Highway 7 North - Two Gs on a Taiwan Trip - CycleBlaze

February 15, 2019

Highway 7 North

Yilan train station and back home

The hotel is a bit of a rabbit warren and g and I wander around looking for the dining room only to find ourselves standing on a large, shaded balcony that overlooks a landscape that stretches away far from Lishan. 

The sky is clear and a distant row of forested peaks are bathed in sunshine and stand in contrast to what's above them. A long slither of cloud hovers above a distant hilltop temple and below us are the ugly, metal-clad appendages to the homes and businesses that form the small town. The air is fresh and view is great and we find it strange that the balcony isn't really used.

Panorama from the hotel in Lishan
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I don't eat much of the fare on offer and once we get our bikes out of the garage we pop across the road to a shop and buy a few drinks and snacks.

 Vendors have set up fruit stalls on the roadside and I ask the shopkeeper about prices and he escorts me over and one lady quotes NT$100 for a big pear and it seems about right, so I have it and also get two apples only a bit bigger than golf balls for ten dollars each - roughly 30 US cents. The vendor explains that the weather has affected the size of them this harvest.

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Lishan translates to pear mountain.

I have my down jacket on as it's cool in the shade. We're still pretty high even though we dropped for 10km late yesterday.

The police station reminds me that the highway going west to the city of Taichung has been, according to news reports I've seen, opened to buses. Apparently the police have barriers in place to control the traffic -  because the route from Lishan got totally destroyed when a huge earthquake hit Taiwan back in 1999. 

I wonder if it's now possible to ride west and initially the officer says yes, we can go to Taichung. however, he points in the opposite direction and I explain we want to go down Highway 8. It takes a while for him to say we have to go back to route 14 and over the pass at Wuling, which is the highest road in Taiwan. No way.

One option is to ride east down Taroko Gorge - a must-do for any cycle tourists - but we've done it a few times. Conversely, neither of us has ever cycled north on Highway 7, so that's what we opt to do.

I have my down jacket on for the 10km downhill from Lishan - at around 2,000m
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It's 8.30 AM now. We finally set off. This should be fun.

The 7 descends and bends and we keep dropping at speed until we get to a bridge over a river. It was an easy and fast 10km, but ahead the road obviously climbs and we can see it etched across the side of a green hillside.

I take off my jacket, but leave my pink arm warmers on. A pretty stiff wind is blowing in our faces.

Not having a mirror seems odd. Every now and then I glace at my bar end and expect to see g's image reflected.

The wind makes it hard work and it's nice to find a 7-Eleven in a village after a few kilometres of uphill pedalling. We park outside and get coffees and snacks and sit at a table upstairs and gaze out the big windows at the back at what is pretty much the same horizon that we saw earlier from the hotel balcony.

A 7-Eleven where we have a break in Huanshan - about 13km into the ride
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The wind is a real killer; a party-pooper extraordinaire. And the climb is relentless. It feels like my brakes are on. It's not long before I begin to question our decision to ride north, and how great it would have been to have freewheeled down to the east coast, whooping up on those 70 kilometres of fast descent through magical Taroko Gorge. To make things worse, clouds suddenly block out the sun and before long drizzle is landing on us.

To me it it doesn't seem heavy enough to warrant donning my rain cape, but g stops and puts his on. My shirt and shorts soon get damp and it feels a pretty chilly, but my body temp' seems OK as riding uphill for kilometre after kilometre keeps me warm. It's just my legs that feel the cold.

Taking a break from the drizzle and wind
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Droplets on my glasses obscure the view as we climb for 10km. In my mind there's a bigger climb to do and when we see a metal shed that seems like it's used to sell fruit or whatever to motorists, I tell g this is a good time to stop and take a rest.

The drizzle gets worse and it's more like rain and it becomes dismal, so I put on my old yellow cape and we both have our rear LEDs flashing.

We start to drop for a while and pass the turning to a resort called Wuling Farm - a spot I stayed at one Chinese New Year trip with Debbie.

The edge of the road is mossy. I point out to g to be careful as the rain has made it very slippery and we keep our speed sensible as we descend.

The next incline starts and I wonder about hitching a ride in a blue truck. I keep my eye out for one but before we know it I recognize the gazebo where I've stopped for photos before. It marks the pass. We've made it.

At the pass - nearly 2,000m
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After hopping off our bikes, I set up the tripod for a snap of us stood at the cloud-shrouded spot. It's cold and we're shivering at this roughly 2,000 metre-high place and know the drop from here is going to be very chilly in this kind of weather.

Sure enough, wind dips under my cape and adds a bite to the coldness. Again our speed is kept sensible what with the road being so bendy, and besides, going any faster would only make it feel even colder.

We see a car every few minutes as the road drops and drops and we shiver in the cold with our damp clothing and bare legs, but know in the one-street village of Nanshan there'll be a place to eat and drink.

It's a nice surprise when we get there and see a FamilyMart. It must be quite new and brings a smile to our faces as the coffee is good and they'll be something microwaved to eat.

After paying for the food we sit at stools in the window. After a minute  I need to go outside to put on a dry top and my down jacket as I can feel my body temperature getting low. We both slowly thaw out.

Dropping from Nanshan - it's dry for a short while
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From here the next place I know of with a bed is called Chilan and g says there's a place further where he stayed once but he's not sure how far it is. We agree to see what they say at Chilan and set off. The rain has stopped.

It's nice that we continue to drop and go around curves as the 7 twists it's way along the mile-wide wide valley. There's a short climb and then it's more descending, with cabbages dotting the fields next to the road.

It starts to rain again, so our rain gears gets put back on and it's around 25km of riding before we get to Chilan. By then we're pretty cold and wet.

There are two staff members in a kiosk at the entrance who say there's a fee to enter the grounds and we explain we just want to check out the hotel and they say it's close to NT$4,000 a night and we know that's too much. I thought it'd be about NT$2,500.

Our options are limited. We wonder about cycling west over the 7 and staying in another government-run hotel at the summit, but know it'd be even wetter on that ride, and the room rate would be similar. 

There's the hotel g knows and we could stay there, or not stop and keep cycling north to the train station in Yilan City, or veer off to Loudong, a bit south. The staff say the two stations are the same distance away.

We set off and pedal fast to keep warm. The road undulates a bit, but it's mostly down and our speed is high - at times my Cateye reads 30km/hr - and it feels warmer at this level. The rain peters out.

The place g knows appears, but we've come a long way from Chilan and it's pointless stopping as we're so close to Yilan City. It'll just be a race to get there before dark.

The 7 leads us straight into the downtown area and finding the train station isn't too hard. The guy selling tickets says the only train we can put bikes on is very late, so we wheel them to the baggage office and pay to have them shipped to our station, then buy tickets home and it's a relief to have seats for the few-hour journey.

Yilan station at nearly 6:00 PM
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The train leaves at almost six and there's only 30-odd minutes before our departure, which isn't really long enough to go anywhere to find a bite to eat, so we stay inside the station and get stuff from the convenience store and eat yet more crap. On the platform I dig out the two small apples I bought back in Lishan and they taste just like apples should.

We've cycled over 110km. A warm shower would be nice and we look forward to one once we get off the train and get taxis home. Debbie will certainly be surprised to see me.

Today's ride: 112 km (70 miles)
Total: 389 km (242 miles)

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