The east coast has been brilliant. We spent a while riding along the East Rift Valley, with the central mountains on one side and the coastal mountains on the other. We cycled through rice paddies and tiny villages, and everything was very picturesque.
The East Rift Valley took us into Hualien, and we had quite a wet afternoon seeing town and checking out the Night Market, enjoying bao burgers, salt pork wraps and green onion pancakes.
Then we reached the Taroko National Park, turned inland and started climbing up Taroko Gorge. It was incredible, the sides of the gorge towered over us, and the road hugged the rock face, winding along the river and through tunnels blasted in the rock. Everything was so epic to look at. We climbed 450m to Tianxian, and camped for the night in a carpark, so we could hike the Baiyang Trail. This short hike took us through 8 pitch black tunnels to Baiyang waterfall and the ‘water curtain’, a tunnel along a stream with water gushing down from the roof. Very cool.
The next day we had an early start as we planned to climb up to Wuling Pass (3252 m), with just over 3000m climbing in 65km. First we climbed through more of the gorge, but soon got up into the forests and finally to the bamboo fields at the top. It was a long day in the saddle, with amazing views and the road getting steeper and steeper as we ascended. The last 4km had standstill traffic, from tourists trying to reach the top, which we had to weave around as we struggled up the 8% climb. But getting to the top was definitely worth it, despite it being pretty cold. We dropped back down to around 2000m, and camped in the garden of a fruit seller. She gave us some veg for our noodles and some strict instructions on how to cook!
In the morning the sunrise over the sea of clouds and surrounding mountains was really beautiful. It was chilly as we descended to Lishan, but we had a few climbs as we wound through more national parks, and saw some more monkeys! The rain started and we dropped into a new valley full of farms and fields. We had reached Northern Taiwan, and Lishan, where it rains 300 days of the year. Luckily the clouds and mist make the hills look very atmospheric. We stayed a night with Wen Wei and Joyee (W.S), who live in a prison complex. Wen Wei works as a prison guard and is an artist. We had a great evening with them (and their super cute dog) drinking and trying loads of different Taiwanese snacks.
Jim’s words – Rift, Sugar, Wrap, Tunnel, Gruelling, Agriculture and Prison.