Tuesday, 25 March 2014

A Roundabout Route to Yangmingshan

Not many capital cities have an 11,500 hectare national park on their doorstep, but Taipei is one of the lucky few. Comprising a live volcano, grassland plateaus, rainforests, broadleaf forests and lakes, Yangmingshan is so large it's difficult not to wander into it by accident, as happened to us the other day.

The plan was to visit the Escher exhibition currently running at the National Palace Museum and then go for a walk in hills nearby, but some miscommunication between the bus timetable website and myself resulted in us boarding a bus that went in another direction.

Getting lost in Taipei isn't at all stressful, I can safely say as someone with a terrible sense of direction. There's always a bus stop to be found, and I haven't yet ridden a bus that didn't stop at an MRT station eventually. Failing that, there will be a taxi, and providing you can say 101 in Chinese the driver will take you there. 

So when I realised the bus S 15 from Jiantan MRT Station wasn't going to take us to the National Palace Museum as I'd thought it would, we had a quick change of plan. The bus was climbing into the mountains, so we stayed on board and looked for a likely place to get off and execute the hill walking part of our plan. 

From memory we got off, after half to three-quarters of an hour, at the second Jingshan Recreational Area stop, because the crowds of people wearing baseball caps and carrying hiking sticks indicated we'd found some kind of a destination. Crossing the road, we turned right up a trail and spotted a brown trailhead sign stating Jiangsu Waterfall. We were on our way.

Jiangsu Waterfall was about a mile down a mostly level, well-paved trail, and it was a pleasant sight. Not large, but very pretty and refreshing to see. Running alongside the trail leading to the waterfall was an old channel built by the Japanese (well, probably built by the Taiwanese under Japanese orders), which directed water from the falls to farmland for irrigation purposes. I don't know exactly when the channel was built but it was 1945 at the latest, when the Japanese left Taiwan, and for something so old it was in very good condition:

The approach to the waterfall was scenic, with pale blue river water tumbling through the rocks.

We decided to walk the rest of the way to the end of the trail, which was a little more than another mile of generally easy walking and a few steep bits. (Okay, I decided we were going to walk the rest of the way.) More information signs appeared along the way mentioning a wild cattle area, and finally I realised where we were. We'd approached Yangmingshan from a different direction from our normal route, and were about to arrive at one of the most popular areas, Qingtiangang, where semi-wild cattle roam.

This high grassland plateau used to be a cattle farming area, but nowadays only these placid beasts graze, fodder for day trippers and tourists who arrive at the handy bus stop nearby.

The cold, windy plateau proved to be a contrast to the humid, shady forest trail we'd emerged from, but the views were great.
Not quite the same as an Escher drawing, but a worthwhile substitute. 

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