Ruishui and Yuli - The East Side of Taiwan - CycleBlaze

January 20, 2020

Ruishui and Yuli

along lanes, paths and the 193

My watch tells me it nearly 4:00 and then I nod off for a while, but my bags are packed and downstairs at 7:30. The breakfast room is already full with a dozen guests, but for me it's a quick drink of a small cup of what tastes like sweet tea before bidding farewell to the hotelier, who must wonder what's wrong. Outside I load up the bike and set off for a nearby 7-Eleven with my blue jacket on - on top of a merino jersey - as the sky is grey again and my guess is the centigrade is in the mid teens. There's dampness in the air.

A warmed-up almond croissant and a cappuccino comprise breakfast. I sit and look out the big window, with cars slowly cruising by and scooters and elderly men on bikes weaving across the road. There's a laid-back village ambiance to it all.

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Gaunfu's claim to fame is an old sugar factory that got closed down about 20 years ago. It only takes a few minutes to ride there to find it's a tourist site. Around it are some old Japanese homes made of wood and I take a couple of snaps, but the place seems tacky and the only other thing that seems worth photographing are a couple of old train engines that no doubt once carted the sweet product north. Some of the wooden homes look occupied even though they're in poor condition.

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A woman in what I thought was a tourism office, but it is in fact a hotel reservation place and she tells me the wooden replica villas they have for rent are NT$2,500 per person a night. That's expensive.

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Guanfu is still waking up as I find the small road that crosses over the railway line and then it's just a matter of turning left onto a straight lane that runs south beside a high concrete wall that hides the river. The 9 is further over to the east.

The lane feeds a cement works and after that the surface of the tarmac gets worse and eventually it's almost like a dirt track. It ends at a junction with the 9 and there's no choice but to keep riding south on a cycle path beside it until it crosses a wide river and I can then get away from the artery and onto another cycle path.

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Scott AndersonYou must have really wanted this shot, and hustled for it. How long was the shutter delay set to?
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8 months ago
Graham FinchYou obviously can't see it, but there was some kind of platform that stuck out over the road.
My camera has a programmable timer and I would have set it to take three shots after 30 seconds. It was still a bit of a rush to cycle into the frame!
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8 months ago

The cycle path starts in a village which has most of its homes painted with colourful murals, mainly of people. Some are more professionally done than others and a few are clearly by children. At least they look like it. I ride past the small train station and through the place, slightly uphill, and eventually make a left and go south.

The wind is now behind me and the route dips gently and my speed is around 25km/hr.

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There are worn sign on the surface of the tarmac to say this is a bike path, but initially the route is on a bendy series of back lanes that I follow as best I can. There are several turnings and maybe I miss one as Highway 9 is in front of me. No thanks. Retracing my tracks for a couple of minutes, I find where the cycle path starts and this is one is a proper bike path that traces an old railway line. Its surface looks pretty new and there's a neat yellow line painted down its middle.

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The path goes quite straight, as rail lines tend to, and the new line is right next to me, about 10 metres above my head, supported on huge concrete pillars. Perhaps there were just too many crossing on farm lanes so the Taiwan Railway Authority decided to raise the whole line. There are 150mm diameter rainwater pipes connected to points along its entire length and I wonder why they didn't let the rain just run off. The project must have cost a fortune. There are no other cyclists on the bike path, which eventually goes south over a bridge spanning wide valley.

The path eventually ends and the last couple of kimometres into Rushui are on a wide road. I get to the town but just find the 193, which goes down to the wide river and on the way there I ride past two pairs of foreign cycle tourists. The first looks to be a father with his teenage son. A minute later come the second group, three riders that are older. We greet each other, but no-one stops to chat.

The 193 is a bit busy. Some drivers are in race mode.

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Many rice fields are under water. Tractors are planting green shoots and others are turning over the soil. Here in the warmer south, farmers can usually grow three crops of rice a year.

Debbie sent me mean email the other night with an image of a large duck made from flowers. It's been installed at the 106km marker on the 193 and it's something to see on my way south. She says it's near Yuli.

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The 101km marker appears on the pretty straight 193 and with a slight back wind, the next kilometre passes by and as it does the sun comes out. The grey skies transform to blue and the temperature gets nudged a bit higher.

Ahead on my right I can see a bridge and it'll be the one I go over and it's clear that it's before the 106km marker. The giant duck made of flowers is something I won't get to see and snap a photo of as the lanes on the west side of the river will have much less traffic than the 193. Yuli is not too far away now.

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Scott AndersonI thought of you this morning when I read this wonderful article I the NYT. I think you’d appreciate it. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/05/travel/sussex-bicycle-portraits.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Travel
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6 months ago
Graham FinchGreat photos!... especially as they are all self-timed. Thanks for sending the link!
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6 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Graham FinchI see that you posted it on the other channel. Good idea to not reveal that you saw it here first!
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6 months ago
Graham FinchHi, Scott

Are you streaming the Itzulia Basque Country?

I get it via this site...
https://cycling.today/2021-itzulia-basque-country-live-stream/
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6 months ago
Graham FinchReading the photographer's text, he started riding before dawn to get the right light. That's commitment.... but that's what it takes to get the best shots.
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6 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Graham FinchI hadn’t been, but thanks for pointing it out. I can’t believe we’ve got a Yank in there! I didn’t follow any of the races last year and hadn’t heard of Brandon before.
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6 months ago

There are a series of back lanes that form a grid and allow farmers to access the rectangles of rice fields. Once over the long bridge, I turn off and make my way south on one of them. It's concrete and really only wide enough for one vehicle.

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The straight lane keep taking me south until it comes to another tributary and then it veers west and brings me to a bridge and a proper road.

It's not long after that that Yuli's buildings start to appear and once in the town I instinctively make a right to ride south along streets but soon find myself a bit lost. There are no signs for the train station, which will give me some idea of where to go.

Eventually I pop into a police station and a female officer gives me directions and when I find it my watch says it's now early afternoon and my stomach is empty for a while.

A dinky Pizza Hut gets my attention and I sit inside with a small one and satisfy my hunger before setting off for a nearby hotel I saw on Google Maps that's been built in the past couple of years.

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It's a big monolith and it's surprising humble Yuli has or needs such a place. The man at reception says the room rate is nearly NT$2,000 a night (US$60) and that's over 500 dollars more than my budget figure, so I say thanks and head off to find the one I stayed at quite a few years ago. It turns out it's on the first corner. There's no 'hotel' sign, but for some reason I just remember it well.

The woman inside gets some keys and shows me three rooms, priced at NT$800, NT$1,000 and NT$1,200. I take the middle one. It's simple.

I get the camera out and take a photo of the room, which makes me see it more carefully. The walls are wallpapered, which is unusual in Taiwan. It looks like a 60's design. The white plastic chair in the corner is an Eames copy and the bed has been made by a very experienced worker, with the white sheet crisply folded over the top part of cover. 

I just wonder if it'll be warm enough at night and after setting up my laptop, I find a duvet folded away in a hidden cupboard.

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Today's ride: 50 km (31 miles)
Total: 122 km (76 miles)

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