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Experiment
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The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge

(The La La Shan Experiment Part Two - Back to Part One)

The hotels in Shang Baling (Paling) are an 11 km road ride down from the park gate on a road most notable for the horrifically poor driving skills displayed by locals and tourists alike. We all agreed there was no way we were going to ride back up this one in the morning. So at our first stop, a rather nice coffee shop with an outstanding view, we organized a 6:30am pickup by Mr. Chen, the waiter/owner, and his little blue truck from our hotel a few more kilometers down the road. Warm shower and beer-enriched hindsight told us that this early start time was wishful thinking. With clearer heads and a chat about the 8 and half hours walking we had done, a far more realistic pickup time of 8:30 was arranged.

The morning started with an insane western-style breakfast complete with a pot of coffee, vegemite, jam and omelets, (which the hotel manager Mr. Chen #2 wants us to tell you is available on request) followed by scrounging for snacks for the ride down. Selection was small as there aren't any small shops up here for that type of stuff, so with packs full of potato chips we hopped in the back of Mr. Chen's truck and froze on the way up to the trailhead, on yet another perfect day. The first thing we rode past was all the old Cyprus trees that La La Shan is famous for. These ancient trees attract huge numbers of visitors who seem to feel some incredible danger whenever a bike nears them, much like the other trails we ride. There seems to be no danger when these people walk aimlessly on the road, yet when a bike nears on a wide trail it is like death has just walked through the door.

It takes about an hour or so to get back to the real trail and then the fun begins. The previously questionable ledges we had walked across now seemed eminently rideable, and the moss-covered rocks had thousands of lines to choose from, with the left side of the trail almost always providing a safer route around the roots and rocks. The top section of the trail is by far the more technical and body draining. There is no trail in Taipei that can even come close to this place. It just keeps on going and going. Being a hiking trail there are places where you have to hop off and lift your bike over obstacles, but in between the riding is incredible.

After completing the top section about 5 times quicker than the previous day, with only one disc brake burn to show for an injury, and one of my shoes completely blown out, we were ready to tackle the remaining sections, which are all winding dirt singletrack. It was insane. Every time you came around a corner another perfect trail seemed to wind off down into the distance, except for a few fallen trees. In the middle of the ride this can be a little bit trying as you just get into a great rhythm and then another unrideable obstacle appears. Fortunately, some of the unrideable sections have been made rideable by some incredibly well made North Shore style bridges.

The bottom 7 kilometers was just incredible. It is all downhill and for the most part smooth singletrack. Whoever was leading would be letting out some groan of satisfaction every time a new section became visible and then race off with the others following in total ecstasy. Whatever seemed dangerous walking felt much safer being ridden with a bit of speed and only Dennis managed to launch himself off the edge of the trail, luckily falling into a nice bed of ferns and not down some steep endless drop. The further down we got the better the trail became, if that was possible, and the longer the sections. The last 3-4 kilometers, which didn't look so good the day before, were a favorite, with little drops, tight tree lined trail and roots to add to the excitement. It doesn't get much better than this and would be worth a walk up just to ride down.

After ending up back at the suspension bridge completely high, we all proclaimed this the best Taiwan has to offer (so far) and started talking about the next time we ride it. One thing will change: we won't be walking up.

Geoff Quirk

The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge
The La-La Shan Experience - Click to Enlarge