Taitung via 東23 and 東23-1 - The East Side of Taiwan - CycleBlaze

January 22, 2020

Taitung via 東23 and 東23-1

long train ride home

The weather seems schizoid and is unsure whether to be sunny or cloudy. There's drizzle speckling me, but some blue sky over the horizon and I wonder if the drizzle will land on the camera lens while taking a self-timed shot outside the B&B. 

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As I pack away the tripod a well-used Toyota pulls up and who should get out but the bank clerk. We greet each other and she walks over to the bank that's already open at 7:40 AM while I ride up the street to find some breakfast along Taiyuan's main street.

Pedalling slowly looking at what the shops have to offer, I eventually stop and ask a vendor where I can get a mantou - a simple steamed bun and he points back to a junction, so I ridethere and see the typical 'breakfast shop' that has a few customers lining up and the the bank clerk is one of them. I intend to pay for her breakfast, but while my back is turned she's paid for her food and gone. 

The village is alive and well and it's surprising there are so many people around as I ride back down the village street towards the junction where the 東23 starts, with cars and small trucks and even a bus fighting for space. I stop and buy two short, stumpy bananas from a vendor as there's likely little between here and Taitung - around 50km and a decent climb away.

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A few cars pass by and it seems quite busy for the first few kilometres considering this is a minor road. It's actually wider and in better condition that I'd imagined, with smooth tarmac and a yellow line down its centre. It looks new.

Rice fields have freshly planted shoots growing up out of ankle-deep water, their dotted lines curving at times and the water reflecting a continuous backdrop of a hilly horizon and grey sky and after an initial climb, the road undulates and the cars disappear, so it seems Taiyuan's rush hour is over with. After 5km, the road climbs steadily and the humidity hits home.

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There are strange noises coming from the trees that resemble frogs or pigs but the sound of branches moving indicate the presence of monkeys. I can't see any of them but the sun makes an appearance, which makes it even warmer. 

A drop of a few kilometres cools me down and dries out my damp shirt and brings me to a junction where the 東23 inexplicably becomes the 東23-1. My Cateye says this is 15km from Taiyuan and it's then another uphill and this one keeps on going and going without any respite.

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I stop a few times to have a drink and some snacks and give my heart-rate a chance to slow down. Again, strange noises emanate from the trees while I sit on the route's concrete barrier and take in the view of rolling hills covered in green. 

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While there are some swathes of blue sky, it's mostly a blanket of grey above but the climb has me sweating and after 26km my Casio says it's 11:50 and a sign says this is the end of the road, but really it's the crest. The sign marks 11.2km along the 23-1 and it's all been up but now it'll be mostly down to Taitung and my goal is to get to the train station as soon as possible to get a seat on an express train home.

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The descent lasts a long way and I get to a turning which will lead me down to a bridge and I make a right and the tarmac eventually becomes quite flat and a wide river valley is now just on my right.

A place nicknamed the Badlands is a spot I'd seen on Google and I stop and take a quick snap of the rugged hillsides but as the sun has gone everything looks less dramatic. 

The road curves onto a bridge that spans the valley and as it does so I stop and take five photos that will get stitched together to make a panorama on Photoshop before pedalling across to the southern bank, where a straight road has an industrial feel to it.

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A sign points to the train station and there's a separate lane on the major road just for cyclists and after a few minutes there's a 7-Eleven and as I'm hungry and very thirsty I pop over and get a microwaved pasta meal and some drinks.

Being so close to Chinese New Year, it's unlikely there'll be any seats left on the Puyuma express trains, but the young woman selling tickets says there is and the next train will leave in 30 minutes, so I buy a ticket and quickly head to the baggage room to get rid of my bike.

It's a separate building and the staff there look puzzled when I wheel my bike in. One of the few  women points to a printed A4 notice on the glass and says they've already stopped accepting baggage because it's Chinese New Year and they're too busy. I point out that it doesn't start for another two days, but they then say that if I do leave my bike to get shipped in 10 days time, they'll be a hefty storage charge. It's a big wind-up.

However, they reckon I can take my bike on the train if it's put in a bag and point me to a Giant shop nearby that sells them. One woman actually measures my bike and tells me 1.5m is the max' length and that if the front wheel is removed I'll be OK. It seems doubtful, but it is worth a try and with just 20 minutes to go I race over to the shop and spend an exorbitant NT$950 on a thin Nylon bag and speed back to the station.

The clerk at the ticket barrier won't let me on the platform until my bike is bagged ups so I quickly remove the panniers and the front wheel and set to. The bag is just about big enough, but there's a inch or so of front mudguard sticking out the bottom and the clerk says someone might get hurt on it, which sounds stupid, and I eventually give up trying, reassemble the bike and wheel it back to the ticket counter and get a refund.

There must be a transportation company nearby, I go back over to the Giant shop and ask the guy there and he says there's one just a couple of doors down which usually ships scooters. The guy there says it's NT$1,250 to send the bike home and it'll take a week, but there are no real alternatives and after completing the paperwork, I lug my panniers over to the station.

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It seems doubtful the next Puyuma will have any seats available but miraculously it does and another 900-odd Taiwanese dollars get splurged on a ticket. 


Today's ride: 48 km (30 miles)
Total: 237 km (147 miles)

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