After many a year of searching, and being directed to a thousand places, only to find it wasn’t quite the middle of nowhere (but being able to see it from there on a clear day), I think I finally found it. The elusive Middle of Nowhere.
In the south end of Chiayi county there exists a long lost second section of Provincial Highway 21. It exists in splendid isolation from it’s more heavily travelled parent, the 21 that runs from Tienlung (天冷) in Tai/chung county on the central cross-island highway, into Nantou county south past Puli, Sun Moon Lake and Shinyi. Then it passes by Tongpu and into Chiayi county, just shy of Dzchung (自忠), south of Alishan. Then the 21 mysteriously turns into Provincial Highway 18 (the new central cross-island highway), and the 21 is no more. Well, fine you think, highways have to have both beginnings and ends, and at least the residents of Tzuchung and Tongpu can get out to Chiayi via the 18. But wait, there’s more. On the map there’s a pretty purple dotted line that winds south, and then west, past Wushan and skirts around the borders of Kaohsiung county. Finally the dotted line solidifies at the town of Mingsheng (民生, N23.2868410 E120.7175860 780m amsl), and the 21 sign reappears. In reality this is a tiny town of maybe a thousand nestled almost at the head of a river valley about 14km east of the town of Tapu on the Tsengwen Reservoir and just a stone’s throw from Yushan National Park.
The miraculous thing is the sign that appears just outside the village to announce that this is kilometer 202 on Highway 21, when it’s not actually possible to travel there from the start of 21. The village exists in splendid isolation and the locals can truly say ‘you can’t get there from here’ about any place in Taiwan. Despite being only 35km from the county seat at Chiayi City, the only way out of here runs south along the river valley, through some other villages with KMT themed names like Sanming, Mingchuan etc. After much twisting and turning through the scenic valley, 21 finally empties out at Jiashien in Kaohsiung county (甲仙) on the lower stretch of the southern cross-island highway. Highway 21 continues down from here into Pingtung county, terminating at the west end of the Kaoping bridge.
It’s amusing that the highways bureau lists this road as being 307.879km in length when about 8km of it, and the very middle of it at that, simply doesn’t exist. It wasn’t washed away or covered by landslides, it was simply never built, and according to the locals it probably never will be. It’s a pretty area, a fun road to carve, and if you travel up to Mingsheng you could reasonably claim to have visited the Middle of Nowhere in Taiwan.