Back from a 3-day motorbike ride to the central Taiwan mountains
I've wanted to do this for many years, but somehow never managed to do
this even back while I was spending a lot of time in Taiwan: A
motorbike ride crossing the mountainous center of the island using the
Cross-Island Highway. This highway is probably not what most
people imagine a highway would be like: A narrow road consisting almost
entirely only of serpentines with a speed limit of typically 40 km/h.
In other words, a motorbiking paradise.
You can enter that highway from the east by starting from Taroko Gorge. In
order to get there by motorbike, you take the famous Provincial
Highway No. 9 from XinDian via Pinglin to Yilan, which is frequented a
lot by Taipei motorbike riders on weekends. The No. 9 further leads
along the cliffs of the coast to Xincheng, from where No. 8 starts.
The trip from Taipei to Xincheng is only about 200km, but still you need
at least something like 5.30 hours if you want to ride safely. This is
once again due to the mountain roads. You can barely see 100m at any
given time to the next turn in the road all the way between XinDian and
So I stayed one night at the entrance of Taroko Gorge.
Upon arrival I was greeted by the hotel owner with the news that No. 8
had been closed temporarily due to rock fall at km 150.9. That was
pretty devastating to my plan, as this road is the only connection in
the northern two thirds of the entire island. There is no alternative,
except for No. 20, which would have been probably three times the amount
of distance (and thus time). However, as it later turned out, the road
would be opened for 30 minutes between 6am and 6.30am. So I had to
leave at 5.00am in order to safely ride the first 30 km up to the road
block. This turned out to be the best thing that could have happened:
- There was absolutely zero traffic in either direction (the first
25km to Tienshang that are normally full of tourist busses).
- I was able to witness the sunrise at about 5.40am in the mountains
- very clear sight, which at other times is not clear at all
So I reached the road block even ahead of schedule and was able to pass
I continued along the road, and due to the fact that the road was
closed again after 30mins, there was close to zero traffic all day on
the entire road.
At Dayuling, you can either continue the 8 towards Lishan (but not much
further due to repeated subsequent earthquake and typhoon damage), or you
an continue along No. 14 A towards Hehuanshan (Mt. Hehuan). I first
went to Lishan (a major tea planting region) and back, as due to my
early morning start I had lots of time left for detours, to continue
towards Mount Hehuan , where the road reaches an altitude of more than
I spent the second night in Renai, where I arrived just in time: The
first rain drops of a heavy afternoon thunderstorm were falling.
In the morning, I was greeted by the following view from my hotel room:
I left again in the early morning, drove through Puli and headed for the
Sun Moon Lake
It really is beautiful, as you can see in the following picture.
However, it is also over-developed to care for tourists of all sorts,
including lots of concrete directly at the lake, and bus-loads full of
tourists, Starbucks coffee shops and everything that comes with it.
After two days in remote mountains with little buildings and almost no
people, the experience was so shocking that I decided not to circle the
whole lake but instead continue down south along No. 16 until it meets
No. 3, which I then drove more or less all the way back to Taipei.
The first sixty-or-so kilometers are painful, as they lead through
heavily populated areas around Nantou and Taichung. This means that
there's lots of traffic, and very frequent traffic lights that make you
stop. Later on, the road leads through less populated mountainous
regions, and driving is more relaxed again.
Having managed this trip without any problems (nor getting lost even
once), I'm hoping to find some time in the future to ride No. 7 from
Yilan to Lishan, and particularly Provincial
Highway No. 20, crossing the mountains much more south.
And if there's one part for me to remember: Always avoid the densely
populated regions in the west of the island. If I wanted to ride
stop-and-go all day long, I don't have to leave Taipei or New Taipei
City in the first place ;)
Syndicated 2012-06-10 02:00:00 from Harald Welte's blog