Monday, June 15, 2015

Sanity Break: Weekend in the Rift

Rift time, a two day sanity break on the beautiful side roads of Hualien and Taitung, one of the best rides I've done. Click on READ MORE below for absolute acres of imagery.

The day began at 4 am for myself, Iris, and Mike as we picked up the 5:30 am train out of Taichung. This convenient train arrives in Hualien city at 10:19, meaning you can easily put down 80 or 90 kms before dark.

Highway construction in the Suhua area proceeds apace.

Iris spotted this rather racy hotel ad in the Hualien train station.

We fought the early morning traffic in Hualien city and got out to the big bridge. Took some pics of the riverbed, as always, then headed for the 193.

Iris poses at the entrance to the 193.

It was obvious it was going to be an amazing day.

Mike rises. The 193 is rolling, but up, all the way to Yuli, our goal for the day.

The riverbed was cut with watermelon farms.

We took a leisurely pace, with plenty of stops for snacks, drinks, and photos.

Pineapple farm.

Many of the houses are nice.

The 193 between Hualien and Ruisui is narrow and very lightly trafficked. Perfect for riding.

...and very picturesque.

Iris grabs a picture.

The light and cloud on the other side of the Rift became ever more spectacular as we rode.

A drink stop.

Hitting the road again. Mike, a strong rider, often ranged far ahead.

A house.

The clouds knocked back the sun, for which we were thankful. We rode into the wind the whole way though, which leeched our strength.

We stopped at a drink stand/hair salon. Alas, I had no hair to be done.

Lots of aboriginal symbols about.

At the prison, where the road peaks, I finally got a picture of one of the several snakes that slithered across our path. We also encountered monkeys, squirrels, partridges, and other wildlife. Was wonderful.

Light and cloud in the rift.

Iris climbs.

A couple leads buffalo to water. But will they drink?

We stopped for a few minutes in Ruisui to chow down on some lychees and gulp water. Here Mike is crossing the bridge out of Ruisui.

The 193 between Ruisui and Yuli is heavily trafficked, but the views are glorious in the late afternoon. It rises slightly but definitely most of the way to Yuli.

We finally arrived in Yuli at 6:30, and stayed at the Hoping Hotel, $900 NT for a clean room with a big bed and plenty of hot water.

In morning we left Yuli on the Zhuofu Industry Road, which runs between Yuli and Chihshang and totally avoids the crapshit 9. Here a couple checks the map for the numerous bike routes in the area.

It was going to be that kind of day.

Both sides of the Rift were perfect.

To find this route is not difficult. Take Renai Road out of town, which becomes the 30, and follow it under the big red train bridge...

...past the bike paths...

...past where a dog guards a house...

Until you reach the big bridge. DO NOT follow the 30 under the bridge. Instead, turn up and cross the bridge. From then on it is easy.

A road runs to a nearby village.

Iris poses on the bridge.

We spooked some wild ducks in the river.

The road runs flat and straight along the west side of the rift valley. It rises gently up to Chihshang, and we were fighting the wind the whole way, which took the edge off the sun even though it slowed us down. But it was such a gorgeous morning it didn't matter.

Mike buzzes past a local community.

Rice farming produces lovely landscapes.

If you watch for the sign for the bike path, you won't miss a turn.

Iris enjoys herself.

A local elementary school.

Rice pickers readying for the harvest.

Iris rolls along.

"A damn fine morning," proclaimed Iris.


At the fire station, follow the road around to the left...

...and you can get a shot of the plain.

Occasionally motorcycles and cars drove by. That large building off to the left is a rest stop on the 9.

Amazing views.

After 15 kms it was time for a drink stop and a break from the hard work of riding on a flat road and taking beautiful pictures.

Villages and fields stacked against the mountains.

The road has a few inclines, none difficult.

Wonderful puffy white clouds.

We stopped across from Fuli to take some shots of the town.

Bean farms. Lots of different crops in the Rift.

After you reach a left turn at a village, you see this. Turn right immediately past the trees. This turn is poorly marked, with only a small sign on the left. You'll know you did it right if you hit a small clinic right away.

Irrigation infrastructure.

Iris and Mike are loving it.

Villages everywhere at the foot of the mountains.

Finally you reach the gentle upward climb through the trees by the transformer station that signals the end of the road.

At the 20, turn right towards the central mountain range and follow the excellent pavement down to Taitung County and the big bridge.

Iris poses in front of the Taitung County border marker.

Crossing the bridge. The government helpfully if wrongly informs you of the grade and your calorie count on these brown signs.

We took a break at the end of the bridge.

The road sits on a shelf above the valley and the views are excellent.

The view towards the south.


You're on the 20, and the road takes you back to the 9. Avoid the 9 by not turning. Instead, follow the Taitung 5 straight at this point. Much nicer... you can see. This eventually curves around and takes you back to the 9 just outside Guanshan.

We stopped for a long rest and early lunch in Guanshan. Then we hit the 9 for a few minutes.

After a few minutes on the 9, which should exceed your tolerance for heat, traffic, and useless climbs, turn left onto the Taitung 29, Ruijing Road, and follow that for a relaxing 7.5 km downhill to the 9 again just outside Luye.

It runs along the train line.

Excellent views, with bonus express train against the coast range.

Shortly after this bridge you return to the 9, sadly.

We stopped at Luye for a drink break and a rest, as hours of riding into the wind were grinding me down. We then crossed the Luanshan bridge to the 197. Crossing the bridge a wrecked suspension bridge testifies to a flood.

Here begins the nicest part of the 197. It climbs south over the ridges and eventually comes out above the airbase north of Taitung city. The views are excellent and the road is untrafficked. Totally enjoyable. Lots of climbing, but the grades are not difficult.

The beautiful orange, red, and yellow flowers you often see planted by the roadside in aboriginal areas are edible. Here some a being dried in the sun.

Sections of it are shaded, welcome relief.

Nice views, though, with the rapid altitude gain.

Like I said....

Garbage collection for the local community.

You climb until km 45. Then there's a lovely long downhill.

Iris bulls ahead.

Great views along the river valley.

There's a little pavilion with a plaque explaining the geology of the area.


The valley.

Climbing again.

The quiet road offers places of amazing beauty.

Finally, you cross over the ridge and the ocean greets you.

The mysterious, powerful sea.

Good views of Taitung city.

From there, we rolled downhill to where the 197 ends, turned right, crossed the bridge into Taitung city, and were at the train station in ten minutes. A great day. Wish you could have come!
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Anonymous said...

Good work,

I don't know how you can cycle in the Hualien/Taitung sun at this time of year, Michael. I live in Hualien and love cycling, but I put the bike away at the beginning of June. Let me know when you're over here next semester. I usually cycle to Kenting over the winter break.

Jeremy (Hualien)

Michael Turton said...

Heat doesn't bug me. Cold and wet does.

I'll be back in July and August for sure.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the pics and route info. I love the 197 it is one of my favorite rides and I hope to get a chance to get further up the valley sometime in the future. Especially now that I know which roads to take.