TOUR JOURNAL: DAY 4, JIAOXI – LISHAN
WHAT AN EPIC DAY. Without exaggerating it is pretty hard to put it any other way. The Pedal Taiwan team conquered the mighty climb to Lishan on a perfect sunny day in the incredible high mountains of central Taiwan.
Chris MJ – October 26th – 9.32pm
With over 100km to cover and in excess of 3000m to climb, alarms were set early for Day 4. Early, but perfect for watching an incredible sunrise over the paddy fields. We loaded up on eggs, tea and green onion pies and piled into the support vehicles at 7.30am, driving through the congested streets of rush hour Jiaoxi and Yilan.Once on quieter roads, we stopped outside the Kavalan whisky distillery (home to the best single malt in the world in 2015) where we checked tires, filled water bottles and were ready to set off on the epic ride. Until Robin’s tired exploded, quite literally and completely out of nowhere. However, ten minutes later all was sorted and the group headed out on to the road for the relatively gentle first 30km of the day.
We clung to the northern bank of the enormous Lanyang River. Carved out by typhoon rains that can top 2000mm in a day (that’s three times what London gets in a year…) today it appeared practically empty – a good sign as it was not raining up in the hills.Our first stop came at the bridge below Chilan, where we crossed to the southern bank of the river for the first time and the road began to steepen. The scenery became ever more dramatic and the sun ever stronger as the group powered on uphill, occasionally catching their breath on a few short downhill sections.
By 11.30am we had reached around 800m and a bridge that crossed back once again to the northern riverbank. From here, the road ramped up sharply through immaculately terraced cabbage and spring onion fields, making the final stretches into our lunch stop at Nanshan a real challenge. Ash and Julia made it in first, followed by Clare, Robin, Jane and Phil.
Lunch was brief, with everyone loading on carb-heavy snacks and downing isotonic drinks to prepare for the brute of a climb that was to follow. By this point the sun was very strong, adding another dimension to what was already an imposing challenge.Phil decided to call it a day and ride in the truck, but the remaining riders ploughed on uphill, until Mother Nature quite literally stopped our progress. A landslide (that Rob and I had been blocked by last week) was still being cleared from the road and we all had to stop – some for longer than others… James and Jane faced a 45-minute wait for the diggers to clear some rubble, splitting the group in two on the toughest section of the ride.
But having safely passed the blocked road, Ash and Julia flew up the hairpin bends to the summit at 1964m, arriving in the clouds – apparently the first time Ash had ever stood actually in the clouds! Robin and Clare joined them shortly after and the four set off downhill and back into the warm sunshine. Great news was relayed up from behind too – Jane and James had made it past the slide and were hot on their heels.After a short ascent we were heading back downhill towards the river valley and the base of the final climb – which after 93km promised to be a beast. We took a quick refuelling stop at 7 Eleven before pushing off for the final assault on the route to Lishan. Just under 10km and 505m lay between the Pedal Taiwanners and glory (and of course an ice cold beer) in Lishan.
Although there were some savage ramps of up to 15%, the scenery was spectacular as we wound our way through apple orchards and tea plantations, with the imposing 3886m Xueshan Mountain looming to the west. Ash and Julia made it to the hotel first, followed by Clare and Robin, then Jane who had cycled the final 30km alone after James picked up an injury. It was an unbelievable effort by all, on what proved to be a staggeringly beautiful, brutal and immensely rewarding day in the mountains of Taiwan.After just about walking the 50m to dinner for a proper feast – I’ve never seen so much food get eaten quite so quickly – everyone is tucked up in bed and (hopefully!) ready for another awesome day tomorrow. And the good news is… It’s downhill!