The eighth installment on my "Cycling Around Taiwan" series. Day 8 would take me to Hualien from Chenggong. It was the most ordinary day of all. I was used to riding and the routine of riding at this stage and my legs were also fine: for the first time there was no real pain anywhere. It would be a day of spectacular scenery, beautiful weather and a nice ending in Hualien with a Thai food dinner. All in all it was a fairly"normal" day.
On Day 8 I rode from 115km from Chenggong to Hualien along the beautiful East Coast highway (Route 11). It was amazing and I enjoyed every moment of it.
Chenggong is not a great town to stay overnight, but my hotel was awesome. I opened the curtains and the sun was rising over the sea, the school outside the hotel was getting ready for the morning classes and the weather was looked great for riding. The hotel offered breakfast so I went to the dining room for the buffet breakfast and it was crowded with mainland Chinese tourists. All the food was already finished and every time it was refilled it vanished fairly quickly. I managed to get some food after a while but it was a bit irritating. Anyway, I started getting ready for the day and was sad to leave my beautiful room. I really had a great sleep and was feeling well and truly rested.
Taiwan's East Coast
As soon as I was back on the road the spectacular views were on offer. It is difficult to keep describing the beauty of the East coast of Taiwan: a rugged coastline lined with mountains and hills, wild beaches, beautiful and friendly people, good roads, beautiful green rice paddies, delicious food and just fantastic all around experiences for everyone and anyone. Most of the way from Chenggong up to Hualien, you do need to be careful of the crazy tour buses that speed along the Road 11 with scant regard for cyclists or anyone else on the road.
Thinking about Suhua
I should also admit that along this part of the road I was actually starting to think about the next day's ride along the Suhua highway. All the way around the island I was thinking about whether or not I should do it (and I was convinced I would do it) but along the way I had garnered many opinions and most people told me not to do it as it was too dangerous and that the truck drivers would kill me or knock me down the cliff. I didn't know what to think of the advice but I with each pedal North, I thought more and more that I would cycle from Hualien to Suao and not take the train.
Back on the road the sun was shining in the morning but clouds quickly came over and it became another day of excellent weather for riding. I just carried on heading North on Road 11 with nothing more to do than pedal and enjoy the views. A little way further up from Chenggong there was an interesting Chinese-style Christian cemetery with a huge pagoda in the background. When I first saw the pagoda at a distance I thought it was a temple of some sort but when I got close I could see crosses on the graves and realized what it was.
The first obvious destination after leaving Chenggong was the Tropic of Cancer marker but to get there I would need to ride North along Route 11 past a couple of small towns. There a lot of beautiful beaches along the way and the road North (as you can see before the picture) was pretty in pretty good condition with ample space for cyclists to ride. The small towns I passed through on the way to the tropic of cancer marker were Wushibi, Ningpu and Changbin. The road the whole way to the Tropic of Cancer marker had great views of the ocean and, as you can see from the pictures, it was perfect riding weather.
The Tropic of Cancer Marker
So since the first part of the morning I was heading towards the Tropic of Cancer marker as it seemed like a good mid-morning rally point. I can't remember what time I get there but it must have been late in the morning with the sun high in the sky and me sweating up a storm. As I was arriving near the marker I saw hordes of tour buses lined up next to the marker and a swarm of mainland Chinese tourists. There were many tourists and it was hard to find a place to rest. I did find some trees behind the structure where I could rest in the shade. I did get to chat with some of the tourists but mainland Chinese people and Taiwanese people are so different. I was uncomfortable speaking to them because I love Taiwanese people and the tourist I was speaking to wasn't that kind in his estimation of the Taiwanese. Anyway, after finishing up the conversation, I got a picture with my bike in front of the marker.
East Coast Rivers
When riding down the West coast the week before, most rivers crossed were incredibly wide. Some of them seemed to go on for more than 1km or more. On the East coast the rivers were always narrower. Some great examples of these smaller rivers could be seen on the East coast.
Shiti Fishing Port
One of the most famous views on the East Coast is the Shiti Fishing port, a few kilometers North of the Tropic of Cancer marker. The road towards Shiti Fishing Port is beautiful: on the left side are farmlands in the shadows of the East coast mountains and ahead of you the road narrows as the mountains on the left close in around the cyclist. The narrow roads causes concern because there is less space for you and the buses, but it is safe enough.
Shiti Fishing Port is a small town in the shadow of the mountains right on the coast. The road from Shiti northwards is narrow and beautiful. It was great to be there and see the view. It was stunning. It was great scenery and a special town and would be an awesome place to catch a seafood meal I assume. Next time I am on the East Coast I hope to stop there for a meal.
Riding along the road from Shiti in the shadow of the mountains was beautiful. When I got close to the end of the road I turned back and looked at southwards towards Shiti and the view was just amazing. When you see places like these in Taiwan you realize just how beautiful this little island is. It truly is, in some parts, a paradise.
Onwards to Hualien
Moving on towards Hualien from Shiti would take me past Fengbin, Jiqi, Shuilan and Yenliao. The road towards Hualien became increasingly beautiful and in some parts more rugged and narrow. I imagined the next day's ride through the Suhua highway would be similar in parts to this. I was loving riding on this part of the road. I got into Fengbin and stopped there for a quick lunch (delicious fried beef noodles) and then got back on the bike and carried on towards Hualien. It was lovely riding next to the sea and the mountains. There were also some awesome rice paddies along the side of the road that were right next to cliffs that dropped straight into the ocean. It was stunning. I was thinking how lucky I had been with the weather the past two days as it was cooling off now and, although rain threatened, it didn't come at all and I had a dry ride all the way to Hualien
Along the road there were also plenty of other things to enjoy such as interesting buildings and there were some water buffalo on the side of the road too having a snack. And of course, the views remained spectacular throughout.
Up the Mountain
Just before Hualien there is a single significant climb into a mountain. I wasn't expecting it and quickly tired as I was riding up the mountain. As I was going up I started to think to myself that this would be a test for the next day's ride along the Suhua highway. It was going to be tough for sure and this climb was indeed a great test. The climb was only around 228m and near the top was a great place to stop, get a drink and enjoy the amazing view and, since the place was too small for buses, there were no tourists near there. The stopping point was actually near the top but it was close enough and great place to enjoy the late afternoon.
After leaving the rest stop I got to the top of the hill and looked forward to the downhill. At the top of the hill was a bridge crossing a stunning gorge and, for the first time ever I saw some wild monkeys jumping around in the trees (no picture sorry). The view of the gorge was beautiful and even the views of the ocean from the top of the hill were amazing. When I got to the top I new there was going to be a great downhill ride ahead of me and it was great not to use my legs for a bit. I also got to pass the first of many tunnels I would pass the next day.
Arriving in Hualien
After getting to the bottom of the hill I could see Hualien in the distance. I still had some way to go but knew I was nearly there and I was excited to arrive. Along the way I passed some temples and eventually, after getting into Hualien itself, I got to the end of Road 11, which I had been on since before Taidong the day before. I got into Hualien and found a hotel for NTD1,000 a night. They even let me put my bike in the room and made my life easy by giving me a first floor room. When in Hualien I met an old friend of mine, Vicky, and had a great Thai dinner and finished the evening with coffee at 85C.
I got back to the hotel fairly early as I had a big day ahead of me the following day. I was going to ride Suhua highway and needed to wake up early in the morning so I could hit most of the tunnels before the traffic built up later in the morning. I went to bed a little earlier knowing this. I also learned that the ride I did from Taitung to Hualien was going to be a two day return race over the following weekend, that would be about 180km or so. Anyway, I was looking forward to the ride over Suhua the next day but I will admit I was nervous when I went to sleep. I was nervous but also tired so I slept well all through the night.
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