Sometimes you have that moment, where you think to yourself “What the Fuck was I thinking?”
This was that moment.
Day three of a bike trip from my home in Hualien to Kenting. I had been biking up the mountain switchbacks for hours with no end in sight. Now I was tired, out of water, and just plain miserable.
The plan was simple enough, ride my bike from Hualien down to the Kenting area. My now ex-girlfriend would take the train down and meet me in Hengchun. I would be easy, I would grab 193 by Dongman Night Market, then onto 11 Bing. That will take me to 9. I would then follow 9 out of Hualien County, past Taitung, into Pingtung County, and over the mountains. Then I would take 26 down to Hengchun. I had no plans about hotels as I wanted to try to get as far as I could each day. The Agoda app had a cool map setting where you can see what hotels are where. This let me just look at the map and see what hotels are down the road.
I left Hualien in the morning on my bike, and a packed bag. It took a little adjusting to get my backpack to sit comfortably and I found that trying to go down onto the drops was not a good idea with a large bag. The day was a little cold and I wanted to keep riding to keep myself warm.
I spent most of the day on 9 in the East Rift Valley. The rift valley is a section of land between the coastal mountains ( Haian Range)and central mountains (Chungyang range). Imagine a green valley that stretched on forever with mountains on both sides. It’s protected, fertile farmland, and is extremely beautiful. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip, with relatively flat riding and great views. I saw lots of other riders at this point and lots of people waving.
In the afternoon I came to Ruisui. Ruisui is a minor tourist area. There are hot springs, tea plantations, dairy farms (They are uncommon in Taiwan) bike trails, and scenic walks. They also have some interesting statues along the bike trail that follows 9.
Personally one of the things I find the most interesting in Ruisui is
Wuhe Terrace. The Tropic of Cancer runs through it and there is a large monument that is pictured to the left. The Terrace also has prehistoric standing stones and tea plantations.
At this point, I was getting quite cold. There was a nice lady with a tea shop at the top who gave me a cup of hot tea and asked me about where I had biked from and where I was going.
Not far away to the West are the Saoba Stone Pillars. The Wuhe Terrace was the home turf of the Ami so they have multiple legends to explain the existence of the pillars.
In actuality, the stone pillars date back to the stone age. Like Stone Hedge in the UK, we do not know how and why they were put there. My guess is that the proximity to the Tropic of Cancer has something to do with it.
Now let us talk about my favorite drink TEA!!!!!!!!!!
Wuhu Terrace is covered in tea fields. When the Japanese controlled the island they used the terrace for growing coffee. Over time it changed to tea production. The Tea hear is famous for haveing a honey flavor because they let cicadas eat it. If you don’t like bugs or have a weak stomach don’t think about why that changes the flavor. An unexpected upside to not using pesticides.
The crane statues are a great eye grabber and there are multiple places on the terrace to buy tea. Ruisui was fun, and I plan to do a future post about Ruisui in depth.
After feeling cold and getting occasional rain yesterday it was great to have a warm sunny day. I spent all of today either on 9, or on a smaller road or bike trail that followed it.
In the morning I left Hualien County and arrived in Taitung County. I stopped for breakfast and to take this picture in Chihshang. Chihshang is famous for its high-quality rice. They grow yellow flowers called rapeseed flower during the offseason [December and January] to use as a natural fertilizer. I still saw lots of bike riders today. Many of them were in large groups and had on bike gear.
So one again the helmetless foreigner with a big backpack got lots of looks.
Continuing south I passed small towns and lots of fields. One very nice section had a bike trail by the road that led to a nice view of the valley where they were doing a controlled burn. Luyu township was a beautiful mix of hills and valleys.
I came to a temple next to a 400-year-old tree. During World War II there was a Japanese hospital somewhere in the area. Now it is a quiet and pristine place to stop on the road
I pushed on further south and the mountains got closer together. Eventually, I came out of the East Rift Valley and came to Taitung.
I stopped for lunch and continued south. I did not see much of Taitung city other than the road but I hope to go back and see more of the city some day.
The easy part was over. Now came the mountains, switchbacks, and a lot of construction. During my trip, they were building bridges so the road no longer had to follow the mountain side and use so many switchbacks. I also found out how hard it is to take panorama photos around moving cars.
With darkness coming I stopped for the night in Jinlun, part of Taimali township. I stayed at San He Inn a wicked nice place. The husband is from Japan and the wife is from Taiwan and they both speak good English. It is a popular place to stop for people on bike trips, you can see my lovely face and bike if you go look at there Agoda page.
I took some time to walk around Jinlun and find food. It looks like a nice little area and has some hot springs up in the hills.
I knew I was in striking distance. I also knew that the mountains stood between me and Hengchun.
The first part was not bad. Some gentle slopes and nice views of the ocean. I only saw one other person riding a bike, during this part of the trip.
Eventually, 9 curved inland and I knew it was getting close to time for the part I was dreading. I stopped at what I felt must be the last convenience store before the real mountains. Somehow I was right. The men’s room had a nice glassless window view.
Then it was up the fucking mountains
I really should have trained for the mountains more. At one point I could see where I had been an hour before
It was on the mountain that I ran into a group of bicyclist again. They were also slogging up the mountain, and we finally reached the top.
AT FUCKING LAST
I laughed like a mad man has I started down the mountains. Briefly, I thought about how I should someday buy a helmet but that flew out my head as the exhilaration of the speed made me giddy.
I did not stop until I came to the intersection of 9 and 26. Turning left I started south down 26. The rest of the ride felt easy after the mountains. I was now on the west side of Taiwan.
I stopped at the first convenience store I could find to get new water and a snack. Soon I was back to riding along the ocean enjoying the breeze. It took me a few more hours to get all the way to Hengchun.
I checked into my hotel Mumu Inn, and then went to find dinner. After a quick search, I found the Night Market. Leading to me eating chicken hearts, pig intestines, and noodles. Mumu Inn as a great place to stay. The proprietor was always offering me tomatoes or tea. The room was spacious and the bed comfortable. What more can you ask for after a long day?
Look for future posts on what we did after arriving.