Sunday, May 27, 2007

Great Taiwan Bike Rides VI: The Northern Cross

We did this ride of medium difficulty at a leisurely pace by leaving Taipei on Friday evening. If you are an experienced rider in reasonable shape, you can do this ride in two days if you leave Taipei by 10am. Leave earlier in the summer to beat the heat.

We started off from Taipei at about 6pm on a gorgeous early May evening. We crossed the Zhongzheng Bridge 中正橋 over to the Taipei County side and rode on the bike paths out to Tucheng 土城 along the Xindian and Dahan 大漢 Rivers.

From Tucheng, there is a nasty 5 km or so along Highway 3. I'd recommend spending the night in Sanxia if you are on a budget. We headed up 7B (7乙 aka 北橫公路) over to Chajiao 插角 on the opposite side of the Dabao River 大豹溪, but the few B&Bs up there are quite expensive (c. NT$2,000/night) although nice. We stayed at Green Light about 2km up the road from the school and big hotel.

The next morning we were on the road by 7am. After getting back on Highway 7, we had breakfast in Sanmin 三民. Sanxia to Sanmin doesn't have too much traffic, but Sanmin to Fusing has a bit more than one would like. This section can be a real mess with traffic heading back to Taoyuan on Sunday afternoons. Sanmin to Fusing is a long steady climb with a 2km downhill just before Sanmin.

If you are coming straight from Taipei, one pleasant lunch option just before Fusing is the Swiss Village --nice views and (not bad) Taiwanese-style western food.

The traffic thins out on the long downhill to the Luofu Bridge 羅浮橋. You begin the real ride after Luofu. We stopped mid-morning for some overpriced coffee in the garden at Star of the Northern Cross (北橫之星 Beiheng zhi xing). A bit later we lunched on down home Atayal food at a pleasant semi-outdoor roadside cafe in Gaopo 高波. Good food, friendly people. We narrowly averted being drawn into what undoubtedly would have turned into an afternoon-long drinking session with an extended family visiting relatives in the village. This place is right on corner as you cross the river that plunges down the mountain and through the village.

After resting for a few hours in the afternoon heat, we slowly cycled our way up the vast river canyon that forms the headwaters of Fusing Reservoir. There is a coffee truck about 10km out of Baling at Ronghua 榮華 with excellent coffees. You may want to ask them not to add sugar. Great views of the dam below.

As usual, we stayed at the Beiheng Hot Spring Hotel (北橫溫泉山莊), which is about NT$1,500 for a double. We had originally planned to cycle up to the Galahe (嘎拉賀) hot springs about 10km up the road in Xinxing (新興) village. This is an undeveloped hot spring in a beautiful gorge, but it involves about a 500 meter climb up from Baling and a steep hike down into the gorge so we passed this time.

Galahe (嘎拉賀) hot springs

The next morning we cycled 20 glorious kilometers between Baling and Mingchi 明池. This is one of the prettiest sections of road you will see in Taiwan. The climb up to Siling 四陵 takes you up about 600 meters from Baling over 10 km or so. It's a bit of a slog but so beautiful you may not notice. There is another undeveloped hot spring in the river below Siling.

If you can make it to Mingchi by 9:30am, you can score a buffet breakfast in the cafe until 9:30am for NT$150 including brewed coffee. Make sure you bring enough food and water for the 20km between Baling and Mingchi. There is nothing but glorious nature on this section of the road.

There is a gentle climb of 2 or 3 km after Mingchi followed by a long downhill into Cilan 棲蘭 where you join the Yilan branch of the Central Cross Highway. It's about 25 km mostly downhill and flat after a few riverside rolling hills into Luodong 羅東. We put the bikes on the train at Luodong and caught the train back to the city.


David said...

Sounds like a great ride. Probably a lot easier than the central or southern cross island highways.

Feiren said...

It is much easier. And more accessible from Taipei. Highly recommended as a first weekend trip for new cyclists who can handle climbs.

Anonymous said...

Great photos. I've driven this route many times. IMO the difficult part is dealing with the car/truck traffic from Fushing to Baling. The road is narrow and there just isn't much shoulder space. Definitely do it on a weekday and stay visible.