- Location: Lugu (鹿谷), Nantou, about an hour drive from Taichung
- Long hill climb (38km upward to 1800m elevation)
- Tea plantation scenery, twelve “Chinese zodiac” switch-back
If you live in Taichung and crave for a longer hill climb route, plus enjoying some good Taiwan high mountain tea, the route Nantou 55/95 is what you need. It starts at ZhuShan Industrial Park (竹山工業區) and heads toward Xitou (溪頭), eventually reaches Sun Link Sea (杉林溪).
The mountains in the background are where we are heading.
There are two routes to Xitou: Route 151 and Nantou 55. Due to over-commercialization in Xitou, Route 151 has been overwhelmed with big tourist buses, cars, and scooters, making it unsuitable for cyclists. Nantou 55, on the other hand, mainly goes through farms and tea plantations, and therefore barely has any traffic.
Mountains and tall grass
Small corn field.
Compared to the steadily up Route 151, Nantou 55 has a few ups and downs and some switch-backs, giving the ride some climbing as technical descending practices.
This section of Nantou goes right through the tea plantations, with a few nice B & B scattered here and there.
It said “Deers roaming through the Tea Township”. “Lugu” literally means “The Deer Valley”.
“Little Half World”. It means a small, secretive world enclosed by itself.
Greenish tea field just along the road.
Nantou 55 eventually connects back to Route 151, and after about 2-km Route 151 connects to Nantou 95 that heads to Sun Link Sea. This 2-km section has a lot of traffic heading toward Xitou, so be sure to ride slow and steady.
The road crosses the river here, connecting to Route 151 to Xitou.
The Sun Link Sea Highway has 12 major switch-backs. Since the Chinese Zodiac also has 12 animals, these switch-backs are called “the Chinese Zodiac Switch-Backs”. Each switch back corresponds to one animal. However for some reasons I couldn’t find the 1st (Mouse) Switch Back and a few others.
The 11th (Dog) Switch Back.
Probably because Sun Link Sea is so close to Xitou, I did feel the traffic was heavier than 3-4 years ago when I first rode it. Occasionally there were also big tourist buses passing through. But since the Sun Link Sea Highway is relatively wide compared to Route 151, I still feel safe riding and grinding my gear up through those switch-backs.
Once we passed the 12 zodiac switch-back, a stunning high-mountain tea plantation was located on a pretty steep hill, with the tea shop next to it.
The store offered cold-brewed high-mountain tea in plastic bottles. It was really good, very rich in flavor and has a natural sweetness in it, far better than the cheap shit you could get from 7-11.
About after the tea shop the road started going downward, passing through a poorly lit tunnel.
And at the end of the road is the entrance to Sun Link Sea Forest Recreational Park.
The mist really cools the temperature a lot, making it very comfortable here. No wonder Sun Link Sea is a popular Summer destination.