Guanfu - The East Side of Taiwan - CycleBlaze

January 19, 2020


cycle paths, small roads and a little of Hwy 9

It's overcast when my bike gets propped outside the 7-Eleven at just gone eight... a cappuccino and a croissant that gets warmed in a microwave. I sit at the large window, facing the hotel and admire the small square blocks of black and white marble that form the pavements. 

Dressed in shorts and long-sleeved merino top, I wonder to myself where my blue jacket is and realise it's back in the hotel room. What a twit... I finish the hot drink and pop back and retrieve it.

After riding about a kilometre I stop at a fruit stall and get two small oranges then continue up the road heading east out of Haulien and know there's a narrow lane heading south and spot it after 3km. 

It's dead straight and has little traffic. I cruise past a boy in his teens riding a cheap mountain bike and offer a friendly nod and a few minutes later he races past and ahead of me, pedallng away as if he's trying to win the green jersey in le Tour de France. A minute later, just as I'm in the process of catching him up, he makes a sharp right down a side lane. That old trick.

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It's humid nowˉand my blue jacket comes off. Maybe it'll rain - maybe it won't.

After the straight lane ends I veer west and get to a main road where there's a 7-Eleven and as it's getting on for 10:00 it's time for another cappuccino. There may not be many chances after this.

Not far away is an interesting house that popped up while I was browsing Google Maps. It's made of wood and the blurb said it was an English style house, but it didn't look like it time. It's hidden down a side alley.

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The inside of the wooden house is dark and it is hard to tell if anyone actually lives in it. Across the alley a family is sat outside and a boy of about 8 strolls over to me while the adults stay gathered around a brazier. Eventually one of the women asks if I'm American and I tell her I'm English and everyone laughs at my Chinese. 

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The small lane takes me to a bicycle path within a couple of minutes. It's one that traces a fast flowing drainage canal and the water is thundering along. 

It's all been flat riding so far and the route has a nice vibe.

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The bike path comes out onto a lane and this takes me to a branch of the 9, which is empty more or less and heads up the side of a wide valley, with the river showing signs of white water. When it ends, instead of going left over a bridge, I follow a footpath that's a bit bumpy and after a few hundred metres it comes to a narrow, carved tunnel. A few day-trippers are going in, so I follow them as they use their phones to light the way. It's black and my own little LED isn't much use.

The tunnel bends and the floor seems dusty, with small hollows that someone could twist their ankle on. It doesn't get any rain and I wonder why it's here as to my knowledge there's never been railway.

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Finally there's a splodge of daylight and the path ahead is just a metre wide and chiseled into a cliff that forms the southern bank of a small, shallow tributary. It's too bumpy to ride and after a few hundred metres there are a dozen steps that I lift the bike down and then up some more. When others appear it seems best to leave the bike and just walk.

At the end of a steep incline is a waterfall, which is formed by a concrete wall and day-trippers are down at the base taking selfies and I scramble down to join them.

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Once I've followed more day-rippers with phones through the tunnel, I ride over the bridge and make my way along the south side of the wide valley. The road is small and there are no cars and it takes me onto the 9, where I head south, riding very slightly uphill. It's not long before I reach a lake and make a left.

The Liyu (Carp Lake) Visitor Center has gifts, but they are nothing of interest while getting something to eat is. It's surprising there's nothing on offer.

A bike path goes through a large grassy park and sculptures on plinths are dotted everywhere - modern art, some of it marble and others made of what looks like concrete. The path leads to a road which cars can't use and it follows the west side of the lake for a couple of kilometres, offering a nice view is of the vast expanse of water, with mountains behind, the tops of which are enveloped with low cloud. There's silence and small paddle boats shaped like giant swans are on the lake and the people in them must be doing some hard work.

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My stomach is empty and at the main road there a row of vendors with papaya milk seeming to be the main thing. Every second one has signs for it, but there are very few customers right now. Next week they'll be raking in cash.

Once at the end of the shops, I double back and settle on a place selling fritters and I order one. Round with a small shrimp or two on top, it's filled with spring onions and something else I can't quite figure out but which combines well and it's tempting to have a second one. Instead I make my way along the row and get a NT$50 papaya milk from the last stall.

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There's a turning for a lane that after a minute or so gets me to a bike path which has moss on the edges. It doesn't seem as though the route sees many cyclists and it's just a metre wide with a sturdy fence down each side and after a couple of kilometres brings me to the 9. After riding down the main route for only a minute there's a right and I follow a small river flowing east.

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There's nobody around, but then I spot a man stood up fishing in the flowing water, at the foot of a waterfall that's taller than him, and soon I reach a narrow bridge which is barely wide enough for one car. It dips in the middle and when I'm on the other side I get my tripod out and set the timer to 30 seconds and go back across and take another self-timed snap. 

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It's soon a case of cycling on the 9 again, but this is also a brief experience because a practically straight back lane is just to the west and it takes me past the small towns of Shoufeng and Fongshan. 

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Scott AndersonFence, or wood pile?
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8 months ago
Graham FinchI liked the row of white gloves against the black metal.... that's what caught my eye as I rode past. It's surprising how little Taiwan has changed once you get out of the cities. It seems that the owners don't use that blue door very much.
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8 months ago

The next section of 9 I ride along lasts a few hundred metres and it's all safe as there's a narrow path that's been built for cyclsts, a metre away from the road's edge and separated by grass. 

A place with a sign saying it's called Mr Sam's is in the middle of nowhere, but there's a small crowd of people gathered and many are eating ice cream and the temptation is too great. It's likely its attraction is more of an Instagram opportunity than the ice cream, as there are a few photogenic houses in the style of a fairy tale, with wonky tiled roofs and small doors. 

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Soon after I ride south on another tranquil farm lane and eventually come to a village called Xikou, which once had a train station. I'd seen photos of its empty, derelict building online and reckon it's worth a quick look, but after riding around a times without finding it I reckon the place has since been transformed into a home for someone.

A long bridge on the 9 takes me a bit further south before I turn right down another small lane to escape the noise of the passing traffic, but I get confused and after a few minutes of riding back and forth it seems best to just head along the cycle path beside the 9. It's now getting late in the afternoon and I don't want to cycle in the dark, especially with pregnant clouds hovering above the mountains to my left. 

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The highway takes me over another wide river that's dry at the moment and I stop at a 7-Eleven and get a can of Ovaltine and a banana and sit outside. 

Instead of winding down more farm lanes over to the east, my wheels spin at over 30km per hour down the 9 and it's not long before they're on the streets of Gaunfu, my goal for the day. 

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After cruising around the small town's few streets I spot a hotel and the woman running it speaks some English, but won't knock anything off for me not wanting breakfast. No big deal: NT$1,200 isn't too bad. 

My bike gets locked up to a post in the rear yard-cum-parking area, under the cover of a metal roof.

Today's ride: 68 km (42 miles)
Total: 72 km (45 miles)

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