Day 79 – Xincheng to Tienhsiang in Taroko NP

The day started rainy and overcast. The camera on my phone does not do justice to the scenery today, but at least it gives some perspective of what we saw. We started off from the coastal town Xincheng and the photo below shows that we were already riding into the cloulds at sea level.

As we progressed out of the town into the valley the weather started to clear giving a glimpse of what was to come.

Riding into the gorge felt pretty spectacular, but in hindsight it was plain compared to the rest of the day.

The ride up the valley follows the river and gets steeper as you progress. The road is very prone to rockfalls and as you ride you have to be careful not ride into any of the diverts the large rocks make. In the photo below it shows one section where the rock falls are so bad that they are currently building a new tunnel to avoid having to drive through that section.

We had our first break where the gorge walls narrow and become sheer cliffs over 300m high on both sides.

To view the gorge you have to go through tunnels that open directly into the cliff.

As you can see my phone camera doesn’t handle the contrasts of the tunnel and the gorge very well. The river below is about 100m down and the stripes of black and white are the marble cliff walls.

To travel up the gorge the engineers have chosen two techniques. Either tunnel or create a cut in. The photo below is a good example of both techniques.

We had a rare downhill and Patrick and I stopped to wait for Julie and Robert. I was hoping to get a good shot of them coming down the hill. After a few minutes my phone rang, can you believe we still had good mobile reception everywhere, and it was Julie saying she had a puncture. I had the tools in my panniers so we had to ride back up the one downhill.

So after the puncture is repaired it is take two.

At lunch we met another wunderbar German couple, Gunar and Linda, doing a cycle tour around Taiwan. Of course I got chatting and we swapped lots of stories while Julie and the boys got lunch.

After lunch we continued climbing in search of the hot spring.

The climb down to the hot springs was quite precarious and the toilet block on the map had been completely demolished. Just before the last climb down to the river/hot springs you have to cross the below suspension bridge.

After you cross the bridge you are met by a sign saying the hot springs are closed because of damage. However, the only thing preventing you going down is some red string and there are a bunch of people down at the river. I think the authorities want to discourage people from going down because it is dangerous, but don’t really want to stop them. If they wanted to stop them they could easily remove the bridge. Anyhow, being the adventurous types we decide to take the risk.

At some point a major flood has come through and stripped all the stairs and railings out and filled up the man made baths with silt. As you can see below you have to be careful descending to the river.

So as you can see below, the hot springs have now become wild. We helped construct the rock dam between the river and where the hot spring vents erupt, so as to prevent too much cold water mixing with the hot.

Gunar and Linda also found the hot springs and joined us in the make shift bath.

We spent hours there and I went from hot spring to hot spring (there were five that I found at different temperatures), while the boys and Julie prospected for gold.

We also had a couple of firsts in the evening. The first time camping a in a carpark and our first campfire. So an amazing day from start to finish.

Check out my ride on Strava:

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