gone to America!" "Those words 'break the engagement' never occurred to me," she replied mournfully.

Big skies in the big rift.

Rain in the Rift. Ominously, we were headed over to that side.

The lovely ride finished at Yuli. We headed through town, got on the 30, and crossed the big bridge to the other side of the Rift. We stopped, as always, at the 7-11 before the entrance to the 193. Here dogs wait for scraps.

From Yuli to Rueisuei is another gentle downward incline. Lovely ride....

....and the rain switched sides and left us alone.

Beautiful views along both sides of the valley.

Rain over our destination.

Pulling into Rueisuei across the bridge from the south; the river here is the one they use for rafting. We found a great old-style hotel. On the phone the proprieter told us single rooms were $600, but when he met us and found that we were cyclists, they became $500.

Sunday morning it was pouring when we got up, so we hit the train station.....

....and found that the skies cleared. We got off in Guangfu and rode the remaining 45 kms on the 9 into Hualien town, hopped the train, and were back home for dinner. A great ride, a great weekend. Wish you had been with me!
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