Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The South Cross-Island 500 Loop

The following article is a testimonial of our trip on the south cross-island highway in southern Taiwan

South Cross-Island 500 Loop

Pre Trip: Blue Skies set me up with all the gear I needed in order to tour on my rented mountain bike (rack, bike bags,camping equipment, rudimentary repair kit and spare parts, etc.) and provided me with a thorough list of all the other equipment I'd need ...snacks, proper clothing and so on. Although the bike was fully loaded, it was quality lightweight gear, so I probably had less than 20 pounds on the bike.

Day 1 Kaohsiung to TaoYuan: We set out from the outskirts of Kaohsiung at about 8:00 a.m. And although the scenery on this early section of the ride didn't quite compare with what was to come later, the route seemed well selected to avoid the worst of the traffic and for relatively easy riding (i.e. no big hills). Some moderate climbing began later just before we reached the town of JiaXian where we enjoyed lunch and some of the delicious local specialities, taro cakes etc. From JiaXian we were on the South Cross-Island proper where the scenery and relief seemed to rise on cue. We arrived in TaoYuan, after passing through the famous hot spring town of BaoLai, in plenty of time to set up camp. Enjoyed a well-deserved soak in the on-site hot spring before turning in.

Day 2 TaoYuan to LiDao: We got a fairly early start after a hot breakfast. We'd need it today since, although this was the shortest day in terms of distance, it involved by far the most climbing. When we reached the highest point on the ride, YaKou at 2,722m elevation, Mark very wisely advised me to “put on every bit of clothing” I had with me. And good advice it was for after emerging from the long YaKou tunnel on the east side of the central range, the weather was clear but the wind bitingly cold. However, a little discomfort is again well worth it for the fantastic scenery. From Yakou we rolled downhill, soon into the clouds (again glad to have put on warm clothes) and arrived in the pretty aboriginal town of Li Dao after a stop at Li Song hot springs.

Day 3 LiDao to SiChongXi: The weather was cool but clear in the morning so we got a better look at the very beautiful setting of this town than we had got through the mist of the night before. Although this would be the longest ride of the trip, it was fortunately mostly downhill for about the first 40km, passing through the magnificent Wulu Gorge to Taidong on the coast and then mostly flat the rest of the way. The weather was fine and warm once we reached the coast and it felt like we'd jumped quickly from winter to summer. A relatively short climb (about 480m) from DaWu to ShouKa before rolling downhill for the last 30km or so into SiChongXi and the famous hot springs.

Day 4 SiChongXi to Kaohsiung: Fine weather again today, but it would be hot before we arrived back in Kaohsiung. The route was relatively easy and flat, through CheCheng and along the Coast road (stopped for a refreshing sea dip) as far as Fangliao before turning inland. Frequent rest and snack stops in the many aboriginal villages we passed through were appreciated, after yesterday's long ride.

On the whole, the trip was very well-planned and arranged: There were no surprises other than the pleasant kind and we were prepared for all the conditions we encountered. I was especially impressed by the fact that we had the opportunity for a hot spring soak at the end of each day. The only constructive criticism I would offer is that, if possible, this trip is better done over 5 days rather than 4 as day three was rather long. . Level of difficulty 4.

Paul Campagnaro
Guelph, Canada.

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