SHEZI ISLAND CYCLE PATH (社子島自行車道)

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distance: 18.6km – with potential to extend or shorten it at a couple of points.

time: just shy of three hours at a relatively leisurely pace.

difficulty: 1.5/10 – just the length and occasional headwinds might add difficulty, otherwise it is a very easy ride on well kept paths and with minimal road cycling.

total ascent: 178m

water: I think I took my 0.5L bottle in the winter – I would need more in the summer, but there are a couple of vending machines and cafes along the way.

shade: none – luckily we did this on an overcast day.

mobile network: clear throughout

enjoyment: 8/10 for the section around the Shezi peninsular – loads of bird life, scenic mountain views and a window into a corner of Taipei that I rarely visit.

other: to extend this, you could start from further up the Keelung river, bike over to Sanchong, or continue along the Tamsui River all the way to Xindian.

map:

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GPX file available here.

We picked up bikes from the YouBike stand outside Yuanshan station, then cycled back towards the station, under the track and turned left to get on the right track towards the river park.

The path below the trains leads to a ramp which gets you up and over into the park. There were a couple of people who seemed to be loitering and partaking of a little midday alcohol and napping. They looked up as we passed, but were just interested in their own stuff.

When the ramp comes back down the other side of the wall, you’ll find yourself next to the Keelung river. Teresa came down here ahead of me and went speeding off in the wrong direction, because I had been mispronouncing the name of the place I wanted to go to: Shezi can sound like Xizhi if you’re a dumb foreigner who cannot remember that sh followed by e or by i have two different sounds, and your partner is used to going with the closest approximations of what you really mean. (Actually they really don’t sound similar. Not at all.) I waited until she realised that she’d lost me and she eventually came back.

After undulating around a couple of bends, the path passes the narrowest point of land (300-400m wide), which most of the time prevents Shezi from being a real island. On the far side of the river is the incinerator tower which houses (what I believe to be) Taipei’s only revolving restaurant – Moonstar 360.

Where the cycle path passes the widest part of the island there is a strip of sheltered wetland between the buildings and the river proper. On the day we went, the hills beyond were partially consumed by the clouds.

It shouldn’t have taken you very long to get to this point, but if you’re feeling in need of a spot of refreshment, there is a small coffee shop just next to the cycle path around here. We didn’t stop here on this occasion, but I did once spend an afternoon here when the outside was raining buckets.

This whole stretch of river is teeming with bird-life, but this section near the Shezi island wetlands is a particularly good location for a spot of bird watching. My favourite of the sightings on this ride was this little kingfisher. When I was young and living in a rural part of the UK, kingfishers were a prized spot. I remember one summer when there was a kingfisher who was frequenting the brook in the mornings. I left the house early to sit in the shadows under the old bridge to catch a glimpse of the lightening-flash of blue.

The cycle path is elevated for most of the ride around the end tip of Shezi, allowing for views both over the industrial units to the right and wetland to the right.

Despite the ugliness of the industry, it is still interesting to watch the farm lanes zip past, seeming to compress then elongate again as I approached them and then cycled by.

The cycle lane arrives at a park at the very tip of the island. We watched a group of fishing grandpas on the concrete pier having a convivial advisement about something or other in Taiwanese – this guy seemingly preferred to do his fishing in peace.

For those needing refreshment, there is a cafe here, and for those in need of another kind of relief, there are the kind of bike-accommodating portaloos that you find up and down the river cycle paths here.

We parked up and looked at the view. Here the Danshui river (right) joins the Keelung river and from here they flow northish towards the coast. On the far bank sits Guandu temple, and across from it the lower hills of Guanyin Shan are cloaked in feng-shui arranged graves.

There’s a small patch of muddy beach where, amongst the rocks and mangrove seed pods, myriad small holes indicate the presence of fiddler crabs.

A gaggle of noisy children were enthusiastically prodding at the soft ground. “I caught four!” exclaimed one child. I wasn’t interested in catching them, but crouched down on my heels, I was able to wait long enough to trick the bolder ones into thinking that the coast was clear. It was funny to watch them waving their oversized claws at each other.

Back on the bikes, we continued on our way.

This side of the island had a mixture of farms, factories and old homes. It looked quite scenic set against the dramatic clouds.

Teresa was particularly impressed by a mini repairs unit which had a large number of old minis sat outside.

I was more impressed by the farms. Due to the area’s position (i.e. between two huge rivers in a place which has been know to gets more rain in a single day than my country tends to get in a month), the area is at risk from flooding. And yet it is still farmed.

The late afternoon light was really doing its best to make the dull, dull buildings of Luzhu look interesting, but that is a really hard task.

The cycle lane nears the narrowest section again, and transitions to being a low path alongside a high flood wall. There are a couple of places where it’s possible to get out and park up if you are feeling tired, but we felt like cycling close to home to get some dinner.

Where a smaller, dirty stream feeds out into the main river it was pleasing to see this combination of one ibis, (right – a pretty, but invasive species), one grey heron, (middle), and an egret, (left – not sure what kind), all gathered around to watch the fish which were occasionally leaping out of the water.

It is obvious where the path draws level with Yuanshan station where we’d started, since this is the point at which we found ourselves once again under the flightpath of planes landing at Songshan airport.

Riding under Taipei bridge, (over which I cycled to get started on my ride around Sanchong and Luzhou), we passed a small temple/karaoke place where the plastic sheeting of a makeshift shelter was catching the light in an attractive way.

Leaving the river park from the Dadaocheng Wharf floodgate, we turned left up the road which ran parallel to the road we’d just cycled down.

And kept going back up to Taipei bridge where we turned in away from the water to park our bikes. This put us at the top end of the famous Dadaocheng street where we were able to get some dinner before heading home.

 


 

How to get there

google maps address: our YouBikes were picked up from the stand outside exit 2 of Yuanshan station, and returned to one at the north end of the Dadaocheng tourist street.

public transport: Yuanshan station is on the red line, and the closest station to where we ended up was Daqiaotou, but actually the possibilities are entirely dependant on how far your legs will propel you.

further reading: the Letters from Taiwan blog, (written by a fellow Brit), gives a lot of detailed and interesting background information about the history and politics of this small patch of Taipei. Another blog here gives a few more basic facts about the place.

 


 

My new words learnt on this ride:

  1. 你很扯 / nǐ hěn chě / you are ridiculous
  2. 海盜 / hǎidào / pirate

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