TOUR JOURNAL: DAY 5, WULING PASS – HUALIEN
Day 5 of the Pedal Taiwan tour proved to be another epic day in the saddle, this time covering a staggering 3275m of descent from Wuling Pass, through the stunning Taroko Gorge and down to the city of Hualien. Once again the views were incredible and although there were a few mechanical issues, everyone finished the day with big smiles on their faces.
Chris MJ – October 27th – 7.31pm
After yesterday’s huge climb, there were a few tired legs and faces at breakfast, but the bright sunshine and the crisp mountain air definitely put a spring in the group’s step. From our overnight stop in Lishan, Wuling Pass and the start of the day’s riding was about an hour and 1300m up the road. And what a road it was. Sweeping views, towering pine forests and a fair few landslides (some that seemed pretty recent…) made for a fantastic drive to the top.Wuling Pass is the highest road in Taiwan, topping out at 3275m. The support truck made it up the steep hairpins with ease, but the same can’t be said for our somewhat underpowered 4×4 that would crawl around the bends at 10kmph – everyone wanted longer to look at the views of course… But we did make it and after taking hundreds of pictures and prepping the bikes for the monster ascent ahead we set off (check out our Facebook Live video of the team wheeling away from the start).Aside from a short but sharp climb near the top, the first 15km were all downhill as the team shaved off 1000m of height in little over an hour. The barren summit quickly turned to forest, making for a beautiful ride through ancient pine trees – some as old as 3500 years. We stopped to regroup a couple of times and to pick up reportedly the best rice dumplings in Taiwan from a service station (according to both Rob and James so we’ll trust them on that one…), before arriving at the base of the day’s only real climb.
Memories of Day 4 came flooding back to our tired cyclists, but mercifully the climb was only 3km long and before long everyone was back descending – past what I think is the best single stretch of road in Taiwan. Five minutes later we rolled into our coffee stop at the Bilu Giant Tree, a huge old pine tree right next to the road. Coffee with locally produced peach honey was a real highlight and we left well fuelled up for the next 40km of downhill.Everything started smoothly and the towering, sunlit mountain made for an incredible backdrop to the ride. We captured some awesome drone footage over one of the valley’s famous red bridges and the Pedal Taiwanners were flying downhill. It was going great until a *********** of a local slammed on the brakes without warning as Ash was in full descending mode. Without a miraculous recovery and bail it could have been so much worse and fortunately all that was damaged was the car’s back bumper. Ash and his bike were ok and after a break we set off again, only to be held up again.This time it was the road repair crew that would prove to be an ever-present feature over the next couple of hours. There are definitely worse places to be stopped on a road – think the M25 on August Bank Holiday – but all the same we lost several chunks of time during the descent. Throw in Robin’s puncture #2 (surely its someone else’s turn to get one…) and we some minutes to make up.
But with the road rapidly descending into the steepest, narrowest and most impressive section of Taroko Gorge, progress was fast. Without sounding like a broken record, the landscape was simply insane. Huge marble cliffs towered over the river below, which again was a mere trickle compared to what it could be – everyone agreed they would love to see it in full flood.
After 83km of riding we passed the 3000m of descending mark and stopped at the beautiful Eternal Springs shrine for the final photo opportunity of the day. Water rushes from an underground spring right through the centre of the shrine, making it surely one of the most impressive sites in Taiwan.The final 24km took the riders back down to sea level and into the city of Hualien, our home for the next two nights. Again everything seemed to be going perfectly as the group averaged 35kmph on the final flat stretch, until a puncture (Robin surely you walked under a ladder or something to give you bad luck) just 2km from home stopped everyone in tracks, agonisingly close to a cold beer and a shower at the B&B. Rob came to the rescue and the team arrived into Hualien at around 5pm.
As I type, Rob is on the way with dinner and what he has dubbed “the best fried chicken in the world” – which I can certainly vouch for. But will everyone else agree? The all important update will follow tomorrow…