Day 70 – Sun Moon Lake to Douliu City

Downhill day. Coming out from the mountains back to the west coast. We started the day slowly and had ice teas beside the lake before leaving. 

Paddy decided to give a selfie a go as we rode along the lake. 

Last glimpse of the Sun Moon Lake before heading out to the highway. Sad to leave such a breath taking location, but the tour must go on. 

Big bIke that welcomes you to the area, but we say goodbye. 

The most spectacular view of the day. That is the valley we were about to ride down. 

Afternoon break eating strawberries bought from the shop in the background that were grown in the field on the left.

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Day 69 – Sun Moon Lake

The visitors centre claims that the route around Sun Moon Lake is in the top ten rides in the world. It is certainly a spectacular ride and has many different elements. From riding through bustling  towns then into dense jungle and then through fertile farm land and past impressive temples. Most of the time you have the emerald blue lake to look at when look to the side. The path is also varied, ranging from highway and quiet windy road to many types of cycle paths. 

Also half the lake has a steep cliff around it so the road is forced hundreds of metres above the lake,which leads to some impressive climbs/views and hairpin downhills. At one point the road can’t stay on the side of the lake because it is too steep, so a tunnel has been built through the side of the mountain. 

Going through the tunnel is like going through a portal to another world. Instead of a lake and dense forrest you are now riding through a small rural village surrounded by market gardens. The area is like a punch bowl, flat in the middle, but surrounded by mountains. 

To get back to the lake requires another climb, which is thankfully cut short by another pair of tunnels that punch though the side of the mountain. You are then transported back to the lake world and met with a massive post modern visitors centre. From here you are met with amazing views, purpose built bike paths and viewing structures. To finish the circuit, it is a short ride back to our accommodation. 

One of the rare times Patrick is willing to pose for a photo. 

Taken from the Xuanzang Temple. The highest point the circuit goes. 

The tunnels beckon for a new world back to the Sun Moon Lake. 

View from the Xiangshan Visitor Center.

Observation deck that disconcertingly wobbles.

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Day 68 – Yuchi Township to Sun Moon Lake

Only a short ride today, but still a very busy day. The short ride was needed after such an epic day yesterday. Julie has a good description of our day, so I won’t go into all the details again. 

Camping on the school athletics track.

In the Principal’s Office having tea.

Dance class. Julie and I participated in the warm-up, which was a cross between yoga and plates to timing.

Break away group in the Tour de Taiwan, with Robert and Patrick with school students watching. If you look closely they are at the front wheels. If you have a high resolution image and look extra closely you can see Julie and I in the mirror reflection. 

Last climb before the lake. 

Classic view of Sun Moon Lake. 

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The last place we stayed at was a school. It was great fun. I had lots of things to do and it was all free to stay there in our tent.

When the school kids arrived way packed up our tent and the principal got us to play with them. One of the things that we played was a Diabolo. It was awesome.

When we were about to leave one of the teachers come up to me and gave me a Diabolo. So I got all the teachers to sign it. It is a lot if fun.

Beyblades 6!

Taiwan have a lot of cool stuff and the occasional Beyblade witch is good. One time Patrick and I got heavy launchers they are awesome. But our stadium is getting damaged and is cracking.

One time we got the heavy launchers the shop owner was very happy.

P.S. the ones under the launcher and real and the ones above the launcher are fake.


Making new friends 

Waking up this morning on the running track of Wucheng Elementary School, I did not expect to have such a event packed day. After packing up our camp gear and bikes we were invited to have tea with the principal of the school.  Black tea originates from this area of Taiwan, so it is a huge part of their culture.  The boys were then invited to do morning fitness with the kids.  It involed churling, hoolahooping and soccer.  

We were then told that the Tour de Taiwan was passing through Yuchi this morning.  We all headed down to the main street to cheer the cyclists on. 

There was around 100 cyclist competing. It was great to see.  

We then all walked back to the school for a group photo. 

The boys really enjoyed playing for most of the morning and we only had a short up hill (8km). To get to our hotel on Sun Moon Lake. 

We were planning on cycling around the lake today but have decided to do that tomorrow as we are all tired from yesterday’s epic ride. As you can see from the photo, Sun Moon Lake is really beautiful.  Tomorrow should be lovely. 

Day 67 – Caotun Township to Yuchi Township

Epic day today. The kms don’t tell the story unless you look at the elevation we climbed. We climbed over 1,145m in the 35kms we rode, so although we rode greater than 20kms less than yesterday, we rode for 2 hours longer. Check out the Strava elevation data for all the gory detail.

We started the day early because we camped in the school grounds and students start arriving at school at 7am for a 7:30am start. Robert was keen that we would be ready to leave before the students started to arrive, so he was extra organised and helpful this morning. We briefly met the Principal and said our good byes and thank yous to Sherry and were on the road by 7:15am. Our first night’s sleep in a school was a great experience.

As mentioned previously, the infrastructure and roads in Taiwan is amazing. In the background you can see an expressway that runs parallel to the road we are cycling. In that section it is about 100m above the ground. It means that the road we cycle is quiet with mainly local traffic and motorcycles and bikes have a lane to ourselves.

We were all in good spirits this morning after a good nights sleep, so to my surprise the consensus was to take the “short cut” over the mountain range rather than follow the river. It surprised me a little after the experience yesterday, but I am always keen for a challenge and adventure. The photo below is our first rest after climbing about 200m, in the background you can faintly see the expressway.

The road was steep to start with but got steeper as we went.

At about 400m Patrick spotted a beautiful stream with a waterfall and pool about 30m straight down from the below barricade.

It took quite some effort to climb down, but the boys were keen, so we took a quick dip in the pool. The water was very cold and had small fish swimming around.

We thought we had got to the top of the mountain at 700m, before we could descend, but it turned out to be a saddle and we still had another 150m of hard going to get to the top.  The last one km of the ascent was so steep we had to push the bikes.

We got to the top and  there was no clear path down the other side, as you can see from what is behind Julie and the boys. Rather than risk taking the bikes and gear down the other side without a usable path I decided to scout out the way while everybody else had lunch.

Amazingly enough there was a concrete path down, but it had been overgrown with weeds. After scouting out the path for about 500m I was confident we could get down, because there was some evidence that the road was being used, so I returned to the others. Even after setting down the other side Julie was incredulous that there was a path and for the first one km down it was so steep we had to wheel the bikes with the breaks almost fully on.

By the time we got to the bottom we had only done about 15km and still had another 20kms to go. Although the ride was going to be up stream we thought that we only had to climb another 250m. Little did we know that we had another mountain to climb and descend. In hindsight, the ride would have been tough enough without the “short cut” and I think the others will be even more caution to try mountain overpass “short cuts” in Taiwan in the future.
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After cycling most of the day yesterday we arrived in a small town with no parks. All of the open land was filled with rice paddies. We ended up cycling past the local elementary school. We stopped in and the deputy principal was incredibly welcoming. We ended up camping  in a school last night. We had our best nights sleep so far in the tent.

This morning we headed off early as the school opened at 7am.  Robert was also very keen to get on the road as the girls at the school were literally screaming when they saw him. I think they had him confused with Justin Bieber again.

We knew we were cycling uphill all day today but we had planned out a route that followed a river so the gradient was not too bad. In a moment of utter stupidity we decided as a group to go via a short cut. The short cut made the overall trip 10km shorter but we ended up climbing 800 meters in 1.6 km. That is 1 meter climb for every 2 meters travelled. As you can imagine we ended up having to dismount and push. It was not fun.

The road also deteriorated to a point that it was a goat track. Check out the stairs on the building in the photo. I don’t think it has been used in a while.

After 2 and a half hours we reached the top of the mountain. Who would build a road over the top of a mountain, literally.

We did find a pool of water in a gorge that the boys could not go past. They climbed down the gorge for a quick swim. I can not post the photo of them swimming as someone was naked. (not me for once).

After an enormous day we climbed over 1000 meters and finally arrived at another elementary school. They are happy for us to stay but they want us to talk to the kids in the morning. Robert is not happy. Photo to come.


Day 66 – Da’an District to Caotun Township

As promised by the weather forecast, we were back to glorious weather. Woke up before sunrise to see the sun come up over the mountain range to the east. The orange in the left middle ground is our tent and the big pillar in the background behind it is the base of a wind turbine.

As you can see we camped on the coast in the middle of a wind farm.

Our ride took us inland towards Sun Moon Lake. I decided to give MapsMe a go as our navigation, but after two large hills that didn’t show in the profile we gave up on it and went back to Google Maps. In the below photo after riding up a couple of hundred metres in altitude nobody wanted to pose for a photo, so was forced to take a selfie.

Taiwan is still very attached to rice growing. The below picture was taken close to the large city of Taichung and is interspersed with apartment blocks.

To avoid the mountainous terrain we decided to ride up the Dajia River. Google Maps took us through some amazing rice paddies on thin concrete paths. Some sections were so thin that only allowed one way bike traffic. Lucky the locals were knowledgeable and friendly and patiently waited for us to ride through.

Once we got to 55kms we started looking for a spot to set up camp. The best option was a elementary (primary) school, so we turned up at about 4:30pm and asked a couple of teachers if we could camp. They referred us to the school admin lady (Sherry), who rang the Principal to get the okay. Once Sherry had made sure we were legit, she was extremely inviting, generous and helpful. Amongst the numerous things she did for us was organise warm showers, dinner, basketballs and even contact with a Principal at a school near Sun Moon Lake. Below is a picture with Sherry and her two children who are the same age as our boys.

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