One of my favorite rides when I lived in Taitung was a trip up to Luye (鹿野 lù yě), then back on county road 197. It was high on my wish list for this trip as well.
With hazy grey skies overhead we headed out of Taitung on Highway 9 and directly into a headwind. It is a long, barely noticeable climb all the way to Chulu (初鹿 chū lù). Where a lot of tourists turn off and head up the hill to the Chulu ranch to go look at cows. I grew up on a farm and I’ve seen my fair share of cows, so I’ve never been up to the ranch. Chulu is also where we started to encounter cyclist in some sort of organized ride, as denoted by the numbers on their bikes, coming the other way. The first few were really killing the ride, the latter ones, not so much.
Right after Chulu it starts to drop down into the river bottom, first gradually then with quite a sharp descent. This is also where we really hit the headwind. So our descent was a lot more mitigated than usual. But we finally made it down and crossed the bridge into the valley below. After hitting the valley we took an immediate left so we can climb up to the Bunun aboriginal village of Taoyuan (桃源 táo yuán).
After a quick spin around the village we took the main road that cuts across through the pineapple and tea fields to the village of Longtian (龍田 lóng tián). Among the other bucolic charms of Longtian is its collection of well kept older homes.
After the crossing the top of the hill we drop down into Luye to get something to eat. First we went to the bakery in town, which one of our favorite stops, to get some calories to go. We will need it for the ride up the 197. We found some heavy, sweet bready goods there that should recharge our batteries when we need it. That and a trip to the local 7-11 for more liquid and we were set. Except for lunch.
After picking up provisions for the second leg of the ride we rode around a little bit to see what the lunch options were. Down by the train station we found a beef noodle soup shop called Xuan Xuan (萱軒 xuān xuān) located at #16 Zhongzheng Rd (中正路16號).
It looked pretty popular so we thought we would give it a shot. Besides a big bowl of beef noodle soup (牛肉麵 niú ròu miàn) would be the perfect caloric injection required for the climb ahead of us. It did not disappoint. It was a big bowl of noodles with large succulent pieces of beef and a bit of greenery, both fresh and pickled, for extra dimension.
We also had a nice chat with one of the locals who had spent some time living in the US and was curious as to where we were from. Just another of those friendly encounters that seem to typify a lot of occasions in Taiwan.
After our meal we bid our new acquaintance adieu and got back on our bikes. We crossed the river to the 197 as the clouds started to break up a bit. With the wind at our backs we started to climb.
And climb some more. It is not an impossible climb by any means but it is a fair bit of climbing. As you leave the river bottom you pass through one little Bunun village after another.
Being a weekend there were a lot of family events going on in each village we came to. The first village had a wedding . The second there was a large group playing croquet or something very similar to it. There were people out barbequing sausages and pork belly. Then we came to a village where the cherry trees were coming into bloom. It smelled heavenly, of course so did the barbecued sausages a few miles back.
After we stopped to smell the flowers. We climbed on a bit more, past a child playing on a blanket while her mother worked in the fields. Finally we crested the first climb and descended. Soon catching up to a very cautious driver and past some very scruffy looking backpackers coming up the hill.
Reaching the bottom of the dip we paused a while to take in the view and let the car get ahead a ways. Then we started the final climb. At the top of which we broke into our bakery goodies as we peered out over the Pacific ocean.
We finally and quickly descended down to the Amis village of Shichuan (石川 shí chuān). Even managed not to hit any free range goats on the way down. Back down at the bottom we took Highway 11 back to Taitung. Very happy with our ride.
We got cleaned up then we hit Denim Elephant (丹寧象 dān níng xiàng) for eats. Denim Elephant located at 181 Guangdong Rd (UPDATE: They have since moved to a new location around the corner at 158 Zhongzheng Rd, 中正路 158) has long been a favorite or ours. The owners are definitely good people.
They do really good coffee, I find I actually drink more coffee in Taiwan than I do in the US, go figure. They also have hot pots and a number of vaguely western influenced dishes (and an English menu if you need). Not to mention there is an art gallery on the second floor. This day happened to be the opening of a new oil painting exhibit. Food and culture all in one.
If we are going to get something other than coffee it seems at least one of us has to get a “gratin rice.” It is a heavy dish of rice, veg, and cheese baked together in a ceramic bowl. It is like an Asian single serving “hot dish” that would make any Minnesotan happy. After a good ride and looking forward to another ride tomorrow it sounded perfect.
Creamy, cheesy, rich, and calorically dense. Definitely need to ride tomorrow.