At Sun Moon Lake: Sunrise bike ride - A Month in Taiwan - CycleBlaze

January 4, 2019

At Sun Moon Lake: Sunrise bike ride

So, count us among the masses that love Sun Moon Lake.  Maybe we were just lucky, but we had a great experience here.  Today and the ride up to Wulai Falls stand out as our favorites of the tour.  Great scenery, great riding, and above all warm interactions with the people here.   Besides the experience, we came away with a trunk full of photos we want to hang on to.  Too much for one post, it feels like, so we’re breaking it in two (well, three if you count my bizarre nightmare last night that I don’t want to forget either).  This post covers our group ride to see the lake at dawn led by Wayne, our host at the hotel.

When we first arrived, Wayne told us of this ride.  He takes a group out nearly every morning when weather permits, so they can see the lake and its spectacular views at their best - early in the morning, when the light is best for viewing the mountains and before the bike trail starts filling up.  He says the group will depart at 6:05 the next morning, and if we want to go, just show up.  Don’t be late, or they’ll leave without us.  He pulls out his cell phone and leafs through photos from last morning’s ride to give us a sense of what to expect.  We’re not early risers (are least when on tour), but this is obviously time to make an exception. We set the alarm for 5:40, and put out the lights a bit earlier than usual.

We’re staying in a small, family-run hotel, so we’re surprised at how crowded the lobby is when we come down at 6:03.  There are about fifteen people in the room, including three young sisters - a good percentage of last night’s guests must have turned out for the ride.  We’re the only caucasians in the mix, but three other groups are from our country and fluent in English so we get a bit more chance for a complete conversation than we’ve had for a while.  One of the women sounds like she doesn’t really bike at all, and asks Rachael to explain which gears are for uphill and which for downhill.

At precisely 6:05 Wayne hustles us out the door, exhorting us to hurry, hurry, hurry!  He has the departure time and itinerary pegged to sunrise and when the sun breaks the horizon at key spots along the route.  We’re the only ones with our own bikes, so the outing begins with a brisk walk to a nearby bike rental shop.  He rushes the group through the process of selecting and paying for their bike, tells them to remember their own bike’s number, and to take it for a brief test loop in the parking lot.  Then we set out on the bike path, just as dawn is breaking.

Wayne, the leader of our group, explains how to select and pay for the bicycles.
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We’re off! The bikers in our group are nearly the only folks out so early. We have the lake and the bike path to ourselves.
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The Sun Moon Lake bike path is marketed as one of the most scenic on the island.  The stretch we ride this morning certainly lives up to this reputation.  It begins from the village we’re staying at, Shuishe, and rounds the southern edge of the lake.  It stays right next to or above the lake for most of its distance, at times veering away and into the forest.  The views across the lake to the surrounding mountains are indeed spectacular.

Wayne takes us on about a four mile one way route, stopping at four different spots for people to look at the views and take photos and selfies.  At each spot he tells us how many minutes we have here before we have to move on, tells us something of what we’re seeing, and keeps us on track.  We’re running a bit later this morning than he’d like, I think.  Maybe we’re a larger group than usual and it’s taken longer at the bike rental, but I think we’re a few minutes behind his desired schedule.  He keeps a close eye on his watch, and at one of the stops he says it’s almost time for the sun to break the rim.  In four minutes, he says, and he’s right on.

At the end, he lets us go to bike back to the hotel at our own pace.  We return fairly promptly, following one of the younger and faster moving couples, because we’re keen to see the breakfast table and then rest up before they day’s other outing.   A really great, unique experience we won’t forget.

We’re out just in time to catch the tail of the sunrise. We feel really lucky to have such good conditions and visibility this morning.
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Three minutes after we stop at our first break point, the color drains from the sky. It’s such an ephemeral event. We feel grateful that Wayne hustled us out here to see it.
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Not really much red any more, but intensely beautiful. This is a view south toward the mountains between us and Alishan, another famous mountain destination.
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Look! Fog! Wayne urgently directs our attention back behind us, as a thin fog blanket rises from the reeds and blows over the road and out across the lake. Also, note here the wooden path we’ve just biked across. It’s a bit slick with the morning dew, and our bikes have left their tracks in it.
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The fog moves across the lake, the finger extending rapidly across this arm of the lake. It’s another ephemeral event, five minutes later, and it’s gone.
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I don’t think we caught this woman’s name. She’s from the Bay Area and biking solo (her husband is back at the hotel with her two children). She’s the only other helmet wearer in the group.
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We more or less fell in love with this beautiful, outgoing west coast family (I think the man works at Stanford). Rachael was ready to adopt any or all of their charming daughters.
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At Sun Moon Lake. Wayne had his hands full taking lakeside photos of almost everyone in the group.
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Jump!
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Andrea BrownOkay, that is really lovely.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonYup. Actually, it would have made a pretty entertaining video to just follow along behind dad and watch his interactions with his kids.
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2 weeks ago
The view east. Taroko Gorge is on the far side of those peaks.
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A view to the towering 3000 meter high mountains to the south.
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Here’s that happy family again. Dad has one daughter on his bike, and rides along with his cell phone in front of him taking photos of the rest of his family. Mom has the other two, on an ebike.
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Jen GrumbyLove those smiles! Nothing like seeing a family out on a happy bike ride.
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2 weeks ago
So can we just take them home with us for a bit?
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On the way back to the hotel, the day has brightened up considerably and we start seeing other bikers and walkers on the trail. This really is the best time to be out.
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Today's ride: 8 miles (13 km)
Total: 415 miles (668 km)

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