Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Days of Rain, Nights of Mango Ice and Beer

Morning out of Ruisui

Four days of riding east and west: Duona and Fangliao, and Ruisui and Hualien. Rain it did, but we had an excellent time medicating with mango ice and beer after the long rides. Come below the READ MORE line for the pics and discussion...

RIDE NOTES DAY 1: On Day 1 we took the HSR down to Tainan and followed the 39 south to the 28. The 28 goes through the moonscape, the badlands in southern Taiwan. We followed that to Meinung and then got on the 181 to Gaoshu. It was probably shorter to take the 28 to the 27 and certainly prettier, but I got married to the 181 since our original plan was to sleep in Gaoshu (instead, we reserved a room in Duona). The 181 south of Meinung is a truck route whose sole virtue is flatness. It would be nice if not for the trucks. The Kaohsiung 132 up to Duona is gorgeous and not difficult at all, but save something for the final incline before Duona: it is a long 10% grade. Duona, an aboriginal village, is 15 kms from Dajin at the base of the road. Highly recommended for its lovely scenery. We stayed at the Alashi Hostel for $400 -- bring towels, very basic.

On the HSR this signed admonishes passengers to be quiet, and not to let others know their family's business.

Dom powers out of the HSR. A strong, steady rider with a quiet sense of humor, Dom makes fantastic company.

Your eggs come from here.

Stopping for breakfast.

Mantou, with prices.

The sign advertizes "the nation's youngest female beekeepers".

On the 28, entering the moonscape.

There are some nice views on the 28.

Leaving Cishan on the way to Meinung. That valley is lovely.

Dom rolls down the 181.

Heading out of Gaoshu after a stop for rest and food. The signage is typical Taiwan signage incompetence: it tells you that Dajin is just ahead, but unless you already know the geography, you don't know that Dajin is where the road is for the Maolin Butterfly Area -- a major tourist destination, and you don't know whether it is east or west. Really tired of Taiwan's road signage.

A tractor carries a load. The skies threatened to unleash heck all day, but never actually did.

Passing time by the sacred tree.

Old houses dot the area.

Dom imagines all the eggplant parmagiana he could make with these.

Riding the 27 to Dajin.

Incredibly, at the base of the 132, there is a French bakery run by local aborigines. I got a fantastic baguette. We got coffee and then were treated to some cheese bread that was magnificent. Heaven.

The gate to butterfly world. And Duona.

The road follows the river.

It gradually rises, affording excellent views over the mountains and the river gorge.

Dom susses out a turn.

An eagle was resting on a cable above one of the valleys.


Dom poses. It was an easy climb thus far, and very rewarding.

The suspension bridge is accessible from a side road and obviates the need to descend to the bridge and then climb back out. But we took the white bridge.

Just before Duona.

Duona town.

Dom and I headed for a walk, the dog from our B and B in the lead.

The town is filled with fascinating lanes.

The main drag.

As you enter town there are several restaurants all selling this stuff.

Dom and I made many new friends.

There's a set of stairways just past the community center that take you out to excellent views.

Like this view.

Some kind of sacrificial site, now overgrown with weeds.

Some good views of the town from the stairway/walkway.

Kids at play.

Offered without comment.

Stopped at this new place, had the first mango slushies they ever made.

Then it was sitting on the stairs of the community center, drinking beer and watching the goings-on. The dog does not approve.

Sunday morning roll out.

Looking back on Duona.

It was so magnificently clear that Dom could see the towers of Kaohsiung city in the distance from the top of the road.

Every morning should be like this.

We stopped at a roadside breakfast place. One of the women there was 80. She'd had a year of Japanese education, then had to learn Mandarin under the KMT. Things had obviously been tough for her.

At the bottom the bakery wasn't open yet. We stopped at nearby temple to kill time, and the monk gave us some delicious mangoes and a bottle of water each. "Blessed on Buddha's altar!" she said of the water.

On day 2 we rolled down the 185 to Fangliao to take the train over to Taitung and spend the night there. The 185 is an excellent road, flat, and agricultural, with the mountains coming right down to it. The day started brilliantly....

...but by the time we reached the town of Shuimen, bad weather was setting in...

We stopped in Wanjin to see the Basilica there, but it started pouring. Ducking out of the rain, we ate our mangos and washed our hands in the rain. The mangos were fantastic.

We took the train at 3:50 -- incredibly, TRA only runs two trains in the afternoon. On a Sunday. We had hurried down to Fangliao, and at high speed I ran into a puddle that contained a massive pothole that gave me two flats and damaged my rear wheel. The wheel needed replacing, but we continued to ride anyway. In Taitung we stayed at the hotel above. 1400 for a double room, with breakfast, and centrally located. We then went out for some of the best food ever at one of the fry places on Guangming road.

We began day 3 by climbing the 197 out of Taitung over the coastal range. I've taken this road many times, it is one of my favorites. I stopped at a DIY shop on the way out of town and bought some work gloves, which I use as riding gloves. I got the pack of 12 pairs, extracted two for my own use, then handed it to an old woman who had come up to the counter. "Here you go!" "Really?" "Yes," I said gallantly. "We must be kind to beautiful women." She cackled at that and then said "You want to come to the beautiful woman's house to play?"

A mineral spring on the 197.

A lovely road with excellent views and shady areas.

We crossed the bridge into Luye (the old suspension bridge is next to it), then headed up the hideous 9 to Guanshan for lunch. In Guanshan we picked up the Taitung 5 and went to the Hwy 20, which swings around the river gorge and drops you at Nanxing Road. That's the beginning of the Zhuofu Industry Road (map here), the correct way to do the Rift Valley. The road is not marked, but there is a row of identical trees on one side, and giant electric towers on the other

It poured the whole way to Yuli but it was not too cold and the ride was quite pleasant once you were thoroughly soaked. We had a tailwind and the rode trends downhill towards Yuli, meaning that we spent many kilometers just rolling along. This was the only picture I took, on the 193 coming out of Yuli to Ruisui at the end of the day.

In the morning we left Ruisui for Hualien city fortified by beer and Japanese food and mango ice the day before. It looked like it would be a gorgeous day. We had tix for the 1:28 Puyuma back to Taichung....

The 193 out of Ruisui is one of the island's nicest rides, hilly enough to be a workout but not obnoxiously so, and pretty along its whole length. Doing it from south is much easier than doing it from the north.

Dogs chillin' everywhere on the 193.

A rest stop....

After 40 kms it turned into a bit of a slog as we pushed to get to Hualien.

The 193 is a great favorite of local riding clubs, and we passed several groups of riders.

Alas, some groups are more skilled than others at avoiding pileups.

At last we reached the train station, shipped our bikes, and relaxed in the comfort of the Puyuma, right? Pro tip: don't get a table seat on the Puyuma. Zero leg room.
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