Monday, 23 November 2015

Hiking Yangmingshan - Fantasy and Fumeroles

Yangmingshan is one of the many prides of Taipei. A huge national park sitting right on the doorstep of the city and easily accessible by bus, car and hiking boot, it draws us back time after time to discover new sights and visit old, beloved ones.

Our most recent trip covered both angles, including a first visit to Menghuan Pond and our return to Xiaoyoukeng.

Menghuan Pond

The English translation of menghuan is fantasy, and Menghuan Pond is so named because it's wreathed in eerie mists for part of the year. Though the pond is a restricted area open only for educational purposes and to researchers and Yangmingshan staff, visitors can view it from a platform.

Menghuan Pong Yangmingshan

Rare plants and wildlife as well as the beautiful landscape combine to make Menghuan Pond a very special place. A water plant called Taiwan Isoetes that grows there is found nowhere else in the world. Other plants growing in the pond include Chinese water chestnut, bog bulrush, spikerush, common rush and Mt. Qixing pipewort. Frogs, birds, snakes and aquatic insects are also plentiful in the area.

It's a beautifully quiet, still, tranquil place, and I had visions of hefting my writing equipment up the mountain just so that I could sit there and enjoy the peacefulness as I write.

In fact, Menghuan Pond isn't very difficult to get to. We drove to Lengshuikeng car park and followed the signs for a half hour's easy walk. The Yangmingshan tourist bus also stops there, but these days it's getting a little too popular. We saw long queues and people unable to board, even though we were there on a weekday.


It took us about five or six years to make a second trip to Xiaoyoukeng. We first visited the boiling pools and fumeroles on a reconnoitering trip before we moved to Taiwan, and they were just as fascinating on a return visit.

My friend told me when she was a little girl her mother would take her to boil eggs in the scaldingly hot water pools near Beitou, but sadly (and perhaps wisely) such pleasures are no longer allowed. Simply viewing the pools is very interesting, however, because such hot water emerging from the ground seems somehow miraculous. If you listen carefully in some areas of the trail you can also hear water bubbling below the surface.

Boiling pools at Xiaoyoukeng

Steaming fumeroles are also amazing sights to see, edged with sulphur deposits thousands of years old. The air is filled with an acrid, eggy odour that isn't particularly unpleasant but is pretty unhealthy.

Fumeroles at Yangmingshan
Yangmingshan rises high above sea level, with its highest peak, Mt. Qixing at 1,120 metres tall, which means the park has some of the best views in Taipei. It's hard to believe, when looking at the photos I took, that all of this borders a burgeoning, busy capital city.

Yangmingshan National Park

Yangmingshan National Park
Another highlight of our trip was seeing the fourth snake I've encountered in over four years, and my third within a couple of months. It was the largest I've ever seen, too.

Sorry I only snapped the rear end. I thought it was the safest one in the circumstances!

Yangmingshan covers nearly 29,000 hectares, so there's plenty more for us to explore in our remaining years in Taiwan.

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