Sometimes I think one could spend a lifetime tramping the hills of northern Taiwan and still find a new place to explore every day.
Last week my son and I went on another walk from Richard Saunders' Taipei Escapes that once again just explored a tiny fraction of forested mountain areas surrounding Taipei City. This time we walked from Zhong Sheng Qiao Tou to the Maokong Gondola station, which lies in the mountains above Taipei Zoo.
(A note of caution to anyone reading this who may be contemplating doing something similar:
It's currently in the mid-thirties Celsius here, which isn't particularly good hiking weather. We always take two litres of water each to drink even on our comparatively short, 3-4 hour walks, and most of the time we drink it all. I would never attempt to do these walks alone as the mountains are generally deserted, especially during the week. There are snakes and hornets, and trails are sometimes quite rough. If one were to be bitten or fall things could turn very nasty very quickly.
Having said all that, the mountains are very beautiful and if you can do so safely, I'd encourage any visitor or resident who hasn't yet ventured out there to go and see for themselves.)
The highlight of our walk last week was Silver Stream waterfall and cave. We had to climb 500 steps to reach it, but our effort was well rewarded. The waterfall is the prettiest I've seen so far, and the cave is behind it. You can walk up into the cave to look out through the fall to the mountains and valley beyond. Here's the fall itself:
I could have stood and watched it all day, except for the fact that the mosquitoes would probably have organised themselves into a taskforce and carried me off.
And the view from the top was, as always, stunning.
There's a temple right next to the waterfall and the water from it is collected and blessed. The temple itself is of course very wet, with water welling up through the floor in some parts.
We didn't stay too long despite its clearly very holy atmosphere!
There was no one else around at all but the usual encroaching wildlife.
I think if humans were to disappear from Taiwan tomorrow the climate and local wildlife would wipe all sign of us away in just a few decades.
This fellow was also gazing at us quizzically at Maokong, as if to say, what are you doing here?
We were reminded twice more of how we were gatecrashing the wilderness party on a less-frequented part of the trail. In one place a recent downpour had completely washed part of it away and we had to scramble across the exposed yellow clay mud to continue on.
Then we encountered the hornets. They had nested right on the trail itself and whenever we came close they seemed to be flying at us to warn us to stay away. We watched a butterfly wander guilelessly into their vicinity. The butterfly was hustled off too. There was no doubt about it: the hornets had declared the area a no-go zone.
Except we had to go that way, or else go back all the way we had come. After some time, we managed to sneak around them by forcing a path through the undergrowth, giving their nests a wide berth. I did feel a little silly taking a large detour to avoid a creature barely as long as my little finger but silly was better than in pain, I thought.
At last we arrived at Maokong, tea plantation area of Taipei:
This is a fairly touristy area due to the gondola and the teahouses.
So we did the obligatory and went to have a late lunch at a teahouse. The tea theme continues into the food so we had tea oil noodles and fried shrimp with tea-flavoured mayonnaise (it was green).
I'm currently torn between attempting another hike in hot weather or trying to find a cooler destination next week. Walking in hot weather is enjoyable, but it does take its toll.