Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Starting 2010 with a Bang: East Coast Ride

Saturday morning bright and early I went over to Hualien to meet some friends who had flown in from the US west coast and do Taiwan's east coast by bike. My third trip down the coast proved to be as wonderful as the first two. The east coast, always beautiful and mostly flat, makes an excellent choice for a first overnight bicycle trip.

In Hualien (a government building) on Saturday the weather was glorious and the mountains clearly visible.....

...and we went over to the Giant shop in the Parkview Hotel to pick up Frank's (left) rental bike, while Paul (right) assembled his foldaway bike-trailer combination. The bike folds up into the trailer, the wheels come off the trailer, and you can ship it as checked luggage on an airplane. Paul wanted to test this custom made biking system, from Bike Friday, to see how the system held up over a long haul. The East Coast, with its flat roads and wide shoulders, seemed like an ideal ride.

I sent Paul and Frank up to Tianxiang in Taroko Gorge. The plan was for them to roll down the gorge and meet us in Hualien in the morning. Bonus Taiwan experience: I asked the bellhop at the hotel for transport, and he took them up in a canonical little blue truck, complete with pink plastic chair in the back for one person to sit on.

I remained in the city and then rode down to the area around Donghwa U to meet my friend Juno.

The next morning I awoke to rain, but it soon cleared. I left Juno to our mutual broken heart, and went over to Hualien, where a funeral was blocking one lane of the major north-south artery on the east coast, to no one's great concern.

There I met up with Ryan, who along with his lovely wife Iris publishes Highway 11 magazine.

Karl Smith, out on his first overnight adventure, soon arrived sans his customary beer and cigarette.

Since Paul and Frank had yet to put in an appearance, we went out to the coast to await them.

Protecting both the beach, and concrete firms' bottom lines, from erosion.

As always, fishermen dominated the coastal scene.

Paul and Frank hadn't arrived, so we decided to head down the coast to reach our first night's stay, Bridge 12 B&B. Ryan accompanied us for that ride and then returned to Hualien.

Set back from the highway, and next to a great stream for exploring, Bridge 12 proved to be a clean, comfortable B&B with good homestyle food, just outside Yenliao at Kilometer 18 on the highway.

A room. We paid $900 plus another $99 for dinner.

Paul and Frank soon showed....

...and we kicked back with Taiwan Beer's finest.

Dawn on the best day weather-wise I've spent on the coast -- cool and breezy, but also clean and sunny. Perfect for riding.

Paul and Frank walked into town early...

...while I paced them on my bike, shooting these kids in Yenliao.

We always skip the tunnel at Km 20 and take the now unused section that runs parallel to the highway. A lovely morning... but danger loomed....

Alas, we lost Karl in a large hole that had opened on the side of the unmaintained section. Reduced to three, we plunged on.

Slides and fallen rocks blocked the road in many places. Here Paul dismounts for better navigation.

After a few harrowing moments, we made it back to the main highway.

Stopping to rest on Niu Shan, the climb that everyone hates. Even though it's only 240 meters high, it just somehow never seems to end.

An absolutely gorgeous day.

I stopped to chat with this surveyor. People are totally friendly to foreigners on a bike.

Just past the top of Niu Shan there is a coffee shop where we re-energized with chocolate ice cream, coffee, and stunning views of the coast.

At Half Moon Bay I caught this fisherman fishing just inside the breakwater as the waves attempted to crash through and reach him.

Paul hits the road.

Karl and Frank contemplate the sheer drop to the rocks below.

An aboriginal cemetery.

We stopped in Fongbin for lunch.

Then it was back on the road again, heading for Changbin and the Jiatsowan Hotel.

We stopped in Shihtiping to grab some drinks. I expounded on Taiwan politics to the local store proprietor, with notable effect.

Shihtiping, as always, was stunning in the brilliant afternoon sun. were the mountains down the coast.

Little towns line the section south of Shihtiping.

I stopped to have a chat with a group of locals.

The coast is like a painting you can ride through.

On day three we headed out of Changbin after stopping for coffee and snacks at the 7-11, hoping to make Taitung by 1:00 or so to make the train early.

Not many awake on a cloudy morning that made for great riding weather.

The fishing boats were just coming in.

Karl rode hard...

...and we made Taitung with plenty of time to spare.

We caught the 2:25 express on the southern link line through the villages south of Taitung...

...and past the Morakot-blasted heath...

...through stunning mountain scenery.... the west coast, Kaohsiung, the HSR, and home.

Previous coast ride here
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Mark said...

Awesome photos, man. What a fabulous ride! Woof!

Unknown said... is such a beautiful image. I really wish I was there! I would love to bike along that coast!

Todd said...

Looks like a great ride to start the year! I really need to head out East one of these days!

jerome said...

Is there a better way to start New Year? A real breather of a post!

I noticed that all the hoops Taiwan was paced through during the last century are made obvious in the sign posts you snapped in Fong Bin (Japanese era Toyohama) Xiang (Sato).

There is that particular sign that conflates Fong Bin with Guang Fu, the one pointing at the direction of “Guang Fong Nong Hui”. The Guang Fu/Fong Bin Farmers association, I assume.

Geoff C said...

You have taken stunning photos again Michael. Ming and I looked at them with such great nostalgia. But the pic you took outside of Chungwha Telecom just brought back horrible memories of traffic chaos. Did you go to Joki gallery? For once Taiwan looked much cooler than here (41 degrees). This is the great year of retirement and of the return to Hualien and some decent food. Cheers Michael. Adelaide

Michael Turton said...

Jerome, I loved all those signs, and ur right, the ride is one that goes through history. Somewhere around Shihtiping, I remember hearing, there's an old Japanese sugar processing plant.

See ya soon, Geoff!

Geoff, Adelaide said...

There is an old sugar factory at Fengbin. It is famous now for its delicious ice cream and the two large fish ponds full of giant carp. (They actually eat the ice cream which the tourists chuck in). The two ponds are bomb craters from WWII. It. like fantastic Joki is certainly worth a visit.

Fili said...

Brilliant post. Looks like loads of fun. ^_^

Geoff said...

Errata, mea culpa! Not Fengbin where the sugar factory is but Guangfu.

Duncan said...

"I stopped to chat with this surveyor. People are totally friendly to foreigners on a bike."

> Hi Michael, I guess you mean in a good way right?


Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Nick, nephew from my uncle Paul.

Very nice to see you having a wonderful trip in Taiwan, hope these pictures you can show people how beautiful place my country is.
Next time if are coming again please let me know, it will be a great pleasure for me to make some expedition for you.

cheng-hsien yang said...

Very stick bike travel
Taiwan east coast
Cover you photographic very beauty

Joshua Samuel Brown said...

Gripping narrative, man. Seriously hoping our ride works out.