10/30 Up the Secret Highway
And now, before traveling any further down this blog highway, our readers should meet the team that is shepherding us around Taiwan. You’ve seen Stephen Chen, but here are the rest, in at least one characteristic pose:
The crew, from left to right in the picture are: Michael Chen, David Chen, Tai Ming Chen, FeFe, and Jimmy Huang. Our thanks to them all.
For our day’s ride this time, we followed a route that our guides had ridden in the past: the old cross-mountain highway that once connected the East and the West sides of Taiwan through the middle of the island. What with earthquakes and washouts, this road became impassable years ago, but it is still paved and now leads only upwards towards a dead end at the ridge of the mountain range separating the Rift Valley from the West side (where Taipei lies). At the end of the day, after riding, we were booked into a quite luxurious hotel, the Papago International Resort in Chishang.
In the morning we tuned our bikes for a short while, bade a fond farewell to the New Life Hot Springs, and headed down the hill to the central plain below.
Along the roads we passed rice paddies everywhere. This is the rice basket of Taiwan, and extensive fields surround rural communities for whom rice is the main business.
The road we wanted lead across the valley, crossed a substantial bridge, and began to climb the West side.
At first the gradient was gradual.
High up here in the hills live aboriginal communities with curious statuary and murals.
Now came the delightful descent, fast and furious, down the mountain and across the bridge, ending at the luxury Papago hotel, where our rooms looked out onto a landscape of mountains we had just biked up and down, and, down below, to a series of swimming pools waiting for those who still had energy left.
We had covered close to 48 miles and gained about 3200 feet of elevation, and we celebrated happily with toasts and cheer. Tomorrow would lead us far from here and we wanted to remember the Rift Valley and the mountains that define it.