[Strawberries and Broken Bridge ] Great South Miaoli Loop 環南苗栗水果斷橋騎

[Strawberries and Broken Bridge ] Great South Miaoli Loop 環南苗栗水果斷橋騎

Taiwan Miaoli Cycling Southern Loop Route Summary:

  • Starting Location: Below LiYuTan Arch Bridge (鯉魚潭拱橋). There is parking space below.
  • Length: 92km. Elevation gain: ~1700 m.
  • Hill profile: varied. No long hills but have many short steep ones.
  • Good for:
    • Winter training. Short steep hill repeat.
  • WARNING: Aggressive dogs may present at country side. 
  • Route Highlights:

In Taiwan, Miaoli is an often neglected place for cyclists. It is a relatively poor agricultural county, lacks no good roads up to high mountains, and does not have a big city to for a big cycling community.

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Miaoli, Taiwan’s country-side county.

On the other hand, Miaoli is great for cyclists who prefer a quiet ride rather than “epic”, “must-do”, “tourists-fighting” rides. Its hilly terrains also created many isolated point of interests that are ideal for cyclists to visit.

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The locally famous LongTeng Broken Bridge (龍騰斷橋).

Our South Miaoli Loop began at an unmarked bike trail head beneath a train arch bridge. It was windy and chilly in the morning.

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The first time I had to wear a jacket outside Taiwan’s mountain areas.

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Saw 10 in Taiwan.

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Under the great arch.

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This trailhead is unmarked on Google. I found it by accident.

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Arch bridge at a distance.

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Nearby fields.

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The routes first went towards LiYuTan Reservoir (鯉魚潭水庫), our first point of interest. Very few cars along the reservoir’s downstream valley.

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A little tree farm?

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A downstream secondary dam, not our main target.

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Water pipes.

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The main dam at a distance.

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The main reservoir welcoming sign. Left was toward the dam, and the right was the management office.

I bumped into a few cyclists groups along the way. Seemed like the was a popular local route.

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A few more climb and we reached the dam’s vista points.

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Emptied 2nd parking lot.

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Great downstream valley.

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Unfinished vista point structure? Probably ran out of funding. The Taiwanese government really should learn that “Less is More”!

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Towards the main reservoir entrance.

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Took a peek for the parking lot.

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The dam did not allow bicycles to get in, so I had to take a long walk down to the dam, having fun walking on cleats.

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Try walking down and up this road with cleats. Ouch!

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Very cool “V” shape spillway.

The LiYuTan reservoir is the only Taiwanese reservoir with “tooth shaped” upper dam body.

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The dam’s teeth and upstream view.

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Having enough of the main dam we continued the route that went from the reservoir’s other side.

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A street fruit vendor. Lower Miaoli was a major fruit production area. Now in January the seasonal fruit is Ponkan (椪柑), an orange category with loose peels.

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At top of the route was a big orchard area, featuring pears (not in season now.) and ponkan.

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Pear field uphill view. January was not pear’s season, so the pear trees did not have leaves.

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Pear field down-hill view.

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Overseeing the great ZhuoLan (卓蘭) plain area. Over the far hills was TaiChung. The plain area was Taiwan’s major grape production area.

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Ponkan fields with orange fruit baskets.

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Colorful road-side fruit stand.

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Pear trees protected by white plastics for flowering?

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Our route soon connected to the main reservoir road. But for me I took a short detour up to a flat area (西坪) south of the reservoir to see some more orchards and fields.

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The reservoir. Beneath it was its main road.

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The flat agricultural area.

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Strawberry fields!

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It said “DaHu Strawberry Special Truck”…. does this mean that the famous DaHu strawberries (later in this article) were actually produced here???

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Following the white butterfly.

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Left was a green house.

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Corns!

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Taking a peek into the green house.

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“XiPing (西坪) Recreational Farm Area.”

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In additional to recreational farms, there were also some beautiful private gardens here for tourists, like this one.

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A recreational flower garden.

Having seen many farms the route descended sharply and back to the main reservoir road. Here there was another vista point to see the upper reservoir.

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LiYuTan literally means “Carp Lake”, hence the carp statue.

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Steps back to the main road.

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High viewing platform.

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Another reservoir sign. We would soon crossed the bridge far below.

The reservoir road merged with the famous State #3 route that went from Taiwan’s north to south. It crossed the reservoir and passed all the way through Miaoli’s inner area. A great road for motorbikes.

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Viewing upper reservoir from State #3 bridge.

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Other reservoir side from the bridge.

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DaHu District welcoming sign (still far from the main strawberry area.)

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The State #3 here was 4 lane wide and had relatively few cars. Nevertheless I felt the speed limit was too fast for a quiet ride.

As Miaoli was abundant with fruits, I decided to leave State #3 and took a detour into rural fruit production area, also adding some more mileage.

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The detour started at a local place called ShiJin (石景).

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Big orchard turn.

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Very cool fruit pillars community mark. Bumped into it when I missed a turn felt like climbing more.

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Typical Miaoli terrain. Miaoli was separated by lines of hills all going from north to south.

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Water conservation ponds.

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Passing a reservoir branch.

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Reservoir and ponkan.

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Pitaya fruit (火龍果) field. The circular stack helped support the plants.

The detour route took us south and back to ZhuoLan (卓蘭), which we rode before toward Shei-Pa National Park. In between was a hill-side cemetery which we descended through via a few switch-backs. Kind of cool though.

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From closest to far: orchards, cemetery (white buildings), plain and hills.

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Cemetery closer look.

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I took a short detour up a hill to take some pear flowers shots.

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Beautiful white pear flowers.

From ZhuoLan we headed onto County #55 (苗55) that headed back north toward DaHu (大湖), a major strawberry production area. Very quiet and nice on this route, with tons of orchards to look at.

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A big ponkan statue.

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I saw many of these mysterious metal boxes along the irrigation channel. I’m gonna guess it was the water pump station.

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Beautiful orange flowers.

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Cabbage fields.

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Taiwan’s winter color: brown, green and red.

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Ponkan orchard. Ready for pick-up.

Along the way there was the ZhuoLan hydropower plant. Though it didn’t look impressive, it had a tunnel that went through over 2km of mountains east to ShiLin Dam for water.

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ZhuoLan hydropower station.

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As we continued north, we soon reached DaHu, the famous strawberry production area in Miaoli. Now (January) was the strawberry season, so many people came her for strawberry picking.

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Type 1: on-the-ground strawberry field.

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Type 2: on-the-stack field. Easier to pick for adults.

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People picking strawberries.

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There was a nice bike route along the fields.

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Passing the strawberry fields, the route entered the main DaHu downtown. There was a tourist trap DaHu strawberry wine place (大湖酒莊) at town center. To avoid traffic, one could cross the main State #3 to a small road at the other side of the river.

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Main town welcome sign.

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DaHu Strawberry Wine place.

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The river flowing through DaHu. Right side was the town center. I’m going to the left side in search of piece of mind.

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Field views with green onions.

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Hakka kimchi (客家鹹菜).

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The red bridge was our way out of the local road.

After leaving DaHu’s strawberry area there was a small old street, the WenShui Old Street (汶水老街), perfect for some food supply.

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The bridge to the old street.

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Old Street welcome sign.

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After a new speedway (#72) opened that bypassed this area, the old street became much quiet.

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GuoXin Beast Meat Shop…

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These creepy black things were marinated, dried pigs’ liver/bravery, a traditional hakka dish.

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Getting some strawberry sausages.

Having supplied at the old street, the route continued onto State #6 that went toward west and entered a big river plain area, Miaoli’s GongGuan (公館).

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Big river along State #6. The high-rise road at the other side was #72 Speedway.

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The sign of “Golden Town Recreational Farm Area” (黃金小鎮). Here GongGuan was famous for its red date cultivation.

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A popular hakka noodle place: FuLe Noodle Store (福樂麵店).

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Red date trees. Now (January) was not the season.

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For some reason the red date fields were always accompanied by lotus fields.

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A sign for an interesting local name: ShiWeiXiang (石圍牆), which literally means “stone walls”.

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A racing pigeon veterinary hospital. Pigeon racing is a popular sport for country-side Taiwanese.

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Lotus fields surrounding red date trees.

After passing GongGuan, the route went onto a big bridge and crossed the river south. There was a pedestrian walkway at the bridge’s side. Good for bicycles, but be cautious for some uneven parts.

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Broken, rotten chairs that nobody used.

After crossing the river we turned left and continued heading south.

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Another tourist trap great Miaoli recreational place: Hakka Courtyard (客家大院), featuring fake traditional hakka building.

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Here the road was County #119, very wide and had very few cars, great for sprinting and enjoying the true country side of Miaoli.

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The area here literally means “old chicken cage (老雞籠)”, hence the chicken statue.

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Corn fields.

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Typical Miaoli country side. Notice the brush-like trees on the hills. They were bamboos. Miaoli’s hills had lots of bamboos rather than big leaf trees.

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A Formosa Giant Locust (台灣大蝗). It was as big as your finger.

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County #119 crossed the hills and entered to another Miaoli’s big town at the other side: SanYi (三義). It was famous for its wood carving and had a museum about it.

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Deserted wood trunks for carving.

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A wood carving workshop.

There was also a cool new point of interest here: the painted stairs of JianZhong Elementary School (建中國小).

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We’ll see the painted object later.

From SanYi we headed onto a local route (County #49) to a famous place in SanYi: the decommissioned ShengXing Station (勝興車站).

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Notice the road with the green bus? That road was National HighWay #1 (國道一號), one of the two major highways  in Taiwan, going from Taipei to KaohSiung.

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A cat-theme gift shop at the station area.

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“Rusty Bike Stinky Tofu (老鐵馬臭豆腐).”

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A blackboard hakka dishes menu.

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Reminded me of zombie movie scenes. At far end was the tunnels.

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That “No Crossing” sign was kind of ironic here…

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The main station entrance. That statue was kind of creepy.

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Some swag top skills.

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An old well.

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Station stores.

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Historical station head’s dorm.

Having enough of the station the route began to descend further south, passing another famous Miaoli’s point of interest: the LongTeng Broken Bridge (龍騰斷橋). The bridge was built during the Japanese Occupation in 1905 and was damaged during a big 1935 earthquake.

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Don’t go into this part when you saw this dragon statue and the “broken bridge’s entrance”: it was not the entrance and passed through food vendors. I found this a distasteful way of cheating people to go over shops.

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The metal bridge behind was the new, functioning rail bridge.

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After passing the broken bridge, the route eventually headed back to the LiYuTan reservoir valley.

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Great valley view.

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LiYu Elementary School

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Heading back to the arch bridge.

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Signing out.

Overall Ride Impression:

This was a really nice ride. The traffic was few throughout the route, the views were great, and there were many nice point of interests evenly distributed along the route. Highly recommended.

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