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Upwards to the Station Above the Clouds

Taiwan 22 January, 2019 • by Jacky Lee

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I visit the folks in Taiwan almost every year, but this was the first time I came home with a bike. Growing up I often hear the motherland being referred to as “The Bicycle Kingdom”, but that name never carried any weight until I got into cycling. Popular sportives like Taiwan KOM put Taiwan in many cyclists’ bucket-list destinations. Since I got a remote role at Wahoo Fitness, I was stoked to come home and stay for as long as my visa (compulsory military service complication) allows.

Dad, knowing I was keen to ride, planned a family road trip on the first weekend of my arrival. The destination for the first day was Alishan, then Sun Moon Lake the next. They’ll be driving with their friends, pit stopping at attractions along the way, while I take this opportunity to ride from the edge of Chiayi County up to our accomodation in Erwanping (Alishan Youth Activity Center).

“Think of us as your support van, but with our own itinerary. You can call it quits anytime and hop on the van”

Mum and dad was skeptical I could reach the destination. I don’t blame them, I was skeptical too. The elevation map looked intimidating, but I wanted to give it shot anyway.

Drop off at 湖仔厝

I got dropped off 10 km before the base of Alishan so I can warm up the legs first. A 7-11 was conveniently located at . I filled my bidon with a Super Supau (Electrolyte drink), packed some Snicker Bars, then I was on my way. Reaching the base of Alishan I spotted a folk temple . These temples are everywhere, apparently there are more than 15,000 of them scattered across the country.

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Foggy start

A few minutes into the climb it became foggy. Dad warned me about this condition ahead, but he also said this is perfect condition for the lookouts ahead. I made sure all my lights were on, and kept going at it.

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'Slow' — marking on the tarmac around every corner.
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There were a lot of these hairpins going up.

Xiding Lookout

30 km in, I met up with the family van at . I made a brief stop to catch my breath and consumed some fruits & coffee they were having. At 1200m above sea level, we poked through the fog and were now slightly above the sea of clouds. The view was spectacular.

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Shizhaozixun Station

The second stop was at , 40km into the ride. Our light lunch includes 粽子 (Sticky Rice Dumpling), coffee and fruits (did I mention the fruits are legit here in tropical Taiwan?).

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After lunch I took the quiet that led back onto Alishan Highway 18. The path was dead quiet, perfect for a sneaky bike shot.

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Back on the Alishan Highway 18, I went through a couple of these hood tunnels. Due to Taiwan’s unique mountainous landscape, these have a better chance of sheltering the undercover road should a landslide occur.

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I also went through a 120m long . The mountain ranges in the backdrop felt like a game CGI. Here’s a footage:

Shizulu

64 km into the ride I made a water stop at . There was a tiny, vintage looking convenience store so I took the opportunity to fill up my bidon with electrolyte liquid, before tackling the last 10 km of constant climbing.

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Erwanping Railway Station

600m elevation later, I arrived at our destination of the day at . Originally constructed for logging, this is one of the stations on the Forestry Bureau Alishan Forest Railway line.

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The sea of clouds went on forever around the peak of 塔山 – A mountain worshipped by the Tsou People. Our accomodation was right in front of this train station. It didn’t take long before the sun setted so we headed into the restaurant for dinner.

Today’s ride was manageable, the pit stops along the way certainly helped. I highly recommend giving this ride a try if you enjoy the hills. You can download the route GPX file in the link below. I looked forward to the second day because it’s a nice gentle descent down to Sun Moon Lake.

Journal by Jacky Lee