We were all resplendent in bespoke jerseys today. Thanks to Pai. In addition to spending a lot of time and effort sorting out every detail of our time in Taiwan, he gave each of us a commemorative jersey. Such a nice thing of him to do.
Thursday dawned bright and sunny. We started earlier than we did yesterday. By 7.00am we were getting ready.
By 7.20am we were lined up for the first group photograph of the day.
Our route today took us northeast out of Taitung across the Beinan River and along the coast for the first 35km.
Our first stop was at the Jialulan Recreation Area. Not even 10km under or wheels and we were already stopping for photographs. You must admit that the views are stunning.
The site was formerly the waste soil dumping area when the Taiwanese Air Force was constructing the Jhihhang air base. It has since been converted into an art and recreation area.
This is one of the kinetic sculptures at Jialulan. Look closely and you can spot a fighter jet on training maneuvers.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity to photobomb TH and Voon Kiat.
It was probably karma that I then had a puncture 7km up the road. Ah Dar was on the case like a shot. Both he and Xiao Ger were worth their weight in gold on this trip.
We had decided to stop every 30km or so to top up bottles etc. The rural township of Donghe was 35km from where we had started. And there was, no surprise, a 7-Eleven.
It turns out that Donghe is the site of many international surfing competitions. Which explains the statue outside the 7-Eleven.
Donghe marked the point where we crossed the bridge over the Mawuku River and turned left to start the long climb along Route 23, over the mountain to Fuli.
This is the profile of that climb. It is 45km from Donghe to Fuli, with more than 1,100 metres of elevation.
Chai yo! (Go go go!)
It is a long climb with a number of false summits. In other words, the road tips downward and you start to pick up speed. But only until the next corner reveals the road heading upwards again.
It is a long climb.
Pai at one of those false summits. You can see the road he was on in the distance behind his bicycle, and the hairpin turn on the left of the photograph. From the road in the distance, where Pai is standing looks like the summit. It isn’t!
Pai was right when he warned us to fill our bottles and have enough to eat before starting the climb. There is virtually nothing between Donghe and Fuli. Except for the beautiful view.
And these two cool tunnels.
I stopped at the Hualien County Police Bureau on the other side of the climb to ask where the closest 7-Eleven was. The answer was “In Fuli.” 5km away.
Those 5km were through paddy fields. Of which there were more to come.
The7-Eleven in Fuli had a seating area at the back of the store, with enough tables and chairs for fifteen or so people. I camped there with my Super Supau and a couple of pineapple yogurts while waiting for the others to get to Fuli.
Ralf, Voon Kiat, and Lay were the next to arrive in Fuli.
It started raining while we regrouped in Fuli. We had a very wet 9km ride from Fuli to the “green road of paradise,” which runs through vast rice paddy fields set against a mountain backdrop. In recent years, the road has become better known as “Mr Brown Avenue / Mr Brown Road / Mr Brown Boulevard” after the area was used in a commercial for Mr. Brown Coffee.
It was still raining when we got to the green road. This pavilion overlooking the paddy fields provided cover while we ate our boxed lunches, courtesy of Xiao Ger and Ah Dar.
A closer look at the rice paddies revealed clusters of salmon coloured eggs attached to the rice stalks. Laid by little snails like this one.
The rain stopped while we were eating and the sun peeked out over the mountains.
We joined lots of tourists riding along and taking photographs on the “green road of paradise.”
EVA Air filmed a commercial here in 2013. In the commercial, a traveller relaxes beneath a tree, quietly savouring a free cup of tea. To capture the timeless spirit of that popular advertising campaign, EVA Air invited contemporary artist Yang Mao-lin to create a work of art representative of the compelling scene.
We stayed off Route 9 on our way out of Chinshang township. Riding instead for 25km along a quiet country road and then a bike path.
The pace was calm and relaxed for 6km. Suddenly the quiet air was disrupted by a shout of “LAI LAI LAI!” (COME COME COME!) It was TH as he sprinted past everyone.
That LAI LAI LAI shout is the proverbial red flag to a bull to the R@SKLs. A few always rise to the challenge and race off in hot pursuit. This bit of fun went on for the next 15km.
We crossed Route 9 at the junction with Route 30. 2.5km later we were at our destination for the night.
We washed off our bikes and parked them in the inner courtyard. Then we took showers ourselves before slipping into the hot pools.
The An-Tong Hotel hot springs are natural, with a faint but distinct sulphur smell. The pool in the rear is hotter than the one in the front. We made it a rule that you had to sit in the hotter pool before you could cool off with a cold beer in the warm pool.
The hotel has a bar. Which we felt duty-bound to use.
I don’t think we bought anything to drink there though. We had brought quite a stash with us.
Rehydration continued during dinner.
And on throughout the karaoke session which followed. I didn’t know you could get karaoke lyrics on your mobile phone.
We had been noisy in the restaurant. We were noisier in this private room. Voon Kiat, Kiam Woon, and Luanne sought some quiet on the balcony.
I believe the partying went on for some time. And there might have been some hot pool skinny dipping as well. You know what they say. “What happened in An-Tong . . . .”