Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Taitung 23/40 and the East Coast: Scott and Nicklas ride over Taiwan

A few months ago, these fine gentlemen from Australia, Scott on the left and Nicklas on the right, got in touch with me via email. Could I suggest some routes for a bike trip? You betcha. In fact, I told them I'd come along. Thus, for the first time in months, I did an overnight bike trip. I brought along my friend Edouard Roquette, some of whose images I have shamelessly stolen for this post, since they are way better than mine. Click on READ MORE for more....

We met up at the Taipei Train station under the eyes of Chirle Brown for a four day ride on the east coast.

In Hualien we picked up the bikes I had reserved for them at Giant. These bikes were NT1500 a day for the first two days, and 200 a day after that. They performed well, and had a good set of gears for climbing and tough tires. But bring padded shorts, the seats were like rocks.

Our first day's ride was Hualien to Taroko and back. We took the 193 up the coast to the bridge where the 193 ends, then at the bridge switched to Minxiang/Minzhi road to the 8. That road passes behind the massive and abusive Asia Cement complex, built on aboriginal land, with good views of how huge it really is. The route kept us off the odious, heavily trafficked 9. We followed the bike path along the beach for a while, and I grabbed this shot.

Ed collected this shot of us crossing the bridge.

Yep. The aboriginal village at the turn onto Minxiang Road has a croquet pitch.

Ed shot the gang on Minxiang Road.

Approaching Taroko on the 8, the weather didn't look too good.

We stopped for the obligatory pictures and fatty pork. I didn't have any. I was nervous and really worried about whether I'd be able to complete the ride, the first real climbing I had done since July and the first long trip since my surgery.

Taroko is appallingly beautiful in any weather.

Nicklas models for the camera

Stopping for a break in the gorge. Thanks for the pic, Ed!

Ed grabbed this shot of me stopping in front of the massive landslide that knocked out the road a few years ago. The landslide is still active and the government has opted to build a bridge to bypass it.

The new bridge is visible to the left, still under construction.

Up we went. Our goal was Tianxiang and lunch.

The old parallel road to the Swallow's Grotto is now closed.

Taroko is amazing, narrowing as you go in...

Taking a break, courtesy of Ed.

Ed looking ruggedly handsome.

Suddenly, the sun came out.

This necessitated ice cream.

The footpath above the road. What a lovely day it turned into.

We rolled back to Hualien on the 193 and stopped at the beach for coconut juice and naps.

A local musician provides noise, because there is no such thing as a silent public space in Taiwan.

Ed snapped us taking the bike path back around 48 Head.

The next day, Sunday, we headed down the 193 to Ruisui and the hot springs district of Antong just west of the town. Here I am getting the obligatory selfie with park sign.

The weather worsened over the trip, but the 193 is enjoyable in any weather.

A local farm.

Then occurred one of those moments you treasure. As we were fixing a flat, a station wagon pulled up and stopped to disgorge an elementary school girls soccer team. When they found out Ed was both tall and French, they took a million pictures with him. Here is one from Ed's camera. Not wanting to have my image enshrined in some elementary school girl's Facebook with bunny ears and cat whiskers, I avoided fame.

Stopping just before Ruisui: Ed, Nicklas, me, and Scott. A bit out of focus, but then so was the trip.

At the hot spring hotel I sat down with some of the staff, who had a gargantuan pile of pomelos. Not wanting to be gifted with several and having to carry them the next day, I manfully took one for the team and ate them all. Interesting people to talk to, one was a Han married to a local Truku aborigine.

The area west of the train station is undergoing "development" which includes the provision of hideous monstronsities like this.

Monday morning we crossed the bridge out of Ruisui back to get to the Hualien 64 (Ruiguang Industry Road), one of the prettier roads on the island and a favorite of mine. Our goal for the day was Chenggong. Here a worker cleans an irrigation ditch.

Already shaping up to be a lovely day.

The 64 runs along the Shiougulan River, where the rafts go out of Ruisui. My previous post on this one.

Ed grabbed this lovely shot of the river valley as you leave Ruisui behind.

From the Ruisui side it is easier. It opens with a long climb, but the grade is not difficult. Nicklas stops to grab a picture.

My Aussie friends admire the view.

The river gorge is... gorge-ous.

The road falling down the side of the gorge.

We stopped in Chimei for drinks at the little shop there.

The area around Chimei is hilly and green.

Scott enjoys the ride.

Rafts out of Ruisui.

At Dagangkou we turned onto the 11 and headed for Chenggong. We stopped for juice at the Tropic Cancer Marker. You read that correctly. After so many years, they still can't get the sign right.

Walking around at night, we found this fish cleaning operation.

Tuesday dawned bright. Our goal was Donghe...

ROUTE NOTES: The other roads on this four day ride I've done many times before, but I'd been saving the 31 kilometers of the Dong23/40 between Taiyuan in Donghe and the 197. Finally I decided to do it this time with Scott and Nicklas. It proved extraordinarily difficult. The first 10.5 kms to the Lungshan Temple are God's Own Country, green, farmed, hilly, and framed by mountain peaks. It couldn't be more beautiful. The road had been recently paved and the surface was immaculate. After the 11 km mark, however, it became a cracked and broken concrete surface through a lovely desolation without buildings, farms, or cars. And it went up. On and on and on we climbed, as if the mountain would never run out. Bring good tires, snacks, and extra water for this road, and some spare tubes. Because of the length of the north to south climb, even though it is steeper initially, I expect this road is easier to do from south to north.

We got on the highway 23 to Donghe, and the morning was magnificent.

Lovely hills.

Taiyuan in the distance.

Nicklas, with a ready grin and powerful legs, grabs a selfie with Taiyuan in the background.

At the beginning of the Dong 23 in Taiyuan in Donghe township.

The opening 10 kms of the Dong 23 are bucolic heaven, green hills and farms.

A pleasure to ride through, with a gentle upward grade.

We were all enjoying ourselves. Little did we know what was to come...

Ed takes a break.

Farms and the rolling road.

The beautiful valley of the Dong 23.

The first peak at 10.5 kms.

Poor Ed. I got him up at 5:30, an act he will be many years forgiving me for. Now he is realizing that he has been riding for three hours and its not even 9:00.

We took a snack and water break at the 11 km mark, just before the Lungshan Temple...

The temple is to the left. Strongly advise that if you do this from north to south refill your water bottles here.

After this came 20 kms of broken desolate concrete. And climbing, always climbing, ever climbing.

Nicklas and Scott round a curve. The mountains were lovely, but I could hear Ed cursing me all morning, making him get up at 5:30 AM to climb 1600 meters of hills before lunch. If suffering builds character, Ed is now a noble fellow indeed.

There's an overlook, but it is too vegetated to see anything.

Finally. Descending.

Clouds over the Taitung basin.

Always time for a selfie.

Although the Dong 23/40 has met the 197, there's no sign, no directions to the next town. You'd never know where you were (right takes you downhill to Luye, left downhill to Taitung). Taiwan is too often signed on a need-to-know basis.

Past the overlook.....

...about 1:00 we stopped at the horse farm...

....which served pizza.

Thus fortified, we headed south a couple of kilometers to Huanshan Road and the Liji Bridge -- look for the sign for the road to Liji off to the right. That road descends to the bridge, an easy end to a tough ride. Then Taitung station, and returning the bikes to Giant. Four days, 280 kms, roughly 6500 meters of climbing, including a daunting 1600 meters of climbing the last day. Great fun, and I am looking forward to the next time Scott and Nicklas come to Taiwan.

Hope to see you on my next ride.
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Ed en Vadrouille said...

You ride like a champ, Michael. I couldn't tell you were not yet at ease from your surgery.
Aside, maybe, perhaps, from your intense gaseous exchanges at night.

Many thanks for organising everything, and taking my 5:30AM bitchyness so kindly.
I would have never dared riding the 64 since I imagined it as really steep, when it was a thing of beauty really worth the ride.

Now for the blogging trivia, the adventure didn't exactly finish here for Nick, Scott, and myself as we had a bit of an emergency going on afterward:

Matt Stone said...

Great pics. But what is that multi-coloured architectural monstrosity west of the station.... A block of apartments?

Michael Turton said...

It's some kind of hotel/hot springs hotel/apartment complex.