The Hungry Cyclist in Taiwan – Day 2

Taiwan’s east coast is dominated by mountains and sea. North of the city of Haulien, the meandering road rides high above the ocean, cut away from the sheer marble Cingshui cliffs that drop for thousands of feet into the swelling waters of the Pacific. Exhilarating cycling, this dramatic natural landscape is the perfect prelude for the jaw-dropping natural beauty of the Taroko Gauge National Park, named after the indigenous Taroko tribe, who have lived in the region for thousands of years. Traditionally a fierce tribe of head-hunters, today the Taroko celebrate their peaceful culture through music, dance and food. Taroko cuisine is some of the oldest in Taiwan and there is no better place to enjoy it than the Daheeli restaurant near the entrance to the gauge.

Entering this simple open restaurant decorated with traditional wood carvings and bathed in a pacific breeze, I was greeted by the site and sound of millet being mashed in a large pestle, while a young cook sang a traditional Taroko hunting song. Dinning on whole fish steamed in banana leaves, tempera taro leaves stuffed with wild mushrooms, parcels of sticky rice steamed in green leaves, gave me a taste of this aborigianl culture before roast wild pig and a hearty pumpkin and tofu soup were joined by punchy chillies grilled with fresh cuttlefish.

After lunch the road headed inland following the Liwu river up stream into the Taroko mountains. For millions of years the waters of this river have slowly worked away at the dense marble mountains and the result is the breath- taking Taroko gauge. Rapids scramble over huge boulders at the base of heavy marble cliffs, where swallows swoop and dive for insect in the shadows and cool air. The road that cuts through the gorge twisting in and out of dank tunnels, were cut into the cliffs by tireless workers in the 1950’s ensure that the natural beauty of the Taroko gauge is only matched by the ingenuity needed to build the road that allowed me to cycle into the heart of this mysterious landscape. Where to Stay: Leader Village Hotel,Taroko

Eight kilometers from the entrance of Tarako National Park and tucked away in a bowl of towering marble cliffs and verdant jungle, this charming hotel is built on the location of an original Taroko Village. After feasting on grilled wild pig and enjoying a traditional Taroko show, I drifted to sleep to a chorus of cicadas and running water in my very own stand-alone aboriginal-style cabin.