10/29 Hot Springs Tonite!!
It started innocently enough, with the group heading out of Hualien in the same direction as our ride the day before, but then veering off on Coastal Highway 30 going South. We knew we were in for a treat at our next night’s rest, the New Life Hot Springs, just over the coastal range at the end of the central Rift Valley. Soon we were rolling swiftly past the spectacular blue of the Pacific Ocean on our left and sheer mountains and dry river beds on our right. We passed mile after mile of winding road along high headlands, wheeling through long tunnels, gaping at the glorious scenery
We climbed a big hill to arrive at the “Best Overlook” and stop for a little rest.
And gathered for a photo op
Was the view really better with us in the way?
We descended that snaky road quickly and continued South to reach the Tropic of Cancer, where a tall white monument split down the middle of the meridian.
We of course fell for the temptation of dividing ourselves between the two sections of the earth. Well, in pictures at least.
We pressed forward with a purpose now, heading towards a small fishing cove where our lunch spot awaited. From its windows we could see the margins of the sea the sandy shore.
We had covered well over fifty miles now and were ready to turn inland, climbing up steep and winding route 30 over the coastal range. The views were tremendous, though most of us had our heads down, pedaling for all we were worth to get up over the pass. One tunnel we churned through was 1.8 miles long and continued the uphill grade.
At last we reached the pass and began a long sweeping descent through a forest towards the Rift Valley. We turned off just at the bottom of a stream bed, and then a final groaning climb led to the Taiwanese version of Valhalla: the rustic, beautifully situated New Life Hot Springs resort. It was spartan and calm, and they served cold beer at a wooden table on the veranda.
We took it easy until dinner, then had a really fine soak in the pungent springs (separated into male and female pools — no suits — and public, for families, with suits) before making our way to our beds. It was our longest day so far: almost 72 miles and 4400 feet of elevation gain. We were cooked, and whether we deserved it or not slept the sleep of the just.