The seventh installment on my "Cycling Around Taiwan" series. Day 7 was the first time I woke up on the East coast on this trip. The little town of Dawu early in the morning is awesome. It is very quiet and the rain had stopped. The weather from this point would prove to be amazing all the way home: not too hot, not too cold and no rain. Perfect weather for riding. The day started with a lot of anticipation: the plan was to ride to Taidong, catch the ferry to Orchard Island, and then spend a day or two riding around Orchard Island and then coming back onto the East coast. Turns out I missed the boat by 10 minutes so I carried on riding up the East Coast to Chenggong were I spent the night.
Day 7 saw me riding 110km along the East Coast. I rode like a bat out of hell for the first 60km (trying to make the ferry) and then 50km slowly along the East Coast to Chenggong.
Early Morning Dawu
Since I needed to get to Taidong to get the ferry to Orchard Island, I woke up fairly early and was on the road by 7:00am, later than I would have liked, but still gave me enough time, I thought, to get to the Ferry terminal. Dawu in the morning is deserted: there were not a lot of people on the street or much traffic. Dawu is a small coastal town with a river slicing the river in two. Before breakfast I took a short walk to the river to take a look and, as many rivers in Taiwan, there were graders next to the water to lift the soil out. I found a small breakfast shop down the road from the hotel so went there for a quick meal and something to drink. Dawu is a small coastal town with a river slicing the river in two.
Northwards to Jinlun
After breakfast I was packed and on the road by 7:00am. The weather was perfect. The rain from the previous day had gone and there were nice clouds overhead that made it the perfect weather for riding. The problem was that my legs were really stiff and struggled to ride at any significant speed in the beginning. The other problem about making good time was the spectacular scenery: everything was just so picturesque (the picture at the top of this post was taken just outside Dawu) and I really wanted to soak it all in and enjoy. However, this was the only day I was trying to make time, that was really tough with aching muscles.
Just out of Dawu I found the first of the quasi-tunnels I would have to ride through along the East coast (as well as many real tunnels). Actually I am not sure what to call them but they are tunnel built on open roads to protect vehicles from falling rocks and soil. The tunnels on the east coast are scary to ride through, the quasi tunnels not so much. There were also a lot of tour buses on the East coast, most of them carrying Chinese tourists, and this made some parts of the ride up North slightly unpleasant. Actually, I felt these buses were the most dangerous on the road.
It goes without saying that no matter where I was, the views remained awesome the whole way: tremendous views of the sea and the mountains, and it only got better the further North we went. The great part about the coast south of Taidong is the complete lack of development. The further North one goes, the more construction and buildings one sees.
The ride North was going pretty well. I got to Jinlun, another small, picturesque town with hot-springs, on the East coast and took a short water break. Jinlun was the initial target for Day 6 but because of the weather and the difficulty on the road I had to overnight in Dawu. Jinlun did look like an awesome place to camp out and I think it would be a great place to try the next time I do ride down the East coast. Coming out of Jinlun is an awesome railway line that hugs the coast line and is the only life line really between the South East Coast and the North of Taiwan. It is amazing to think how isolated these places really are and how dependent they are on the road and the railway. The distances in Taiwan are not massive, but you still get the sense of isolation in these small places.
Heading to Taidong
So from Jinlun I started riding to Taidong at a fair speed. The road out of Jinlun was beautiful. Lots of vegetation everywhere and still fairly desolate. There was a lot of fantastic views along the road between Jinlun and the small town of Taimali. Taimali was not a particularly special town, the one thing I did see that interested me was a large pile of firewood. Of course, the picturesque North-bound highway railway was always close to the road. After Taimali I continued to ride as fast as possible to Taitung to try to get to the ferry terminal on time.
Along the East coast highway, shortly before arriving in Taidong, a rider must make a choice between the coastal road (Road 11) or the East Rift Valley (Road 9). I chose to stay on the east coast road because I wanted to get to Taitung and I also wanted to do a perfect circuit of Taiwan as close to the sea as possible. I turned to go along Road 11, which I would follow all the way to Hualien (still 172km away) the next day, and continued to blast my way into Taitung. The outskirts of Taitung city are amazing: beautiful rice paddies and awesome mountains in the background. Certainly a beautiful city on the East Coast. I raced passed the rice paddies, through Taitung and charged to Fugang, the town North of Taitung from where the ferry for Orchard Island leaves. I got there at 11:40am, the boat had left at 11:30am.
Disappointment in Fugang
I got to Fugang, 6km North of Taitung, at 11:40am, 10 minutes after the Orchard Island ferry had left. The next one was due to leave in two days. I was desperately disappointed. The bad weather that slowed me down and delayed my start the day before had finally bitten me. If I had spent the night 30km/40km North of Dawu I would have made it. There was nothing to do but continue heading North and forget any side trip to Orchard Island, but my legs were toast and I was tired so I decided to stay hangout in Fenggang and have an early lunch.
Fugang is a fishing town and therefore there are a lot of seafood restaurants. The ones next to the Ferry Ticket office were crowded with tourists that were coming back fro Green Island and Orchard Island. The food looked delicious so I decided to settle down in one of the restaurants and have a bite. The lady who ran the restaurant was awesome. She saw I was hot and tired and gave me a prime seat in front of the air-conditioner, secured my bike and made sure I had a glass of ice cold water before I even ordered any food.
North to Chenggong - East Coast Scenic Area
I spent way too long in Fugang. To be honest, I was disappointed at having missed the ferry but there was nothing really left to do except head North along the Road 9 in the general direction of Hualien. I developed a new general plan of riding to Fengbin but that was a pipe dream as I was riding really slowly and just enjoying the road. As soon as I left Fugang I was immediately welcomed to the East Coast Scenic Area by a large sign post. It should be said the sign kept its promise and there were some awesome views all the way up the East Coast to Hualien. I took a lot of pictures but won't bore you with all of them.
The one thing about the East Coast that was brilliant was that large parts up the coast had clearly marked cycling paths which made riding pretty safe all the way up. That doesn't mean you are not exposed to buses and trucks, but at least, as a cyclist, you believe you have your own space.
The first designated scenic spot on the East Coast was a place called Jialulan. When I arrived there it there were a lot of tour buses carrying mainland Chinese tourists. I stopped to get my own picture there and a little boy just came up to the bike and started smashing my Garmin GPS computer. The father just stood there and watched him. I was quite amazed and really happy too that the Garmin product is designed for rugged use. I politely told the kid to stop bashing my GPS but I really felt like bashing the fahter's head. Anyway, this was going to be the norm for the designated tourist viewing sights along the East coast. If the parking space was big enough there would be a bunch of buses and tourists. I stopped anyway to take some pictures and enjoy the view. I even carried my bike down on to the rocks below, which was quite a challenge considering how heavy it was.
After leaving Jialulan I continued heading north along the East Coast and continue to enjoy the great views. The road along the East coast was actually really good and made for some smooth riding. The road on the left side had a lot of vegetation and on the right side beautiful views of the ocean. At this point I was coasting along the road at a slow pace and just enjoying the views. After Jiululan I didn't stop at any of the other scenic viewing points on that day. On a bicycle its easy to stop anywhere on the road and enjoy the views.
The road passed through a quaint little town called Dulan (on the way to Donghe). Dulan has made a real effort to keep their town beautiful and it looked like a good place to spend the night but then I would need to ride too far the next day to get to Hualien so I decided to ride past Dulan and head further North. When I arrived in Dulan I stopped for a drink at the 7-11 and just sat outside and enjoyed passing some time watching the locals come and go. As I was heading out of Dulan I noticed there was a handmade bread bakery on the fringe of the town. I wish I had known about that earlier as I would have taken my break there. I like bread and good bread is hard to come by. I just decided to ride on and skip out on the bread but certainly something to remember next time I am in the area
When in Dulan I snapped a picture (above) of a bicycle station that offers cyclists water, air for their tires and some even offer grease for dry chains. Actually this station is not unique to Dulan but are scattered all the way up the East Coast and some police stations even offer this service. The stations are really easy to use: of course it is all self service but at least it is possible to find a place to take care of things as needed. As it turns out I didn't need to use them but it was great knowing that they were there in case I did. In this way the government have made a solid commitment to cyclists to ensure they have facilities targeted at them to help them.
Ending the Day in Chenggong
After Dulan I carried on heading North to Chenggong. To be honest I didn't really know where I was going to sleep and just decided to stop when it started to get dark. The road all the way up was beautiful. I passed through Donghe and Duli on the way North. It is hard to describe how beautiful the road was and pictures certainly do not do it justice either. The weather, as I said, was perfect and as the sun started to set behind the mountains on the left, it became even more comfortable to ride. The road North was flat and generally followed the coast line. It was beautiful.
It was starting to get late and I started to look for a place to overnight. It didn't look like the most attractive town but I rode into the town looking for a hotel. I asked some locals and they directed me to a really fancy hotel near the main road. I went there and it was around NTD2,000 per night for a room. I decided to check in irrespective of the cost (I was within budget because I didn't buy the ferry ticket). The room was super comfortable, had a nice bathtube and good view of the ocean. I settled down in the room and then went out for some dinner - nice beef noodles. After that I went back to the hotel and took a much needed rest. I laughed when I thought to myself that the first 60km took me 4 hours to ride. The last 40km took me about 5 hours to ride. I was really riding slowly from Taitung. Ah well, it was the end of another good day and I was now really looking forward to getting to Hualien and taking on the monster that is the Suhua Highway.
Other Cycling Round Taiwan Installments
- Around Taiwan - Final Overview
- Day 01 - Taipei ~ Hsinchu
- Day 02 - Hsinchu ~ Taichung
- Day 03 - Taichung ~ Budai
- Day 04 - Budai ~ Kaohsiung
- Day 05 - Kaohsiung ~ Kenting
- Day 06 - Kenting ~ Dawu
- Day 07 - Dawu ~ Chenggong
- Day 08 - Chenggong ~ Hualien
- Day 09 - Hualien ~ Suao (Suhua Highway)
- Day 10 - Suao ~ Ilan
- Day 11 - Ilan ~ Keelung
- Day 12 - Keelung ~ Taipei