Monday, March 03, 2014

Weekend Riding in the Rift Valley

A three day weekend was like a gift from the gods, so my friends Jeff Miller and Andrew Kerslake of Taiwan in Cycles and your trusty writer headed down to the east coast to ride the rift and coast. Drew was back from rehab and chomping at the bit for a great ride out in the wilds of Taiwan (his account is here). Even with the Friday weather in Hualien looking grim when we got up, it still promised to be a great trip. Click on READ MORE....

We took off at 8 heading for Fuli in the rift valley on the 193, intending to go over the 23 the next day.

It rained most of the ride.

It was still beautiful on the 193, which is always a pleasure to ride no matter what the skies are like.

It never rained hard enough to obscure the views.

Jeff and Drew take a break.

The forest-and-farm landscaping along the 193 means plenty of wildlife. We saw partridges, hawks, monkeys, and squirrels.

Jeff contemplates an old well. The owner said he'd had to cover it since people threw so much trash into it. Sad.

Eventually it started raining pretty steadily, so I had to pack up the camera.

Had a severe problem with several flats; it turned out the rim tape was gouging my tubes. This delayed us by a couple of hours, so we bagged Fuli and instead stopped in Yuli. This turned out to be a good thing. Here I am drying out and demoralized in my hotel room.

Morning in Yuli. The sun!!! If we had continued on to Fuli the night before, we would have missed the glorious sunny ride in the morning.

We spun down the Zhuofu Industry Road on the west side of the rift valley, one of my favorite roads on the island.

We had excellent morning light on both sides of the rift valley.

Riding up a bridge on the Zhuofu Industry Road.

This road sits on a shelf above the floor of the rift valley, giving the impression that you're looking down on the coastal range on the east side of the rift valley....

....with views like this.

Meanwhile the west side of the rift is the central mountain range, with its gorge-and-slope topography. Stunning.

The road follows a mostly straight line south towards Chihshang.

Jeff battles a truck.

Drew, a powerful cyclist, in his element.

Glorious light on the coast range.

The legendary rice paddies of the rift valley.

Taking in the morning sun and scenery. Here we left the Zhuofu Industry Road and turned onto a side road that took us into Fuli town, where we ate breakfast. From Fuli we picked up the 23.

Drew gets on the 23. From this point the sign says DONGHE 16. Haha. It is about 17 kms to the top of the ridge which is the border with Donghe (the sign at that point is a false top, you still have another kilometer of up in front of you), but it is 43 kilometers to Donghe town, proper. Although most of the descent the signs hilariously tell you that you are in central Donghe, apparently a wilderness without buildings.

Alas, we lost the excellent morning light and skies became overcast. Which in way was good, because we had 17 kilometers of climbing in front of us to the 500+ meters at the top.

Still lovely, though.

You pass through a small aboriginal village, your last contact with humanity before you drop off the earth. The entrance to the entrancing part is the tunnel just past this point. There had been a rockslide and gravel bounced onto the road here and there as I entered the tunnel.

He invited me for some grilled squid, but I had to regretfully decline.

The opening section is the usual gorge-and-rock-face topography, so familiar and enjoyable.

Then it is up towards the clouds

Last time I came through here, this landslide had just occurred. They are still fixing the area.

Soon you're right up there with the hawks.

Still climbing..... the grade is steady and not too bad, 6-8% after the lower opening section.

Finally! Downhill.

Heading for the road below.

They tied a bone to this dog's neck. No idea why.

Drew passes a group taking group photos. The road is not well trafficked at all.

Despite the fact that it is only 25-30 kms across, the coast range gives the impression of mountain vastness.

Looking back at the descent.

There are excellent views.

As we reached sea level, we encountered some tourists who had stopped their cars to feed wild monkeys by the side of the road. Along with the humans there were some intelligent, self-interested primates worried about their own safety involved in this transaction.

We crossed the footbridge....

...and entered Donghe town by the back way. Donghe has become famous for its steamed buns, but we went to 7-11 and had coffee and snacks.

Then it was north up the coast to the town of Chenggong.

Along the way we diverted through the Baonon bike path right by the water. Sweet.

Finally we reached Chenggong. A glorious day of enjoyable, rewarding riding.

And then my seat broke, while I was shifting the bike from one position to another. Chenggong having no Giant or Merida shop, I went to the local bike shop, which had been in business 50 years, and bought a $250 NT bike seat for the morrow's ride to Taitung.

We got out early, ahead of the incoming thunderstorms, and ran down the coast to the Taitung train station in about two and a half hours, a powerful tailwind pushing us the whole way. I pitied the groups of local riders we saw heading north into the wind and rain. Here is the last look back as you entered Taitung city.

At the train station they had used some train signs for the toilets in the station. Now there's an EMERGENCY STOP button above the toilet, I guess in case it comes out too fast: "Omigod, I think that's my colon! I better press the button!" Or perhaps in case of earthquake....

Fantastic weekend. Hope to see YOU on the next ride!
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NONE said...

Great weekend of riding. Thank you so much. It really meant a lot to me to be back riding with you.

MJ Klein said...

Michael, i hope you weren't injured when the saddle broke! i shudder to think of what could have happened....

Anonymous said...

Hi. I've been reading your blog for over a year and I really enjoy it. I respect your research, knowledge and point of view. Thank you so much for all of your hard work!

Drew in Los Angeles

Michael Turton said...

Thanks Drew!