Friday, August 22, 2014

Alishan by Scooter

The point on the 159 where it becomes stunning.

Another ride on one of my favorite routes in Taiwan, the Ten Thousand Year Gorge and Caoling via the 149 and the 149, Alishan via the 149and the 169, and back to Chiayi via the 159. Only this time, my wife and I did it on our sturdy 125cc scooter.

Scootering presented certain problems. The last gas station is in Zhushan 60 kms from Laiji where we planned to overnight, while the next one on the other side is in Shijhuo. It is certainly possible to purchase gas in the mountains, but such trade is illegal and sellers are subject to heavy fines. Rather than risk getting someone in trouble for providing desperately needed services the government-owned service station system is too lazy to provide (isn't that what we pay tax subsidies for?), we took along a three liter gas can of gas on day one, and refilled with that in Laiji. That got us to Shijhuo without worry, where we filled with the last liter and a half from the gas can, which we left by a garbage can on the route, since we figured someone else could use it.

If you've seen my other Alishan ride photos (here and here, for example), it's the same route. Same gorgeous scenery. Same enjoyable time. I took rather more pictures on the 159 than I usually do, since it is more of a pain to stop on a bike than on a scooter. We also returned via a different route, very enjoyable.

Click on READ MORE as always...

Ready to go...

Stopped here hoping to inspire my wife.

The fifty kilometers from our house down to Zhushan I didn't bother to photograph. The 3 is a nightmare of car repair, betel nut girls, and crazy traffic. Here a woman cuts meat for her butcher shop.

Finally we got to the 149 on the other side of Zhushan and the nice part of the ride began.

Taking a break.

Doing the 149 on a weekday is quite different. Gravel trucks everywhere, signaling the importance of gravel in Taiwan's domestic political economy.

Finally turned away from the gravel trucks onto the 149. I seldom have good weather on this road. But it is still nice.

My wife poses at an overgrown rest area.

This staggering gorge should be on everyone's list.

One section of the 149 used to swing through here. It was cut off after Morakot a few years ago, and the road no longer crawls along the mountain wall.

Work is still ongoing at the great landslide disaster at the top near the tunnel over to Caoling.

The ridge divides two different microclimates. Here is the Caoling side.

Into Caoling for lunch. This is not our lunch, but the owner's.

The mountains invite us.

Caoling alley.

The town is a tourist nightmare. Don't stay here on a weekend if it can be avoided. There are many wonderful hostels in the hills nearby.

After lingering over lunch, we rolled downhill to the river gorge below Caoling under the twin waterfalls.

An empty, beautiful place.

The old bridge to Laiji is gone, completely dismantled, as is the "Alishan National Park" sign. The new bridge is done.

Laiji, one of my favorite places in Taiwan.

The Lanhou Hostel where we always stay has added a new section. Very nice.

Me with the manager, who is very nice.

A new room, very nice. She charged us $1800 for this room plus $300 each for dinner, or $1200 a piece for everything. A great deal. One problem: there is only one set of plugs in the room plus an additional single in the bathroom. If you are electronics heavy, could be an issue.

Our awesome, laughably cheap nine-course dinner. This is before the grilled boar, cabbage, and soup arrived.


Night, dancing. I have to admit that I really hate to see the aboriginal dancing. It's just too fakey and colonial for my stomach. But the local tourists seem to enjoy it.

One thing I like to do in Laiji is get up in the morning and stroll around. Everything is so peaceful and promising. I brought my creaking old Canon EOS 550D DSLR with the Sigma 17-70mm lens that I use for a walk-around lens. My new Sony DSC RX100 seems to meter better than the Canon, and produces high quality pics. But with the old Canon I did get this shot of a moth in the early morning.

And this lovely bug shot. It had rained the night before, but today looked like it was going to be gorgeous for the ride up the flank of Alishan.

The entrance to the Chaiyi 155 in Laiji, which I am saving for my next bike ride in the area.

Rice porridge breakfast. The hostel no longer works with the Taiwan style breakfast place in the next building. Too bad.

This fellow popped in to hover over our breakfast. Captured with the Sony.

Selfie with Lanhuo Bed and Breakfast telephone number.

As you begin this trip, you're looking up at that vast massif above. Pretty soon, though, you'll be seeing eye to eye with it.

The first part of this route picks up the 149 near Laiji and then starts climbing up a series of relatively easy grades.

Another lovely Alishan day.

My wife is amazed at the views.

Tea rail, with little cart.

Finally you reach the 169 begins.

Eventually you reach the first overlook. Normally there's a shop here that sells drinks, but they were closed.

And can contemplate your altitude gain. We drove up at 18 kmph, taking well over an hour for the drive to Fenchihu. This enabled lots of pics plus easy acclimation to the altitude.


Everywhere you looked...

People out picking tea.

There are a couple of bed and breakfast places in Taiho town as well, a little higher up. Might stay here one day.

Being on a scooter means being able to easily check out side roads.

Boulders, steep slopes, all are nothing to the tea farmers of Alishan.

Tea pickers at work.

Good bye, tea... into the bamboo.

Didn't want to take a picture nearby, but concrete trucks were shooting up and down the road. Here's one that slid into a ditch.

Into the bamboo forest. A truck carrying tea pickers is parked near a tea farm.

After a couple of turns in the bamboo forest, it's back to the last overlook.

Some staggering views from here.

We passed through Fenchihu, and stopped to grab some coffee and fatty pork. Here we are looking back on Fenchihu and preparing for...

...the 159, seen here from far above near Shijhuo.

Heading into Shijhuo.

Tea baskets for holding picked tea leaves.

The dingy little tourist stopover of Shijhuo. We stopped and had ice cream. Fortified with our nutritious lunch of fatty pork, coffee, and ice cream, we headed for the amazing 159甲.

The good weather continued.

Finally, after the first long descent, we stopped at that spot where you can truly see what a wonderful road this is.

What kind of fruit?

The road swings around this gorge and then runs above the town in this picture.

Resting. Actually had a lot of trouble parking the scooter for pictures. It wanted to sliiiiiide down the hill...


Looking back where we drove.

This road is desperately in need of resurfacing and is imperiled by slides and slumps.

Unforgettable landscapes

You ride through aboriginal villages and tea and fruit farms.

And mountainsides carpeted in betel nut trees.

Harvesting must be a pain.

Small towns, settlements of Han people.

These peaks have always been wreathed in clouds when I have ridden through.

Finally, the beautiful section of the ride is finished. You reach the overlook above Chiayi city. 14 kms of downhill remains. Wheeeeee!

My wife grabs the scenery.

We descended to Chiayi and took the 3 back towards Taichung. At Linnei I knew the Hwy 3 turns from bad to utter urban crap, so we ducked onto the 141 just north of Linnei and drove into Ershui. Threading our way through Ershui, we climbed up Fengbo Road (highly recommended for a downhill off of Bagua Shan) onto Bagua Shan and then drove along the 139 to the 139 until we hit the 74 to Taichung. There are fewer lights on that route, little traffic, and it's far more pleasant. I captured the shot above at the temple right next to where Fengbo Road hits the 139. The views over the Changhua Plain are excellent.

To crown a wonderful trip through some of Taiwan's best scenery, I returned home to find that the lawn had been mowed. My son claimed that he had torn himself away from his computer long enough to take care of it, but I suspect it was probably the dog.

Hope to see you on a Taiwan road soon!
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Anonymous said...

Cool & thanks. I traveled some of those same roads a few years ago.

The rows and rows of tea are really neat to see.

Guang-Ming said...

Thanks as always for your posts of Taiwan's beautiful scenery! You've inspired me to make a trip up into the mountains sometime soon. (It's too hot at sea level anyway.)

Kaminoge said...

Looks like it was a great ride. Now I have some ideas for things to do with the wife after retirement.