Monday, 17 March 2014

Climbing Elephant Mountain

If Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan) were the size as well as the shape of an elephant, it would require considerably fewer steps to climb, but the view wouldn't be as good.
One of the easiest mountains to reach from central Taipei, Elephant Mountain is 10 minutes' walk from Exit 2 at the newly opened final stop on the red line, Xiangshan Station. Getting there is simply a matter of following the signs and the crowds, for on weekends and holidays Elephant Mountain is very popular indeed.

People jams going up and down the steps are common, but there are also plenty of resting spots and smaller side trails if you want to avoid the crush.

Elephant Mountain is one part of a chain of mountains and trails, so it's difficult to define one peak, but a popular high point has a set of large rocks to climb to gain an improved view:

or simply to climb for fun:  
The day that my son and I climbed Elephant Mountain we explored a little off the beaten track and soon left the crowds behind. Despite its proximity to the city, the area is teeming with wildlife. 
We saw and heard lots of birds, and butterflies flitted through the quieter, more open areas, some of them even staying still long enough for me to snap a few photos.
We took a trail less travelled to descend the mountain, and were soon surrounded by huge bamboos and the typical, large-leaved subtropical forest trees and plants. My personal favourites after the towering bamboos are huge tree ferns that would cost hundreds of pounds in the UK, assuming they were available at all. These plants, palms, vines and trees are still a pleasure to walk amongst even after living in Taiwan two and a half years.
After reaching ground level, we scooted back round to the beginning of the main trail to buy a drink from the fresh orange juice vendor we'd passed going up. A great way to round off the day.

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