Alishan, April 12 - 13, 2010. Click pic for album

Taroko to Kending

Taroko Gorge to Kending, Feb 14 - 19, 2010.

Northern Cross Island Highway

Northern Cross Island Highway, May 19 - 21, 2008. Click pic for album
15th April, 2010

Riding up Alishan

This Monday and Tuesday we went down to Jiayi to ride over Alishan together with five friends. We hired a small bus to pick us up and drive us down to a few kilometers ahead of Jiji (集集) in Nantou County (南投縣), alishsan01.jpgthe epicenter of the big 921 earthquake on Sep 21 1999 that killed about 2,500 people. It would then pick us up on the other side of the mountain and drive us back to Taipei when we got off the mountain the next day. Door to door service that was cheaper than the high speed rail and meant that we didn't have toput our bikes in bags and switch to a bus to get to where we wanted from the HSR station. From the place where we got off the bus, there was about 10km to Jiji, a ride that brought us through the Green Tunnel (綠色隧道), a long section of road with trees that reach over and meet above the road so that the canope creates the illusion that you are biking through a tunnel. Or at least that's the idea. A pleasant ride, in any case. alishsan07.jpg
Breakfast for champions. Imagine waking up to this view every day. I can think of worse places to live. We came up all the way from the distant center of the picture to this spot at 1300m altitude.
The sun was blazing down so generous amounts of sunblock 48 was applied. After Shuili (水里), the climb started off with a short but intense 16% gradient, and then it basically never dropped below 5% except for short sections when it felt like we were going down, but my Garmin Edge told me that we were still going up, only the gradient had dropped to 1% or 2%. A gradient of 5% to 6% may not sound too bad, but if it goes on for 50-60km and sometimes reaches 20% and frequently goes up to 8-10%, it turns out to be quite tiring. alishsan05.jpg
The hillside road has been completely washed away by a landslide that has filled the river bed
The night was spent at Luke's brother's tea shop and restaurant at 1300m. It seemed to be the only place along the road that had not suffered from the Morakot disaster in August last year. Almost every mountainside had suffered minor or major landslides, and there were several road blocks where the road was simply closed for a couple of hours, then opened for 15 minutes to half an hour for traffic and then closed again for another couple of hours. alishsan03.jpg
The people living in this house were lucky to get away with their lives. The third house is half gone, split clean down the middle
When the road was closed, workers climbed up on the bare rock that remained after the landslide and then hung from ropes to set off small rock slides to clear the hillside of any lose rock and soil before they would pour cement over it, I guess, to prevent further landslides in the future. It certainly looked dangerous enough to see them hanging in the ropes and seeing the rocks bounce down the mountain side. When they were done, they let go of the ropes and walked/jumped/ran down the 100 meters or so of steep, muddy, rocky mountain side. Wonder how many die each year in that line of work. Tuesday morning we got a slowish start, and left at 8am, except for Luke and Bohong who left a bit later after having talked some more with Luke's brother. alishsan08.jpg
Setting off on the second half of the ride. A beautiful day
By 12.30, we had reached Tataka(塔塔加), the high point of the road, and just at the trail head for the trail up to Yushan. We were looking forward to a meal, but had managed to pick the one day of the month that the restaurant at the end of the road was closed, the second Tuesday of the month, so we had to continue on our way. We decided to get our meal further down, in Fenqihu (奮起湖), but got stuck in one of the road blocks for a couple of hours. Luke and Bohong were also caught at a road block further up the road that we managed to reach when it was open. A two hour wait. Luckily, we had nuts and chocolate bars and stuff to keep us going. alishsan10.jpg
Containers have many uses
The problem with the road blocks was that we were delayed, and so we decided to ask the bus driver, another of Luke's brothers, to come up on the mountain to pick us up there. Our descent thus ended at 1500m, but that had still allowed us a great, 30km, long decline, apart from a couple of kilometers when we entered Alishan Township, where the road leveled out and sometimes even reached a 1-2% gradient according to my Garmin. In the end, we didn't get lunch until dinner, at 6.30pm, below the mountain. We then dropped Victor at the Jiayi HSR station for further transport to Gaoxiong before continuing back to Taipei. Didn't get home until 12.30am. alishsan12.jpg
We came that way...
... and that way, too.
Facts Here is the ride on my Garmin page with all the bare data: elevation, time, distance, heart rate, cadence, calories burned and so on. If you go in the not too distant future, call the local highway bureau (公路局) to find out about road blocks and times so you don't get caught waiting for a couple of hours like we did. There really is a lot of road repairs going on. Added: A link to the highway disaster prevention and relief information system (公路防救災資訊系統) for those who read Chinese. Maybe not too frequently updated since I couldn't find info about the Alishan road. They give three information numbers on the site: (02)2311-3456 ext. 1968 (automated response), 0800-008456 and road disaster info 0800-231034. Photo album with a few more and larger photos.

11 comments to Riding up Alishan

  • Excellent photos and ride report. I have yet to do Alishan and you make it look so tempting.

  • tbv

    Glad you like it. It was a great ride, and we were so lucky with the weather. It is experiences like this that make biking in Taiwan so extraordinary. A good reason never to leave the place.

  • Looks like an awesome ride! Great pics!

  • Thanks for the post. I look forward to riding in Taiwan again someday.

  • Thank you for sharing the Alishan ride. I’m looking forward to hitting that road as well with Drew and others later in the year.
    Based upon your experience, when do you suggest starting out and from where to try and keep the road block stoppages to a minimum?

  • tbv

    There were three road blocks that we were aware of. We had to stop at the first and the third, and just rode through the second without realizing that there was a road block. We only found out later when Luke and Bohong who came behind had to stop there for almost two hours, so maybe there were others that we just rode through.
    The blocks are higher up on the mountain. We started at 1300m on the second day and the first block was at 2000m. It opened between 10.15 and 10.30, and they said the next opening was at 12 noon. We were lucky and only had to wait about 20 minutes or so. Sorry, can’t remember what kilometer mark, but if you check the Garmin map you can find out roughly where since you have the elevation. We rode through the second one going down on the other side of the mountain, and the third one was at around 1600m, kilometer mark 70 going down on the 18. Here we had to wait for over two hours. It was closed between 3pm and 5.30pm, but I don’t know when the earlier time was. Probably around noon. Maybe you can find out by calling one of the numbers that I found on the highway disaster prevention and relief information system site to find out.
    I honestly don’t know where to start out. We spent the night at 1300m at Luke’s brother’s place, and he doesn’t offer accommodation. Because he lived in what for us was such a convenient spot, we never looked for other places to stay, but there must be other hostels or B&Bs along the way where you could stay.

  • Linus

    Interesting post! I would like to get in touch with you, because I have a couple of question about the media market in Taiwan. Do you have an email address?
    Also, are you still playing “concrete bandy” in the summer?

  • tbv

    Hi, my e-mail is tbv at theforgetful dot com. Concrete bandy/street hockey is still being played Saturdays but I haven’t joined for a year or so. Some injuries and too much freelance work.

  • Ah you managed to post your photos and the ride report! I am still struggling with mine. I was so exhausted for about three days, then I just could not bring myself to sit down and write it…I am almost done now. Hopefully I will post it today….oh and I am “borrowing” your Garmin data 🙂

  • tbv

    I’ll look forward to reading it. You’re welcome to the Garmin data:-)

  • Lovely article, I rode up Alishan several times while living in Taiwan. I truly miss the mountains of Taiwan.