Ruisui Bikeway: Hot springs, hiking trails and harvests
Ruisui Township is located in Hualien County in the gorgeous East Rift Valley. It can be easily reached via Provincial Highway 9, the main road that runs through this valley. As this 11.3 kilometer bikeway begins at the Ruisui train station, traveling by train is also very convenient.
The East Rift Valley is surrounded by two major mountain ranges, the Central and Coastal mountain ranges, but in the center it is flat. This makes for leisurely bike riding. The Ruisui Bikeway is suited to all ages, with some minor undulations, and requires only an average fitness level. It can be completed in a little over an hour without too many stops.
Along the way, there is a diversity of scenery, as this bikeway is comprised of existing industrial and rural roads, lined by coffee farms, pomelo orchards and pineapple plantations. There is also a grass reserve for producing "green feed". One of its highlights is a straight, beautiful camphor forest path. Camphor trees line both sides, creating a shaded "green tunnel".
Although this bikeway has many turns, it is well marked with wooden signs on tall signposts showing the directions of the various attractions, as well as metal signs with a logo of a cow on a bicycle.
The reason for the latter is the presence of two large dairies in this township. Locally produced milk is used in the fresh milk hot pot served at the Lu Jing Ling eatery in central Ruisui. Hot pot normally has a broth base and ingredients such as vegetables and thin slices of meat are added. They are removed and dipped in sauce after being cooked in the broth. It is the broth that adds flavor. Here, the broth is milk based and can be ordered in original milk flavor or curry or vanilla flavors. This is a unique dish, and not too heavy, so it can be a pre-or post-cycling meal.
This bikeway not only passes through beautiful rural landscapes, but also through the Ruisui Hot Springs Area. These hot springs began to be developed in the early 20th century during the Japanese occupation era (1895-1945). The source of these waters, claimed to be beneficial to the skin and for relieving arthritis, is the Hongye River. The natural temperature of these sodium carbonate spring waters is about 48oC. They contain an abundant amount of iron which creates a rust color. It is safe to bathe in these waters, but due to the high iron content, it is suggested to rinse off afterwards.
If this cycling path is not challenging enough for you, the Hutoushan Trail is also located in the Ruisui Hot Springs Area. This is actually a collection of three trails that total about two kilometers in length and are composed of wooden steps and stone and gravel paths that wind through forests of bamboo and sweet gum trees. There are bilingual sign posts and explanatory panels regarding the local ecology along each of the trails.
The trails are suited to people of average fitness and feature views of the valley below. If you are an early riser, the locals tout this as the best place in the township from which to view the sunrise.
It should be noted that there are several bicycle rental shops in central Ruisui. If you stay overnight, especially in the hot springs area, many guesthouses provide bicycles free of charge.