Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Stunning Chiayi 166

What loveliness awaits?
Rode the Chiayi 166, with my friends Drew and Iris, and we were stunned by its amazing beauty. Click on Read More for a taste.... UPDATE: Drew's great post.

RIDE NOTES: We took the train down to Chibei station, just before Chiayi Station, and picked up the 166 heading east on the north side of Chiayi city. We followed that up to over 1000 meters. It was a long slog, but the grade is easy, never exceeding 8%. The views are amazing once you leave the two lane. Indeed, it becomes lovelier as you climb. Just past Jiaoliping Station on the Alishan line we turned onto a nameless road that runs past Shuisheliao Station. Both Drew and I thought that was a great idea from the map, and we were both so incredibly wrong. You've just climbed for a couple of hours, descended, and then suddenly you're climbing again, 8-10% grades that are a total slog. Finally, after 4.5 kms and climbing another 350 meters, you reach the Shuisheliao Station and get the downhill. Yay! Nope, it becomes everything dangerous about riding a bike, all in one road: narrow, cracked and broken pavement, the surface coated in leaf and stick debris, sand, gravel, landslide rocks, and moss, and brutally steep. My hands were aching from braking the whole way down, had to stop to let them rest and let the rims cool several times. Once or twice came close to skidding and falling. Then the double whammy: it deposits you at the base of that nasty climb on the 159A, which we took back to Chiayi city. Friends, do not let your friends do that road past Shuisheliao station. I think we climbed at least 1800 meters on the day, in total. Wonderful day (Google map link to area).

Drew looking resolute. Long climb ahead!

Iris, fun as always.

Lots of interesting old earth god temples on this ride.

When the road narrows to one lane, things get lovely. Here Iris packs her jacket in the rising heat.

The river, lined with beehives.

Because it is a high quality road, the 166 is actually fairly heavily trafficked. But the views.... so awesome. Well worth tolerating the flow of vehicles even on a major holiday.

Gorgeous scenery.

We stopped often to grab pictures.

As you rise, you enter the tea districts of the Alishan area.

Iris checks out the view.

Many older houses on this road.

Plenty of betel nut trees with the tea...

The switchbacks keep the grade very doable. There were no grades over 8% and most of the time, they were only 6%.

The road snakes up.

No matter which way you looked, the views were amazing.

You cross the Alishan Railway on its way to Jiaoliping Station.

Once you pass the Starlight Forest B and B, you're in tea farms and the land is utterly lovely. There are plenty of connections in this area, so next time we will stay up here instead of returning the same day, already plotting another ride up here. This was the high point of the ride.

Iris at work.

We stopped at a small stand to eat. Here are greens, squash, and Buddha Hand, the light green fruit.

Excellent. Needed it for the coming hills.

An obviously old temple next to the road just above Jiaoliping Station.

The nameless road to Shuisheliao Station. Seems pleasant enough. But the climb was difficult after the long climb up the 166.

Finally we reach Shuisheliao Station, as the fog and mist rolled in. We were happy, thinking the downhill was at hand. Alas, it was worse than the climb.

Iris descends. This turned out to be everything bad that a road surface could be. The concrete was cracked, sometimes in large pieces that shifted as you rolled over them. The surface was covered in moss, gravel, sand, and forest debris, and was slippery in six different ways. In places large rocks had rolled down from the slope. And it was incredibly steep -- in a couple of places I thought for sure I would skid and crash, yet if you let up the brakes a little, you immediately accelerated dangerously. Not recommended. Ever.

We followed this road down to the 159A, discovering to our chagrin that it dumps you out right below the nasty climb on the 159A. Everything was fogged in, so nothing was visible on one of the loveliest roads in Taiwan. Eventually, somehow, we returned to Chiayi. We finished the day by hopping in a taxi to the HSR. Not a terrible great distance, but at least 1800 meters of climbing left me exhausted.

Hope to see you on a ride soon. But not on this road.
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Anonymous said...

Wow, another great ride! A bike with a longer wheelbase and fatter tires would help to feel more stable on those tricky descents. Might be worth it to upgrade. On a previous post I think I noticed a riding buddy of yours with a Surley with s&s couplers. he could probably steer you in the right direction if you need help. I'd love to build/design/assemble a bike for you myself!


Chuck Clark said...

One of my favourite routes. But due to time constraints and family commitments, I've only ever made it to just past the turn that goes to Taishing (台興) and heading back down from 36 Turns on 162. Great climb with beautiful scenery and if you go up there on a day that's not a holiday, almost no traffic.