10/31 From Tofu to Taitung
From where the Papago Resort Hotel is located in Cheshang, on route 9 that runs through the Rift Valley, it’s a straight shot south down the highway to Taitung, which was our next destination. Dawn at the Papago was gorgeous.
We thought we’d be heading South, so it seemed odd that when our group left the hotel the next morning we headed north, traveling into the wind and between rice paddies that seemed to stretch to infinity.
We noodled through some side roads, impressed by the endless rice fields — some ready for harvest, and a few of them actually being harvested.
We studied the basic system of irrigation that uses tiny dams and water channels, a system developed over centuries, and we stopped to find out more, and to watch the harvesting take place.
Nowadays, rice paddies are harvested by a machine that resembles a combination of motorized hedge shear and miniature combine; the threshed rice is blown into a waiting truck to take to the rice factory. A local farmer explained the operation.
After some time we rode off, still heading mysteriously north, into the wind.
Soon we arrived at a curious place, a local history museum that explained the story of rice and the history of the Rift Valley we were passing through.
Here our crew posed for pictures, near strange aboriginal carvings:
Nearby were tours for tourists that ranged through the paddies and the town. New bikes anyone?
We now discovered that our first real destination was actually a farm that manufactured tofu up in the mountains. So now we ascended a steep thousand or fifteen hundred feet up a deserted road to reach the farm where we might learn more.
Already we could see that this place was special, run by delightful people, and we hurried inside to find out what we could. Stephen had bought a couple farmers hats for us, and we had a cheerful moment with the owners.
Then we proceeded inside, where the tofu was actually made, and we learned about its production by actually making it. First we took soybeans and ground them up by hand in a stone mill — very old school. Then we stirred it and helped press it. It took awhile.
Afterwards the old farmer who owned the property took us on a tour of the fields above, with terraced rice paddies and room for other plantings.
But it was time to press on, so we thanked the owners and headed down the mountainside to make our way down to the end of the Rift Valley at Taitung.
We were running a little late, but the wind was pushing at our backs. We stopped momentarily at a local bicycle trail park, where Rich tried to ride a bigger bike than he was used to.
Leaving there, we proceeded at speed and could really make good time. arriving in Taitung before 5:00pm. We checked into our rooms, cleaned up, and headed out to dinner, lead by Stephen.
But for now we could rest on our small glory. We had covered another 68 miles, right out of the Rift Valley to Taitung which was on the coast. We welcomed the scent of the sea and the quite luxurious accommodations. One more day and we’d be done with the East Coast altogether. There was a sense of accomplishment in the air. There was also a Typhoon stirring far to the south and east, approaching Taiwan even as we slept soundly in our comfortable beds.