Well, I promised giant spiders and I aim to deliver.
Ever since seeing the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon I've had a hankering to see some bamboo forest. I asked on the Forumosa website for information on bamboo forest close to Taipei and was directed to a trail next to Qingtian temple in the Yangmingshan mountains.
After a few hiccups along the way (got off at the wrong stop and had to wait for the next bus) Conrad and I finally made it to the temple. I was a little worried I wouldn't spot it from the road or wouldn't be clear about whether I'd found the correct one of the many temples in Taiwan, but I'm fairly confident this was it (yes, this is Taipei so it was raining):
It was wonderful being up in the mountains. The view was amazing:
And the people at Forumosa were right. There were stands of bamboo on the trail. Unfortunately we didn't get as far along as I'd like to have done, but we still saw some substantial areas of it. When you're used to only seeing dried bamboo supporting tomato plants or modest clumps of Phyllostachys nigra, it's strange and interesting to see it growing in the wild.
The main reason we didn't get as far as I'd have liked was because climbing up mountains is really tiring! Also, at the end of the paved part of the trail the going got very steep and slippery and I thought it was risky for Conrad to attempt it (and me too). But I'd be lying if I didn't also admit that another reason was the burgeoning wildlife we encountered. Okay, here we go. We saw FOUR of these, three of which had spun webs directly across the trail:
I'd like to prove to you that these spiders were as big, if not bigger than, my hand, but there's no way I was putting my hand anywhere near that spider to give you a comparison. For some reason this one was missing a couple of legs.
In order to get past the webs across the trail we had to kind of limbo under them. I was dreading actually touching one of the webs and sparking the spider into some sort of activity. It was bad enough seeing them at rest. Apparently they're Golden Orb Weavers and are commonly seen in the autumn in Taiwan.
More pleasant encounters with small creatures included the beautiful butterflies (which unfortunately didn't stay still long enough for me to take a picture) and this beetle that was resting on the path:
Despite the giant spiders we had great time. It was wonderful to breathe the fresh mountain air and experience the stillness of the forest. It's extremely lush and green up there. Here's a photo I took on the way back down:
And here's Conrad waiting for the bus. There didn't seem to be a bus stop that I could recognise, but a care worker for the old folks at the home up there kindly pointed us in the right direction. They're very lucky old folks to be living in such surroundings.