Siew Leng beginning the climb in complete ease and ultra cool style!
Goodbye unearthly starts! The wonderful advantage of having an Ebike is the luxury of starting a tour later. KC woke up at 6am for sunrise photos while we rose 8-ish to a cool 18c. Our spirits soared when we saw the blue-est of sky - a nice contrast to yesterday's dreadful weather, another blessing to give thanks for.
We took our time to enjoy a lovely Taiwanese breakkie put out by our hotel and eating just by the lake was quite special. There were other guests as well and these delightful Seniors were on a local church outing. Total distance to Cingjing was just about 70km, first 20km largely downhill to Puli, then a gradual climb to CJ. Doing this on a regular bicycle would be a challenge but no, not us! We were not daunted as we had "assistance".
We left at about 10am and made our way to the huge Giant Bikeshop on the other side of the lake first. The 10km ride to Giant was most scenic as it skirted around beautiful SML. Frank's Ebike was having some issues with the rear wheel, mine had a loose headset and others had niggles that needed to be sorted. After all, we were going to be climbing up the very challenging Wulin and then descending at high speeds for 100km into Hualien. Better to make sure our bikes were tip-top.
The bike mechanics of Giant must be commended as they were so friendly and helpful to us and treated our Ebikes like gold. While waiting for about an hour or so, we had fun clowning around as always!
Our stomachs were rumbling when we finally could leave SML at noon but Puli was a mere 20km away. The downhill did not disappoint as we flew at speeds in excess of 50kmh and the porky 20+ kg weight of our bikes certainly contributed to the fun. I had stayed in Puli before and to me, it is just a very ordinary town but an important gateway to Taroko National Park from the West. We found a local eatery selling Mee Sua (a soupy thick gooey noodle dish) which was a favourite for many but fussy me had "adequate sufficiency" after a couple of mouthfuls.
Our team of 8 E-Cowboys and Cowgirls left at 2pm whirling away from Puli along Highway 14 and enjoyed a somewhat flattish ride for about 12km. The climb really starts after the 711 at 12km and although we were still full from lunch, we raided the 711.
There was a hose at the carpark and some of us could not resist washing our bikes. After all, getting it a bit lighter is important, as every gram saved counts! Out of nowhere, a rather gruffy chap appeared and scolded us for using the hose and that was the signal for the climb to begin.
With 2 batteries, we had ample reserves and I wasted no time to tackle the hills with ease on "Sport" mode. It made light work of the climbs, especially the steepest portions. Memories of each hairpin climb came back clearly to me and I remembered one particular section that nearly all of us in 2012 suffered from leg cramps as we painfully pedaled and pushed our way up. Dr Mike and Dr Celia were administering First Aid in a café then to those grimmiscing in pain.
This time however, I climbed up with a big grin permanently plastered on my painless face. The 350w motor really made easy work and averaging 20kmh was not a problem. At one stage, we could even overtake slower trucks who were struggling to inch up those steep slopes. All the climbing on full power meant we were running low on power but that was quickly solved with a quick change to a new battery.
This climb is not just beautiful in terms of scenery as we ascended but it also has a historical place of significance. We passed by the Wushe Incident Memorial Park where in 1930, the Japanese Army killed over 1000 Seediq Aborigines in response to an uprising where 130 Japanese died. This is marked by the Mona Rudo Resistance Monument.
On a side note, though both Korea and Taiwan were colonized by the Japanese, Taiwan enjoys a better relationship because Japan sought to prove to the world that they could be good occupiers by really building the country with sound infrastructure. Also when the KMT took over Taiwan after WW2, the terror they reigned upon Taiwan known as the 228 incident from 1949 to 1987 made the 1915 Tapani and 1930 Wushe incidents seem very small. More here in this excellent article - The Unusual Case for Taiwan.
Cingjing is a major tourist attraction in this part of Taiwan and for good reason. Some parts look like the rolling hills of New Zealand with sheep and all. As a result, there are lots of hotels and very European looking ones too. It does not take a lot to imagine we have somewhat landed in Switzerland or some alps in Europe.
We regrouped at the first 711 (there are 3 up in CJ) and waited for KC whose curiosity got the better of him as he went to explore some hotel in search of Harry Potter. It was nice to arrive here without feeling totally knackered and this place is special because it was where I met Ying Chang in 2012. He cycled all the way from Taichung to meet us here then!
Our hotel was the Ailiga Villa which is 3 mins walk to the Town Centre. Truly we were blown away by the warm reception we received and gratefully impressed that they allowed us to park our Ebikes in their office for safety. Moreover, they welcomed us to charge our batteries with their ample power sockets. Super bike friendly!
Frank on guard duty!
KJ and Frank were absolutely delighted to be in their very special Hobbit Villas and this was later voted as one of the best value for money accommodation for our entire trip - at less than 1000NT.
We enjoyed a piping hot steamboat dinner which was perfect in light of the cooler weather up here in CJ. The servings were huge but no one complained as everyone was hungry. We ate lots of fresh veggies, pork, beef and mutton and the soup just kept getting better and better as the dinner went on.
We had had to go for an after dinner walk after all the feasting and visited the Swiss Garden area and the 711 for coffee and dessert. It was wonderful to be on our feet without our bicycles for a change, in the cool pleasant surroundings.
What a glorious day this has turned out. Blue skies at SML and even bluer skies at CJ. Thank God indeed and we sing for joy at his great love for us! We felt extremely privileged to enjoy this first part of our climb in such glorious weather and in the company of great friends. Our happy spirits were of course also due to our rather effortless climb thanks to our Giant Fast XR Ebike (plus the blessing of the complimentary battery). Although tomorrow's hard climb to Wulin will cause many cyclists a sleepless night, we on the other hand had no such anxiety. We all slept well and with great joy!
This beautiful song probably captures the spirit of this beautiful day for me! Have a listen.