Upon waking I found the sky a little more grey than I would have liked, but there was one more ride I had to squeeze in. We wanted to ride up the coast for old time’s sake. So we set off north out of Taitung on Highway 11.
Shortly after crossing the river we encountered a familiar site. A massive ox pulling an old single bottom plow, digging up sweet potatoes. I was use to seeing this beast of burden when we lived in Taitung. It is a massive beast, I have seen a lot of bovines, but this one is truly huge. Like the size of an SUV huge.
This is the only place in Taiwan where I’ve seen an ox in use. It was a younger gentleman walking behind the ox on this occasion. In fact it may well be a different ox for all I know. But it appears to be the same ox cart and plow as before, and it is definitely the same fields.
I wish I knew the back story behind this. But for all the times I seen the ox and its handler in the past. I’ve never talked to either the farmer or bothered to ask anyone else who might know.
We continued on our way northward just rather enjoying the ride. Despite a bit of wind and the grey skies. The one striking difference between this ride and rides past on this route was the enumerable tour buses passing us by as we rode north. Seriously, there were what seemed as hundreds of them packing Chinese tourists northward. Stopping by whatever spot is designated a tourist spot. Whether it be Water Running Up or one of the coral shops meant to separate the Chinese tourists from their money.
We rode through Dulan (都蘭), a largely Amis village that has an almost irresistible magnetism to the hippie set, both foreign and domestic.
We rode on up the coast to the surfing hot spot of Donghe (東河 dōng hé). Donghe has a laid back surfer vibe to it, definitely a unique atmosphere. Many foreigners come to Donghe to surf, most Chinese and Taiwanese tourists stop by to eat buns. The tourist buses send their guide in to get bags full of buns for the bus from one of the two shops on the highway.
If those are too crowded for you, you can go a block off the highway to the little shop on the old road through town. You can’t miss it, it is a really small village. I can’t really say which place is best, they are all pretty good.
After eating a couple buns ourselves we decided to take a break from the headwind and head inland. So we mounted our bikes and crossed the old bridge and headed up the 23 (I wonder if the public toilet on the roadside there still has that Hello Kitty toilette). Provincial Highway 23 goes from the coastal highway through the mountains to the Inner Rift Valley. I’ve never actually been all the way through and we certainly didn’t have enough time for that today. But we could at least go in a little ways.
I like the part of the 23 I’ve ridden and someday I hope to do the whole route. There isn’t too much traffic up that way and the villages are a little sleepy. The one tourist draw that I know of is the Formosan Rock Macaques. Lots of people come up to watch them and feed them bananas. While I obviously find the signs to be hours of fun, I react to nonhuman primates the way some people react to bats.
A little side trip down memory lane.
I tried to quickly get past all the roving gangs of monkeys menacing tourists and trying to divorce weary travelers of their much needed food.
Past the macaques the road starts its descent into the valley and the village of Taiyuan (泰源 tài yuán). The road is cut so snugly into the hillside on the way down the rock cliff actually overhangs the road a bit in places. It is a little tight, but luckily there is little in the way of traffic.
In Taiyuan we were in need of more liquid. So after looking around the little village with its narrow streets and alleyways that double as staircases we stopped by the local store to get a big bottle of YoGoFresh yogurt drink. But then we noticed large pink paper wrapped logs. These turned out to be a local specialty, in the bright pink paper, with the red Buddhist motif print was a stack of moon cakes.
Not just any moon cakes, these were amazing. With a flaky crust and a sweet mung bean filling. That is not just the calorie deficit talking. We did not eat all of them at once and upon revisiting them I have to say they are, in fact, really, really good.
Deciding that we should probably head back we headed back up the hill from whence we came. On the way back we decided to take the tunnel out of the valley. It is a bit of shortcut to the coast and comes out on Highway 11 just north of Donghe. I am not sure why I wanted to go through it again. It is incredibly narrow, only one car width wide, it is dark, and even though it is one lane it is a two way passage. The first time we rode through it it just happened to be the same time as a bunch screaming Amis kids on bicycles. This time we just followed a car through. With our lights on for safety of course.
Back on the coast we headed south, which turns out to be a more tranquil direction. There were no tour buses headed south, seems that they all go counterclockwise around the island. Though by this time there were few tour buses left, most being further up the coast. And just for a bonus we finally had a tail wind.
Somewhere between Donghe and Dulan, by some little temple we stopped by a roadside stand that was selling custard apples (釋迦 shì jiā). Not one of those big fruit stands, just some old farmers wife with a basket and a sign. We tried to buy a couple. I say tried because, while she cut up a couple and we ate them, she would not accept any money from us. To complicate matters she spoke not a word of Mandarin, only Taiwanese (台語 tái yǔ). And we unfortunately can neither speak nor understand Taiyu. Well maybe three words, buts that’s it.
So with that confusing encounter behind us we rode back to Taitung and directly to the train station to return the bikes to the shop before it closed. Then take the bus back to downtown.
We will have one more day in Taitung, but unfortunately it will be on foot.