Monday, October 4, 2010
Coastal cycling path 濱海自行車道
The dedicated cycling path that runs along the coast of Jiaoxi and Zhuangwei townships is without question the best bicycle route in Yilan. It runs between two rivers, with a total length of 14.5 kilometers. The sand beach is gorgeous and usually empty - most Taiwanese don't like beaches. Along the entire route the condition of the path is excellent. This path used to be a military road where soldiers rode aound in jeeps and patrolled the coast. After martial law was lifted and beaches opened to the public, the government turned the military road into a dedicated bike path. Occasionally a rude fisherman or tourist will drive a car or scooter along the path (even though it's illegal) but the path is usually empty of traffic.
There is a barrier running along the entire coast which protects the inhabitants from communist invaders, typhoon storm surges, and tsunamis. For most of the route, the bike path runs along the top of the barrier, although it goes down on one side or the other in places. Because the barrier (and bike path) goes up and down, it provides a variety of scenery and also some good exercise. A round trip ride is less than two hours.
The north point of the path is pretty ugly - for the first kilometer you ride past the river flood plain and concrete flood barriers. Then you get some very nice views of the sea and of course Guishan island. You pass a military base parallel with the town of Dafu 大福. If you want something to eat or drink, you can ride down to the main coastal highway here. There is a 7-11 in the village, next to the police station.
Sometimes the bike path is closed in front of the base when soldiers practice firing their big guns over the ocean. A bored-looking soldier stationed on the road will tell you that it's closed. In that case you just have to go over to the coastal highway and ride down the road until you see a little path that leads you back toward the beach.
The southern half of the bike path has much more foliage. You can't see the ocean for most of the way here, but you get some shade and the coastal forest is attractive. The path dead ends at the point where the Lanyang and Yilan Rivers come together and empty into the ocean. There is a flood plain here which is good for bird watching in winter and spring.
The beach is perfect for swimming - it's extremely shallow near
the shore, so it's very safe. In most places there aren't any people, so you can go down and enjoy your private stretch of (swimsuit optional) beach. Considering how crowded the beaches are at Baishawan and Feicuiwan, the long empty beach here is an amazing luxury.
Watch out for sand drifts. Sometimes lots of sand blows onto the bike path where it runs close to the beach. The local sand is incredibly fine, so it can be very slippery when it accumulates. And once I saw a cobra here - it's the only time I've ever seen a cobra in Taiwan. I came up on it from behind and took it by surprise, and it reared up and hissed at me. It scared me so much I almost fell off my bike. But I've ridden that path many times and only saw a cobra once, so don't let that put you off.
You can get onto the bike path in lots of places - there are access roads running from the coastal highway down to the beach along the entire length. For more information see my posting on Yongzhen Beach.