Wuling Green Tunnel Bikeway: Short but sweet
By Cheryl Robbins
The Wuling Green Tunnel Bikeway is located in Luye Township of Taitung County. There are a number of bike routes along the East Rift Valley, each with unique features. The main characteristic of this 4.5-kilometer bikeway is a section of green tunnel, meaning roadway lined by camphor and beefwood trees that are around 60 years old. Much of this bikeway is quite flat, making it easy to ride, even for families. There is not much car or motorcycle traffic here, but as the road is narrow in places, do watch out for oncoming vehicles, especially when riding with children.
This bikeway was once part of the former Provincial Highway 9 (the main highway between Hualien and Taitung counties in the East Rift Valley), and communities along this bikeway once flourished due to the flow of tourists. It is now designated as County Road 33, with Provincial Highway 9 passing the entrance to this green tunnel.
Although the new Provincial Highway 9 has resulted in shorter driving times, it has led to the decline of tourism along this bikeway. Residents of the Yongan Community, old and new alike, are working to reverse this trend by organizing attention-getting events. One that is increasing in popularity is the 2626 Market, which takes place near the end of the Green Tunnel (if traveling from Provincial Highway 9). This outdoor market is held on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month from 2:00 to 6:00 pm, and now includes around 50 stalls. These sell foods and handicrafts produced by local farmers and residents.
At other times, this part of the bikeway is quiet, and bikers can enjoy the shade of the trees and the views of surrounding farms. They can also check out the brightly painted "Honesty Shop". This is a second hand store that has no clerk or sales staff. Buyers simply pay for their purchases by placing money in a slot near the entrance. The proceeds go to after school programs for the community children. About 20 meters away is a mural depicting a scene from the market. Here, one of the residents has a shop selling homemade, colorful mantou (steamed bread). Next door, an elderly resident maintains a community museum, with old photographs and antiques on display.
Continuing along this bikeway, you will pass the entrance to the indigenous Bunun community of Wuling. If time permits, it is worth exploring this community to learn more about this area's indigenous culture.
After passing, the Wuling Community, a large resort-like complex comes into view. This is the Wuling Prison, a minimum security prison for men most of whom have committed an economic crime and have been sentenced to less than five years. Inmates are allowed to work on or off the prison grounds during the day and return to the prison at night. Along this bikeway, inmates tend to a certified organic coffee plantation. Here, they grow Arabica beans, which they also roast. They serve the coffee in a simple cafe on the prison grounds that is open to the public between 9:00 and 4:00 pm Monday to Friday. However, it is necessary to register at the gate before entering. A cup of black coffee, the only type on the menu, is NT$50, with egg tarts and cookies also available. Visitors can also buy coffee beans to take home, as well as other products produced by the inmates such as pineapple cakes.
Although this is one of the shorter bike routes in the county, there is a diversity of things to see and do. Moreover, combining this green tunnel getaway with the adjacent Longtian Bikeway is highly recommended.