[Cross Mountain Riding] MeiShan Tea Loop 梅山高山茶騎

[Cross Mountain Riding] MeiShan Tea Loop 梅山高山茶騎

Route Summary:

  • Starting Location: MeiShan Park (梅山公園).
  • Length: 80km. Highest elevation: 1126 m.
  • Hill profile: Difficult: two major hill climbs, then varied ups and downs.
  • Comments:
    • This route goes into very rural country area. Do not attempt riding by yourself if you are used to full-supported group rides.
    • Narrow roads from 15km to 30km. Pay more attention on this route, as it has very, very few passing-by.
    • Few cars throughout the entire route. More on Route #166.
  • Good for:
    • Major hill repeat.
    • Advanced climbing stamina management.
    • Rural road riding techniques.
  • Route Highlights:
    • MeiShan 36 switch backs.
    • Betel Nut plantation.
    • Carved creek bed.
    • Great 921 earthquake mountain slide.
    • Endless hills of tea fields.
    • (If you’re lucky) AliShan forrest train passing.

Most of the road climbing routes don’t feel like “riding in the mountain”: we follow a river valley or a mountain ridge, seeing the same side of the mountain all along the way.

The MeiShan route is special. If you look the terrain map it has these characteristics:

  • The route rides around a big mountain valley, thus you see the entire valley from different angles.
  • The area does not have a major mountain ridge blocking the view. Instead the peaks are scattered.
  • The high mountain plantations clear away the trees at road side and unblock the views.
  • Unlike the PingXi Challenge, mountains here are real big mountains with peaks over 1000 meter, steep hills and fast-flowing creeks.

All these together make this MeiShan route feels like “riding within the mountains” and in my opinion, is unique in Taiwan.

On the other hand, this route really goes into the rural side of Taiwan with narrow roads, bumpy road surface, very few cars, big rock road-side debris and no 7-Elevens.

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It also contains two major climbs followed with lots of up and down hills. Thus this route is for riders with extensive self-ride experience, who know how to ride on narrow uphill roads safely, self food/water support and stamina management.

The route starts at MeiShan Park. Supposedly this was a famous site for plum flower watching, but to my disappointment the parking lot is filled with stray dogs and cats, and the ground looks absolutely filthy.

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MeiShan Library next to the parking lot.

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It puzzled me that many of these stray animals actually wear collars…

The route passed briefly through town’s major intersection and headed through Route #162 Jia, immediately began the hill climb.

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Unfinished business with the gods…

You might think that MeiShan, which literally means “plum mountain”, has a lot of plum trees. Well it is actually filled with betel nut trees. Lots and lots of them.

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(Don’t chew betel nuts. It’s like the eating version of cigarettes, causing oral cancers.)

Route #162 Jia is a typical rural Taiwan agricultural road, passing lots of stuff that you won’t see in the cities and popular tourist areas.

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Cemetary on the road side.

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And the protecting temple nearby.

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Stopped and chatted with the old ladies preparing betel nuts.

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Soon the route started its famous “Taiping 36 turns”, the 36 switch-backs all to the top. Each turn has a number on it.

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It said “The Great Canyon in 23km.” Wow, I didn’t remember the Great Canyon has immigrated to Taiwan. Thanks Trump!

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Too much water filling the tank.

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Can you spot the number 4?

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Protecting fruits from birds and insects.

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So many wires…

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Viewing a switch-back.

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Someone couldn’t handle more switch-backs.

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A “little blue” pickup, commonly seen in hilly agricultural areas.

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Another crushed soul at…

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The No. 12 switch back.

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Great Canyon here I come!

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Stairs made by tires.

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Coffee shop at the 17th turn.

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“Be aware of pedestrian crossing” sign? More like “a run-over pedestrian is a good pedestrian”.

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Betel nuts hill view.

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Resting cyclist gangs at No. 20.

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Artistic bent-over sky bridge.

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At about turn No. 22 the area became part of the AliShan area.

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Viewed from the sky bridge.

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At about 800 meter the climate becomes suitable for growing tea, hence the betel nut fields become tea fields.

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Well pruned tea fields.

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Fancy green house.

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Looking down the windy path.

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Great mountain sides.

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Hey tower, I’m taller than you now.

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Sea of Clouds hotel.

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Unknown building. I’m guessing it’s a stupid scenic area statue for politicians to steal people’s money.

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Abandoned Chinese arbor.

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This looks like mountain witchcraft.

After the 36 turns the route entered Taiping (太平), a small mountain town without pesky tourists.

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The Taiping sign with exactly 1000 meter elevation.

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I’m guessing this is a tourist resting station. Good luck with that.

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Orchids in the green house.

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Taiwanese government seems to like building sky bridges so much.

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Major intersection with signs.

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At the end of Taiping town marked the start of narrow Route 162 Jia section. Soon the road also began descending.

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The left is the narrow #162. You can see how narrow it is.

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An old, simple yet elegant tea pot statue.

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The big temple…

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And a much smaller one nearby.

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Magnificant mountains.

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Finally we’ve found the Great Canyon!

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Oh wait… it’s “Great Canyon Ecology Ranch”.

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Route #162 eventually reached a river valley and crossed a river. The riverbed was amazing, filled with carved big rocks instead of the usual pebbles.

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After crossing the river, Route #162 began the second major climbing section.

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29.5 k coffee ranch. The 29.5 k measures Route #162 Jia’s mileage.

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Just before entering another AliShan tea area a vista point appears. Here you can see a major mountain slide area by the 921 earthquake. The slide used to form a lake below, but it was destroyed by a typhoon 7 years ago.

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The vista point.

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The secret honey water mix by the mountain old lady. Tastes really awesome and way better than those high glucose shit.

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The major sliding site during the big 921 earthquake in 1999. You can still see the bare slopes 16 years after. To give a better picture of the scale, the distance from river to top is 2400 feet, and the slope width is more than 1km.

After the vista point the route entered Ruifeng (瑞峰). Starting from here the next 25km are endless tea fields up the hills.

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This tea company hangs 7 or 8 “best tea”, “first class tea” competition plaques below the protruded second floor. Must be a big player here.

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Fortified tea fields against mudslides.

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High mountain cloth street vendor. Sorry, no malls here.

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Road side tea field. Smells really great.

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Dragon fruit field. Guess the soil here is so fertile you can grow anything.

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Free roaming chicken!

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Community trash collection point. The symbol is Taiwan’s recycle sign.

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The central area is dedicated for pesticide container recycling. This shows how pesticide intensive growing tea is.

After leaving Ruifeng area the route passed through a short mountain area, eventually entered another town Rueili (瑞里).

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A branch of MeiShang Township farm association. The farm association is a major political player in rural areas.

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I think these are bamboos.

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“Tourist area emergency site”.

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Swag hostel entrance.

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Local elementary school’s entrance.

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Leaving Rueili, the route returned back to mountain area.

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The valley at the road’s right side is carved out by mudslides.

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Steep slope makes maintaining steady stream impossible.

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Giant mountain grass. The leaf really can cut your flesh.

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What a way to warn people about cliffs.

Along the way there is the YuanTan Ecological Park (圓潭遊客中心), which is part of the AliShan Scenic Area. I’m always fascinated how few activities are allowed to do at Taiwan’s public recreational area. This shows how ignorant Taiwan’s government officials to outdoor activities.

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You can’t camp, can’t barbecue, can’t play in the creek and can’t climb. Then why are you here in the mountains?

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Oh, you can read maps, like you didn’t do that before you leave your home…

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And you need an info center in the deep mountains? Shouldn’t you visit that before you enter the mountains?

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And there has to be restaurants in the mountains. Eating and children-like hiking seem to be the only two things many Taiwanese know to do in the mountains…

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Further riding into the mountains, there were quite a few sliding areas that require concrete tunnel protection.

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As the route went further west, tea fields appeared again, and one could see the entire valley.

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Valley view in mist.

The AliShan forest train route passes through this area. I was lucky enough to encountered one but failed to snatch a photo.

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High mountain railroad crossing. You can barely see the red train at top right.

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Shortly passing the railroad intersection, the route began a long descend and left the mountain area.

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Drying out tea leaves.

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Last tea field seen in the route.

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WenFeng Visitor Center at the exit of hilly area.

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Eventually the route (now on #166) hit the town Zhuqi (竹崎) and turned onto Highway #3. There was a Zhuqi Water Park before crossing a nearby river.

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After Zhuqi, a mild 10km sprint along Highway #3 and you are back to MeiShan Park.

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A lot of fruit handling sites can be seen along highway #3.

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Motorist with cutting tools at back. He is ready for the zombie apocalypse.

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