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THE R@SKLS in Taiwan: Day 4

Day 4 An Tong Hotspring Hotel Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

The plan for today had been a 125km ride from An-Tong to Hualien.  With 1,139 metres of elevation thrown in just for fun.

Pai modified that plan into something less ambitious.  We would instead drive part of the way and then ride.

While Xiao Ger adjusted bikes we all got suited up.

Day 4 Driver 2 TH Lim

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

Except for TH, who didn’t think it would be comfortable to drive for hours wearing bib shorts.

Day 4 An-Tong lobby Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

We left the An-Tong Hot Spring Hotel fairly late.  When we reached Hualien City 90km away it was time for lunch.  This is the front window display at our chosen restaurant.

Day 4 Lunch Selection

The R@SKLs can eat.  The dish at the top is the specialty of the house.  I’ll leave it to you to guess what it is.

Well-fed and happy!

Day 4 Lunch stop TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

The entrance to Taroko National Park is thirty minutes from Hualien City.  The Arch of Taroko at the Taroko Gorge marks the start of the climb up Wuling Mountain.  With 3,500 metres of vertical gain in less than 80km, it is one tough climb.

Day 4 Wuling Gate

The view up Taroko Gorge.

Day 4 Wuling Gorge

There are things to see on the ground as well.

Day 4 Sidewalk detail

We hopped back into our vans and drove to the coast.  10km later we were looking at this.

Day 4 Ocean View

Day 4 Cliffs

Amazing scenery.

There was one “must visit” destination for some of the R@SKLs.  The Kavalan distillery in Yuanshan.  Taiwan’s first whiskey maker.  As it turned out, the Kavalan distillery was a long 95km north.

There was a lot of traffic on Route 9.  The slow driving conditions were made worse by roadworks where only one lane was open, necessitating long waits for your turn through the one-way section.

Work was being done to shore up the rock faces on the land side of the road.  We were lucky to have been on that road on Friday.  There was a landslide the next day which closed the road.

We saw some touring cyclists earlier in the day.  They wouldn’t be on Route 9 north of Suhua Township.  The tunnels are so narrow that bicycles are not allowed.

Day 4 Touring Riders Ralf Hamberger

Photograph courtesy of Ralf Hamberger

Ah Dar stayed in good spirits while driving the van despite the slow going.

Day 4 Driver Mark

Photograph courtesy of Mark Lim

We were too late for the tour when we got to the Kavalan distillery.

Day 4 Kavalan Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

But not too late for a quick sample taste and to buy out half the distillery shop.  There were some overweight bags at the airport when it was time to leave Taiwan!

Long before we reached the distillery we had resigned ourselves to not riding on this day.  To his credit, TH wasn’t too smug about not wearing his cycling kit.

We decided to eat dinner near the distillery to avoid the Friday evening rush hour in Taipei.  Funnily enough, we were starving, despite just sitting in a van for most of the day.

Goose was the specialty of the restaurant we ate at.  I can assure you that we ate more than just goose.

Day 4 Goose Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Our first task after checking in at the Golden China Hotel in Taipei was to retrieve our bike cases from the hotel’s basement storage.  The bike cases had been delivered to the hotel direct from Taoyuan Airport.

Day 4 Cases

After a shower, the more energetic in the group went to the Shilin Night Market.  One of the largest and most popular night markets in Taiwan, especially when it comes to food.

Day 4 Night Market Aaron Au

Photograph courtesy of Aaron Au

I didn’t ask Heng Keng, Mark, Luanne, or Lay what they thought of the WOW Frog eggs!

Day 4 Night Market Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

 

THE R@SKLS in Taiwan: Day 3

Day 3 Jersey

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.

Day 3 Getting ready to roll Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

By 7.20am we were lined up for the first group photograph of the day.

Day 3 Ready to roll Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Our route today took us northeast out of Taitung across the Beinan River and along the coast for the first 35km.

Day 2 Route

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.

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Day 3 Sea view Lai Von Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Day 3 Sea View Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

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.

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I couldn’t resist the opportunity to photobomb TH and Voon Kiat.

Day 3 Photo bombing Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai 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.

Day 3 Flat TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

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.

Day 3 7-Eleven TH

Photograph courtesy of TH Lim

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.

Day 3 Elevation (1)

Profile courtesy of Veloviewer

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.

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It is a long climb.

Day 3 Mid-climb rst stop Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

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!

Day 3 Mid-climb Pai

Photograph courtesy of Pai Hsing C

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.

Day 3 Descent view Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

And these two cool tunnels.

Day 2 tunnel Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

Day 2 tunnel 2 Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

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.

Day 3 Cimbing Done Kenix

Photograph courtesy of Kenix Chiang

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.

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Ralf, Voon Kiat, and Lay were the next to arrive in Fuli.

Day 2 Fuil Luanne

Photograph courtesy of Luanne Sieh

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.

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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.

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We joined lots of tourists riding along and taking photographs on the “green road of paradise.”

Day 3 Paddy Fields Lee Heng Keng

Photograph courtesy of Lee Heng Keng

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.

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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.

Day 3 Last sction Pai

Photograph courtesy of Pai Hsing C

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.

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We washed off our bikes and parked them in the inner courtyard.  Then we took showers ourselves before slipping into the hot pools.

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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.

Day 3 Hot pool cold beer

The hotel has a bar.  Which we felt duty-bound to use.

Day 3 Pre-dinner Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

I don’t think we bought anything to drink there though.  We had brought quite a stash with us.

Day 3 Rehydration Simon

Photograph courtesy of Simon Soo Hu

Rehydration continued during dinner.

Day 3 dinner Lai Voon Kiat

Photograph courtesy of Lai Voon Kiat

Day 3 Dinner Arthur

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

And on throughout the karaoke session which followed.  I didn’t know you could get karaoke lyrics on your mobile phone.

Day 3 Karaoke Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

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.

Day 3 Balcony Arthur Ang

Photograph courtesy of Arthur Ang

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 . . . .”