Monday, February 26, 2018

Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 15: Yuli To Hualien - Of Faults, Markers & Dadafu

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Cycling Taiwan 2017 Day 15: Yuli To Hualien - Of  Faults, Markers & Dadafu
Taiwan Day 15: Saturday, 28th October - Yuli to Hualien
This is part of cycling tour around Taiwan, From Yuli (玉里鎮) To Hualien (花蓮市):
Yuli (玉里鎮)>Tectonic Plate Marker (欧亚板块与菲律宾海板块交界处)>Donglitiemayi Station (東里鐵馬驛站)>Ruisui Tropic of Cancer Marker (北回歸線標誌公園)>Danongdafu (大農大富平地森林園區)>Guangfu (光復鄉)>by TRA train>Hualien (花蓮市).
Cycling Distance: 70.24 km.     Train Ride Distance: 43.20 km.     Total Distance: 113.44 km.
Level: Hard
Time : 7:30am to 7:00pm
Time Taken : 11 hrs. 30 mins. (including train ride, waiting for train; visiting parks, stops for breakfast, lunch, coffee & tea breaks, and many photo opps).

This is page 14 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D14 Yuli              |              Go to Other Days        |         Go to D16 Hualien 2 >

Route Recommendations :
1. Traffic Directions!
     The Taiwan (台湾) is left-hand drive, so cycle on the right. Same thing applies when crossing the road, take note of the direction in which traffic is approaching from!

2. Route & Traffic Conditions  
    The route is includes was fairly flat but include two climbs, a steep one near the Ruisui Tropic of Cancer Marker and a moderate but continuous slope from Ruisui to the Danongdafu Park. Click here to download a PDF guide on Cycling Around Taiwan.

3. Weather
    At Hualien County (花蓮縣), the daytime weather was fairly warm, averaging at 27°C and a high of 31°Cwith partly overcast skies. Evening temperatures averaged at 24°C at night. Wind speed was averaged 18kph with gusts up to 26kph.
    It is always prudent to check the weather for the next day so as to know what to expect and be prepared for it. Useful weather forecast sites for the Taiwan are the Taiwan Central Weather Bureau and AccuWeather. For more detailed weather, including cloud cover and wind speed, use Weatherspark and Ventusky.

4. Places of Interest
Yuli-Yufu Bikeway (玉富自行車道) (Start Point GPS: 23.32374, 121.31847).
Tectonic Plate Marker (欧亚板块与菲律宾海板块交界处) (GPS: 23.32117, 121.33035) at Yuli.
- Old defunct Donglitiemayi Station (東里鐵馬驛站) (GPS: 23.27056, 121.30733).
Dongsheng Tea Store R&R Area (東昇茶行(GPS: 23.44437, 121.35218) at Ruisui (瑞穗鄉).
- Ruisui Tropic of Cancer Marker Park (北回歸線標誌公園) (GPS: 23.46573, 121.3574).
- Green Railway Hongyexi Bridge (紅葉溪橋) (GPS: 23.47541, 121.35753) over the Xiuguluan River (秀姑巒溪).
Danongdafu Forest Park (大農大富平地森林園區) (GPS: 23.61641, 121.4162).

5. Food
- Breakfast: Dimsum at Hui Hong Soy Milk (惠香豆漿) (GPS: 23.33128, 121.31296) in Yuli.
- Lunch: Noodles & green tea mochi meatballs at 綠茶肉圓 Shop (GPS: 23.49796, 121.37742in Ruisui (瑞穗鄉).
- Afternoon Coffee at 蟻窩咖啡 Cafe (GPS: 23.61527, 121.41503) in Danongdafu Forest Park (大農大富平地森林園區).
- Dinner: Milk Fish Soup Rice Set at 新站虱目魚專賣店 shop (GPS: 23.99131, 121.60298) in Hualien.

6. Accommodations
Two nights in Hualien (花蓮市) at  Chantai Hotel (阡台大飯店) (GPS: 23.99139, 121.60279) three 2-pax rooms at NTD1,000 per room per night.
Address: 970, Taiwan, Hualien County, Hualien City, 國聯一路83-1號.
Tel: +886 3 833 0121

7. Travelling By Trains And Bringing Bikes Onto Trains In Taiwan
    Folding bicycle are allowed onto most trains (express, local and metro trains) but must be bagged before entering the platform, and only unbagged after leaving the platform. Unbagged folding bikes (and full-sized bikes) will usually face a charge equivalent to 50% of the fare. Do note that at smaller stations there are not lifts or escalators for getting to the platforms, so do expect some carrying across bridges or underpasses. A few stations do provide bike-way for pushing across the tracks, do look for signages indicating these; but use of them is subject to the station master's discretion on safety.
    For more details on charges on bringing bikes onto the different trains (local or express trains) click here for the Taiwan Railway Administration Guide On Carriage of Bicycles.
   Click here for a link to the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) website for booking train routes and fares; and also to see which railway line totally does not allow bicycles on board.
    Click here for guidelines on bring folidng bikes onto the Taipei Metro.
    Train services are quite regular between larger towns, but at smaller towns services may not be that regular (perhaps like every two or three hours). Do check at the respective stations for the train schedules or at this TRA booking site link.
    The train fare from Guangfu (光復鄉) to Hualien (花蓮市) was NTD63.

8. Communicating with Each Other
   When travelling in a group it's important to be able to communicate with each other, especially if one got lost from the rest.
    At Taipei Taoyuan Airport Terminal One, just after exiting the into the arrival hall, there are several booths on the left selling pre-paid phone SIM cards. We got pre-paid 4G prepaid SIM cards from Chung Hwa as they had good coverage even in remote areas. These cost NTD1,000 for a 30-day plan that includes unlimited data and NTD$430 credit for texts or calls. These can also be booked on line.
    Those without sim card could try using free Wifi that are sometimes available at the airport, some bigger train stations or hotels; do note that these free wifi may not be stable and registration could be required.

9. Communicating with Locals
    Most Taiwanese (台湾人) speaks Mandarin (官话) and Hokkien (福建話), and very few speak English. So it would be good to have a person in the team who can converse in Mandarin or Hokkien.
    When communicating with locals is a problem, this could be partly overcome by using translation apps like Google Translate. Do install this app into your phone and before you leave on your tour do some basic translation as it will be saved onto a list of recent translations.
    Look out for the tourist information booths at airports, railway stations or bus stations, the guides manning the booths speak good English and do give good tips on where to visit, directions, train and bus schedules.

10. Service Your Bicycles & Carry Tools and Spares
    Before leaving on your tour, it will be good to service your bike and bring along some spares like tubes, puncture patches, brake pads and the relevant tools.
_________________________________________________________________________
PRELUDE

A day earlier, after taking on the east coast of Taiwan, we had swung away from the coastal route to ride in the interior, along the quieter Huadong Valley (花東縱谷, East Rift Valley). It was a good detour as we got to enjoy the beautiful scenery at Guanshan (關山鎮) and Chishang. Today we continue riding in this valley; what lies ahead we were uncertain  as we had not planned riding on this route, but we did get a tip from a friend and had a marker destination in mind to help us along. And what's this cartoonish name Dadafu? Well it stands for Danongdafu. This old man has shorten it so that it is easier to remember, my apologies!

THE RIDE

RouteYuli (玉里鎮)>Tectonic Plate Marker (欧亚板块与菲律宾海板块交界处)>Donglitiemayi Station (東里鐵馬驛站)>Ruisui Tropic of Cancer Marker (北回歸線標誌公園)>Danongdafu (大農大富平地森林園區)>Guangfu (光復鄉)>by TRA train>Hualien (花蓮市).
Cycling Distance: 70.24 km.      Train Ride Distance: 43.20 km.     Total Distance: 113.44 km.
Level: Hard.
The route heads goes through the interior plains of the scenic Huadong Valley (花東縱谷, East Rift Valley) and then goes uphill before Ruisui (瑞穗鄉). It includes a train rides (from Guangfu (光復鄉) to Hualien (花蓮市). It is doable fully on bicycles but then there will be less time to enjoy several destinations en-route.

We started the day with breakfast at Hui Hong Soy Milk. It's a shop that is sells good soy milk drinks but does also serve a good range of dim sum and other local pastries. We had egg rolls, pancakes, some unique paus and also little dragon dumplings (小籠包, Xiaolongbao). And of course we did not miss they soy bean milk! It was quite a heavy breakfast as we were uncertain where or when our next meal will be along our route which was not in our original schedule. But uncertainty is sometimes good during cycling tours as sometimes some wonderful surprises may crop up.... AND it did!
But surprises can be good and bad as we did find out later.

After doing a around at the local market we headed for the Yufu Bikeway (玉富自行車道), finding it somewhere after the fire station (actually, the bike path starts near the southern end of the Yuli Train Station. This bike path runs along an old unused railway line that connected Yuli to Dongli. It is all nicely paved up and is now a dedicated cycling lane which forms a branch of the Antong Bike Path. It runs through the old iron railway bridge spanning across the Xiuguluan_River. The bridge also sits on the tectonic fault line where the European Tectonic plate and the Philippines Sea Tectonic plate meets. That's me standing atop the fault line with on foot on each of the plates.... shivering as my imagination ran wild that the plates would separate wider apart with me standing there..... see, I don't have long legs 😰 and NO, I did not pee in my pants out of fear 😆.

The Yufu Bikeway is pleasant place to cycle along; this dedicated bike path runs through beautiful padi fields on one side and a light forest on the other. And being on a former rail line, it is quite flat.

Along the way were remnants of a railway era gone by - former landing platforms now converted to shady sitting areas for people to rest and appreciate the beautiful surrounding. Although it's a Saturday, the path was fairly deserted; it was only once in a while that we saw others cycling by, acknowledging us with friendly waves.

After about eight kilometers the Yufu Bikeway ends at the former Donglitiemayi Station (東里鐵馬驛站). This defunct station is now an art center for local artists and there's a nice cafe too. Here we met Mr Chang, a retired local architect, a self-appointed tour guide who happily related to us the history of his town. We also met David, a cycling tourer from Sydney; the smart chap was also doing a round Taiwan tour but doing a anti-clockwise route so as to avoid the strong headwinds of the east coast. The headwinds that we had earlier faced were now tailwinds for him, pushing him and easing his ride.
In the above photo David is in yellow; the lady wearing denims is a local cyclist we met along the bike path. Such is the camaraderie of cycling, it helps making friends easily.

After our pleasantries, suddenly Ann, our walking compass, perked up and said "Hey! aren't we suppose to heading northwards instead of south?". We were all having so much fun cycling that we had not noticed missing a turn right at the start! So it was a back-tracking of ten kilometers, but none of us complained as we got to enjoy the beautiful scenery again. So if you are cycling in Yuli, make the same mistake that we did and get to enjoy the Yufu Bikeway 😊.
Back at the missed turning, we took a right to head for Highway 30 and then a left turn into Highway 113. Most of our route were on shared lanes, but at certain stretches were short dedicated bike lanes that passed by beautiful padi fields.

At one of the fields, a harvester was slowly reaping the padi stalks while in front egrets just stood calmly, unperturbed by the roar of the machine. Nature has got used to mankind.

It was smooth sailing on flat roads until four kilometers after the Taipingxi Bridge, then our suffering began.... the road started meandering and sloping upwards at the Wuhe Terrace hills. Sweat.... man... sweat! No Pain, No Gain!

We were not the only ones having difficulty here, a caravan of Austin Minis came roaring loudly, their engines straining to overcome the slope.

 The was one plus point, the hills of Wuhe Terrace are conducive for tea planting and we rode pass acres of these tea plantations. The only difference is that instead of the bright green tea shrubs we were used to seeing at Cameron Highlands, the shrubs here were dark green. Apparently Chinese teas uses older tea leaves instead of the young buds of English tea.
The plantations here also produce "Honey Peach Black Tea". The tea farmers in line with the Green Policy had stopped using pesticides and had discovered that after drying, tea leaves that had been eaten by little green leaf cicadas had a special honey aroma.

The slopes and the hotter weather got to us, seeing a nice rest area at the Dongsheng Tea Store R&R Area we quickly made a short stop for rest and to cool down in the air-conditioned shops that sells... tea.. what else?
At the front of the R&R complex was a statue of a large crane, not surprising as Wuhe in Chinese means dancing crane. And the tea shops here sells the Dancing Cranes Brand.

After another three kilometers of huffing and puffing uphill, we reached the Ruisui Tropic of Cancer Marker Park. A week ago we were at the Chiayi Tropic of Cancer Monument and there was a mark difference between the Ruisui and Chiayi markers. While the Chiayi marker was at a highly developed built up area, the one at Ruisui was more like a park set amidst green hills. A floor slab with etched with dragons sits in front of a sundial. The Ruisui Tropic of Cancer Monument lies behind them, shooting up skywards with eight arch arms at its base; this monument itself is a giant sundial!

A giant tea kettle reminds us that the region is famous for tea. In fact at the entrance to the park are rows of tea stalls where one can sit and calmly sip the Wuhe Tea.

Set up in the hills, at the Ruisui Monument the is a very good view of the valley below. Other than at Chiayi, there is another Tropic of Cancer Marker at Fengbin which is nearby but along the coastal area.

Far below we saw a long green bridge.... it's re-kindling my love affair with Taiwan colourful bridges. This one is the Green Railway Hongyexi Bridge which spans over the Xiuguluan River. We would be cycling pass it shortly once we got down the slopes.

Other than the love for bridges we seemed to have developed a love for frames after see the iconic one at Mr. Brown Avenue in Chishang; even this simple bare one at the junction leading to Ruisui Town got us all excited.

1:30pm - After a morning adventure of fault lines, a lucky misdirection to a nice cycling path, punishing hills and a green marker park; we reached the next major town at Ruisui. Time to look for eats. While we roaming around the town center looking for a good shop; Lady Luck again seems to be on our side and directed us to an interesting shop, the 綠茶肉圓 Shop that sells Green Tea Mochi Meatballs. After having savored the minced meat mochi dumplings at Mamatan Dumpling Shop in Nanzhou, we are eager to try more; and these ones here were made with rice dough kneaded with green tea, how quaint!
Other than these meatballs, the shop also sells nice noodles, fried rice and some other local dishes.

Here's my buddies with Mr. Ho, the operator of the shop. Being familiar with his locality he recommended us to go to Dadafu Forest Park .... er... I mean the Danongdafu Forest Park. We were already of half a mind to go there as our Singaporean pal Brenda had also mentioned that she liked the place; and with Ho stating that Danongdafu was just fifteen kilometers away and that the route there was flat, our minds were made up.

As our plans were still fluid, off we went then towards Danongdafu; heading east to Route 193, crossing the Fuyuan River before heading northwards again. This area here is populated by the Amis aborigine tribe and we passed by this community hall for the local aborigines, it's design bearing tribal motifs.

Route 193 looked like a major thoroughfare on Google maps, but on the ground it was a narrow road, just wide enough for two cars passing each other. It did take us through an area that was sparsely populated, filled with some orchards. The thing is this road slopes upwards at a 6% gradient continuously for fifteen kilometers, with hardly and down hill sections.

The unrelenting uphill slope got to us... and at certain stretches it felt more than the 6% gradient. Soon we had to humbly get down and push... and push... and push, reminding ourselves frequently that it was just for fifteen kilometers. With each tired, cussing pant, some of us were wondering whether Mr. Ho had lied to us about this being a flat road. He wasn't lying to us, from a motorcyclist point of view this road would seem flat... but to a cyclist a continuous slope for fifteen kilometers was altogether a different matter.

That's us at a "We Love Taiwan" sign in Danongdafu.
4:15pm - At the left turn junction from Route 193 a road leads towards Danongdafu; it's a very recognisable junction as there is a small pocket park with large colorful frames there (see the top-most photo). Fortunately, this one kilometer road slopes down all the way and soon we were all smiles again, in the mood to enjoy the forest park. This park was set in a flat open thirty acres plain, which made me wonder why it's called a forest park. But Danongdafu was more than this small plain, it encompasses the surrounding forest which has trails for the adventurous to hike along. The small plain was just the core of the whole park.

A view of the park from the 蟻窩咖啡 Cafe, where we has some coffee.

Interesting artwork dots various spots of the park, like this one portraying aborigines made from flower pots with logs for their heads.... seems like these three log-heads were at loggerheads! (Get the pun?)

"Help! Help! Giant yellow ants are attacking me" Goofy (my bike) shouted.

On a serious not, at one corner of the park were this mini-tribal totems, each carved and painted with pictures telling a story.

After about forty five minute we left the park. It is a beautiful, serene place not to be missed; I just love it.

Our original plan was to spend three nights at this leg of our tour and one night at Hualien. Wanting more time in Hualien, we decided to skip one night at the valley and have two nights in Hualien instead. At Guangfu we boarded the 5:34 train for a forty over kilometer, one hour plus train ride to Hualien. An interesting side note: announcements in the train were also made in the Amis aborigine language, for example Hualien is called Kalingko.

We promptly found a hotel (the Chantai Hotel), checked in, and quickly made a beeline for the nearby 新站虱目魚專賣店 shop. The signature dish of this shop is their Milkfish soup which was served with a bowl of white rice topped with pork soy stew. The soup was cooked such that it is lightly flavored thus retaining most of the tastiness in the fish itself. The pork stew came on strongly giving a good balance to the light soup.
(..... read more of our Milk Fish Dinner)

"Nga'ayho dadaya"
(that's "Good Evening" in the Amis aborigine language)

(For more photos of the Day 15, Click Here)
This is page 14 of a 19-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D14 Yuli              |              Go to Other Days        |         Go to D16 Hualien 2 >

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