May 9, 2006 - Tuesday
Hualine, TW to (unknown), TW

Yesterday I followed the "inland" route from my start to Hualine. This was due to two reasons - wanting to check out the Southern Cross Island Highway and to make time. If I hadn't spent so much time on the CIH I could have bopped back out to the coastal highway. Wanting to get to Hualine before dark I decided to stay on the inland, valley highway.

Once or twice I saw some trains - one of them was going my way, close to the highway, and the highway was straight - Hmmm - how fast is it running? WOT and the cars still keep passing me up. Soon they aren't passing me by as fast and about the time the last car crept past me the tables turned and I was creeping back up on it - 102 kph (GPS). It was still kicking along as I eased back to the 50 kph speed limit.

So, you're thinking "what about the police" - well, they do exist as does the military. Out on the Penghu Islands the military seemed more "common" - bases and uniformed persons - either commuting to or from "work" or standing guard at a gate. Over here on mainland Taiwan military jets are more common (though you did see from a day or two ago some bases in the hills).

The police are about - either cruising with their lights off or often with their lights on. I passed one or two "checkpoints" - a squad car or two at the side of the road and the officers out standing looking at traffic. The have never given me a second look. I often wave or nod and they do the same in return with a smile.

Anyway, since I took the inland route to Hualine yesterday I wanted to see some of the coastal highway sights south of Hualine. So, in the morning I headed south a bit to check things out. Grand sights. I was planning on taking 30 minutes to head south and about the same time heading north (I anticipate fewer photo stops on any "return" or backtrack leg).

Bottom line - I took longer than I expected - full well knowing the Taroko Gorge trek was a day event in itself. Sections of this highway are undergoing changes - more tunnels being built and as such the road won't snake along the hillside with a view to the beauty to the east - just a dark tunnel through the rock. If you have any thoughts of visiting - soon is better though there is so much an extra tunnel or two won't impact significantly.

My turnaround point was this "resort" - somewhat in line with my feeling of Taiwan that improvements are constructed (buildings, info signs, vista points) and they they are little used and often little maintained. This resort was that - built up - and it looked decent enough - but it was sitting near vacant. Parking for 100 when only 2 are used. To top it off this beach was "the resorts" beach. It was gated off, fenced off, and barb wired off. Goofy - right up near the building was a "section" where a person could hop into the "resort" so they strung some barbed wire to prevent it - certainly looked out of place and certainly gave an un-appealing look to the place.

Anyway, they didn't mind me turning around or poking the camera through the fence to get a shot or so of "their beach".

Back through Hualine and a stop at MickyD's for a fish, some corn, and some OJ (orange juice). Heading out of town I stopped for some fuel and off I go. I notice the "Oil Change" indicator flashing. Felipe says he gets oil changed every two weeks (in the amount of kilometers he normally travels). It flashed for a change a couple days before I left Penghu / Makung. I made it about five days with the amount of driving I'm doing.

Not more than 3 minutes later, over to my right, I passed by a Yamaha shop. Knowing how fast it took for the last oil change I turned around and rode back, at the far outside of the roadway, against traffic. The owner came up and I pointed to the "oil change" indicator and he got right to work. Out came the drop pan. The drain plug wrench was sitting on the ground nearby - out the hot oil came. While that was draining he went to his tool shelf and pulled out a linesman's pliers, went over to the right side of the bike, and twisted off the fill/check cap. This act greatly interested me as I've tried twice to check the oil level in the bike - never knowing where the fill / dipstick item was. The item on the right certainly looked right but I could never get it to budge - and now I know why. It must be standard practice to wrench-tighten the fill / dipstick cap.

That task done - 250 NTD - about $8 US - his wife said something and he acted upon it (I had showed him my map and outlined my travels with the bike). What'd she say? "Check the air in the tires" - in a language I couldn't understand - but when he pulled the tire gauge off of the shelf, hooked it up, and went to each tire - adding some in the rear, letting out just a little in the front - it was obvious what transacted.

I asked if I may take his photo (I've not spoken a word mind you) and he smiled and shyly waved me off - fine enough. I backed out, started up and toot-tooted the horn and waved a good wave. Onward to Taroko Gorge!

The Gorge entrance isn't far north of Hualine - maybe 20 minutes. Once there it became evident that this would be a spectacular event. I'll let the photos do much of the talking. The "lower" or eastern portion is more "touristy" with tour buses and such. This section is also what I would call "the narrows" - tall, steep sides with the roadway snaking along just a bit above the rolling water.

There are several tunnels with new tunnels being constructed. Rolling through one of the longer tunnels I noticed an "air vent / escape tunnel" off to my left. They are somewhat common and are much like the main tunnel itself. Taking the opportunity to see something perhaps a bit different I pulled off into one of them (I could easily see out the other end) and parked at the outer end of it. I walked out onto the old roadway - what was used before the tunnel was opened. The roadway was turned into a walking path. There were people about but nobody seemed to pay too much to me parking the bike and walking out. I snapped a few photos and headed back to the bike. Oddly this lady, a mother with her adult kids nearby, started walking into this tunnel (possibly from seeing the bike parked there). Her daughter said a few things to her but she kept walking. When I walked past the daughter she had a look on her face - a mix of despair and disgust. Oops - good thing I had left my helmet on!

Farther up / west the tourist traffic stops (the town of Sibau?) and the beauty changes a bit - the vistas widen slightly and the road snakes upward. The road crews are eternal - I passed 5 to 10 construction sites - all are a battle with Mother Nature. The road has a tenuous hold and must hold a surprise or two after a heavy rain. Partial to near complete road washouts and fortification efforts were underway. One site had us at a 5 minute hold while another took perhaps 20 to 30 minutes between traffic passage events. There weren't many vehicle on the road but when I saw a pack of cars heading towards me I knew a long hold was up ahead.

The road kept twisting up and up. With the altitude increase came the anticipated decrease in power from the 125cc 4-stroke (digital fuel injected though). I'm not at the top yet - but the sun is soon to disappear - and while I'm not hungry I do have a headache (not drinking enough water though I am close to the 1 to 2 liter per day range). Need Food Soon mode.

I see the hotel (referred by a policeman where I stopped to ask about a hotel - 13 kilometers west). It'll be expensive - and that's OK. A nice place on the mountain side with a fantastic view to the east (too bad I'm not a morning person - sunrise is at 5:35am - specifically mentioned by the staff - I'll try to get up and photo it for ya - no guarantee), I've been staying in "budget" places so far.

Well, as I type this I've had 1) some granola from the bike to help calm the jitters, taken a nap in the heated bed (the room isn't heated - the place is at about 8500 Feet MSL), taken a shower with the HOT water (available from 16:00 to 22:00), eaten a hearty dinner in the dining area. While a tinge of the headache exists I do believe it will be gone by morning.


One more thing - 3.5 legged dogs (and cats). I've seen a few of them - missing a front or rear leg section. A couple dogs had what I would call fused hips - legs that don't move much at all. Perhaps they got hit by a car?

The dots today show missing sections. Loss of GPS signal either from tunnels or the steep, narrow canyon walls.

Road down to the Huting spot, Some Taroko Gorge roadway
MPG, 3.5 MB, 49 sec

The bike has company - black cat taking a nap.

It was rather content until the hotel owner lady (who was very congenial and nice) came out to shoo it away.

Info map
Click for a larger size

South of Hualine - out at the coast

Again - more tunnels in the making.

And when the tunnel pops out of the hill and before it pops into the next - you need a bridge.

There was this beach down at the end of this valley. I saw the road down so I figured I'd give it a try.

It popped out at this local spot. Interesting.

I could use something to eat - but I'm pressed for time - off I go.

Info sign
Click for a larger size

Info Sign
Sorry for the odd slant - I needed to get a sun-glare-free angle
Click for a larger size

This was one comfortable wooden bench. The curved back was nice but the key is in the seating boards - the front two are higher than the rear two. Note to self - when building a bench consider this style.

I'll go as far as that "big rock" down there and then turn back.
This picture is taken from a rest stop.

The gated, fenced beach resort.

Ah, yes, such a beautiful use of barbed wire.

A view back to the above mentioned "rest stop". It is at the right end of the horizontal line about 60% up the hill.

The amazing, versatile scooter. Black dog sleeping under the trailer.

To get a photo of the gorge itself I went down a local road....

Looking across the valley to the entrance of the gorge. Difficult to see with all of the trees.

A view down to the "Huting" location.

Partial road washout. Heavy cement reinforcements twisted and taken out.

Another view of the "Huting" location.

Tunnel construction.

Info sign
Click for a larger size

Postal delivery - via motorcycle. Newspaper delivery is also by motorbike. I saw the postal guy on the Taroko gorge route - that'd be a fun route to have.

Another "coat on backwards" wearer.

Child too big to stay in the pouch slung from your back / chest? Child not quite old enough to stand in the step through area? Get a child seat for your scooter! You can still fit some groceries under the seat....

Oil change time!

Visible here is a separated scooter lane passing under a bridge. I'm looking back at where I just came from. I'm right next to the airport - thus the barbed wire.

I think this might be one of the "fast" trains.

The entrance to Taroko Gorge.

Info sign
Click for a larger size

At the start of the gorge there is roadway on both sides. The "left" side - visible here - will possibly be closed as the "right" side is a set of tunnels. Since the distance from start to where the left and right sides meet is short (2 miles perhaps) I backtracked and did both of them.

Document the start time and altitude.

Visitors center art at the start.

Not roadway - walking paths.

There was one dam holding some water back. This small whirlpool was just near the dam.

Postal delivery guy - they wear green and have green vehicles (motorbikes and vans). I seemed to often park by "falling rocks" signs for my photos.

Anyone catch the little bridge crossing the river? The place is loaded with hiking trails.

Here's a closer look. The water was gushing between those two rocks.

That bridge crosses over to this trail. You can just make out some of the steps.

Tunnel close to completion.

The bus was moving SLOW - inching through this turn.

Roadway, passed by with a new tunnel, is turned into a walking path.

I parked the bike at the end of an "escape" tunnel and jumped out onto the old road / walkway.

The bike - and you can barely make out the lady walking up the tunnel.

I wonder what type of BOOM this rock made when it fell?

Foot bridge?

Road cuts on the hillside

At one 180 deg turn in the road there was a pull out with this cable cart. It seems that it is no longer used. I hope people weren't hauled in it - the hooks connecting the cart to the winches are not captive - any bouncing on the cable and they could pop out. The cable extending to the right and down is the "pull cable" and it appeared to be disconnected making me think this is no longer used. The haul up and across the valley would be exhilarating though. Perhaps an operator rode in the cart at the top of this? I think that maybe the two winches are operated during the trek to keep the cart level? Or at least to lower the cart at either end to load and unload it. Click here to see a close up of the cart

Follow the cable. I highlighted the termination spot with a red circle. It doesn't look far here - but a photo or so below will have a cross view of the valley.

The cable, at my lower end, terminated by wrapping around a tree trunk several times and was buried beneath two cement blocks.

The cart is at my back - tight 180 in the road. I might have had a wide angle lens for this - not sure.

OK, this is the cross valley shot. The road comes in at the bottom left of the picture and hits the 180 deg turn top right of that. This is where the cable cart is. The cable then extended to the top right of this photo. Crazy.

Road side stop

Info sign
Click for a larger size

I didn't give this "Do not enter" sign a second glance the first time I walked by - just a gate. Then I noticed they mean it - it's not a gate and is cemented into place. The trail must be washed out and impassible.

Pick up stuff on the high side.

Swing it to the low side and drop it

Stop in the middle and wave by the scooter traffic

Another suspension path bridge - way down there. Look in the photo above - it's down near the bottom right.

On the mountainside - farming.

If Mother Nature isn't taking out the guard rails - humans try.

Waiting to pass the 30 minute construction zone.

The fog lifted a bit and I noticed the slide sheds up the hill - I'm going up there! While it looks far - when you're actually driving the road it doesn't seem all that steep

OK, we're under way - snap a pic when I pass through the size zone.

Looking back at this slide shed - it's getting a workout.

The slide zone.

Look at this pic then look back at the one above.

The slide zone from I think the first level of slide sheds. See the yellow taxi on the roadway to the right - that's where the bike was parked in the earlier pictures. I also think it's odd to see a taxi "way out here" but it is common.

And up here in the hills is a fruit stand. Probably run by the farmers up here - they might be the aboriginal people.

Guard rail dangling - I guess there's a road up there.

This is the next level up - with the dangling guard rail - there's a full lane left.

A good chunk of rock sitting there.

Looking up.

And still only 6K feet - we'll top out at just under 11K.

I filled the 1GB camera card (emptied each day).
Pull over, pop out the laptop and offload it.
268 photos total for the day - 187 listed on this page.

The bike is parked just to the left of this photo.

If I didn't unload it I wouldn't have gotten these next few photos - sunset lighting.

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