I’m working backwards, but I figure better to post in the order that inspires me than not at all! Also I am going to try and make this vaguely useful and informative, as I was really reliant on blog posts when planning things to do during James’ stay. There are a lot of links in the following post but I know they don’t show up terribly clearly due to the way it’s formatted… look closely if you’re interested.
Quick introduction: James and I went down to Hualien for a few days, and on the last day we took our hired scooter down to Yushan National Park — Yushan being the tallest mountain in Taiwan. We had researched the possibility of going to the Yushan Main Peak, via Alishan in the West, but as seems to be the case for most national parks in Taiwan, you need to apply for an entry permit in advance. When I called up to enquire about a permit 3 days before, they laughed politely and explained you should apply AT LEAST a week in advance, but probably closer to a month in advance if you are thinking of going on the weekend. So scratch that. Then we decided to hit the Walami Trail, which is on the Eastern side of the Yushan range. You need a permit to go beyond a certain point, but 1-day permits are easy to obtain, not that they even bothered to issue us with one. It’s only the overnight ones that are restricted — otherwise we would have liked to hike to the Walami cabin, stay the night and then hike back.
However, the estimates for hiking times in Taiwan tend to be ridiculous. We were told it would take 6-7 hours to hike to the cabin, and therefore calculated it would be closer to 3-4 hours for us. We could totally have got there and back within a single day, but we had to drive down from Hualien first, which took us a couple of hours. We started too late for the proper hike, but made it to Jiahsin within an hour (they told us at the entrance it would take at least two hours… as usual, conservative estimates perhaps made for elderly Taiwanese). If we had arrived a couple of hours earlier, or didn’t have to ride back up to Hualien on the scooter to catch a train that evening, then we could easily have reached the Walami Cabin and back in a day.
Ok, now for the fun stuff!
When we arrived at the Nanan Visitors Centre (which is a fair distance from Yuli, if you’re thinking of going), we were in fits of giggles at these adorable warnings about the Black Bears. The advice in case of meeting with a bear was worded in such a cute way! James took non-blurry pictures with his super-duper camera but I forgot to steal them off him before he left, so I am trying to remember. One of them says “Do Not Play Dead; Do Not Climb Trees”. The last one says “Do Not Give Up Hope! Always Struggle For Life!” I like the second bear’s face, with its little “Huh?” expression, and the middle bear with its red eyes of wrath.
The view from the trail was pretty limited due to the clouds and the whole “hiking through a forest” thing. It wasn’t that sunny (I still caught myself some viciously sunburnt thighs on the way down thanks to the shorts + scooter combo). However it was hot and sticky and we were both drenched in sweat within minutes, so I stripped down to my sports bra, much to the bemusement of the Taiwanese pensioners we encountered. Every one of them was covered from head to toe, including hats, gloves, long sleeves and socks. I thought this was a bit masochistic to be honest, but they were just obeying instructions to stay covered in case they met with snakes or wasps. We prefer to live dangerously I guess.
Rare opportunity to see the breath-taking view as well as some bare flesh on the Walami trail
There were a couple of suspension bridges which weren’t very scary, although the logistics involved for the Japanese to get them built 80 years ago gave us food for thought. There were also a couple of waterfalls, but overall the Walami Trail was pretty underwhelming as far as views go. I am always frustrated in places like this, because I know that there are so many beautiful things to see around me, but everything is hidden by the trees and you are forbidden to leave the trail lest some bear or snake come and ruin everything.
I think it could have been fun to do the entire hike, but it was a bit disappointing to ride 2 hours each way on the scooter for a hike of just over 2 hours. Then again, I’m not sure the rest of it was that much more impressive… fortunately things improved after we left the trail.
We stopped at Nanan Waterfall, where families were splashing in the pools down around the bridge. Emboldened by our experiences in river tracing (blog posts to come) we decided to kick off our shoes and climb up over the rocks to the waterfall itself. Once up there we found a beautiful pool, completely sheltered from the crowds below, and the coolness of the water was so inviting we had no choice but to jump in.
When we came out from under the waterfall and waded back to the edge of the pool, I looked down to see a dozen Taiwanese lined up taking pictures and chattering as they watched to see what would happen next. I naturally grabbed my top, even though I was pretty sure they couldn’t see anything below the neck, and was greeted by a dreadful sound: the “plop” of an iPhone dropping into the river. I was a bit freaked out but fortunately for me, James is the most chilled out person in the world (iPhones are kind of small potatoes when you work in disaster management, I suppose), and he just shrugged and said not to worry and if it died he would have an excuse to get a new one. The iPhone 4 is apparently impervious to being plunged into a waterfall, as it survived and yielded the photos to illustrate this blog post…
Anyway, we hopped back onto the scooter and headed North. The drive home was probably my favourite part of the entire Hualien trip, and I will write about it separately! This is already super long. My opinion on the Walami Trail? The section we got to do was a bit meh… would be interesting to do the entire hike to Donbu though, which crosses Taiwan East to West over Yushan. Do click here for a really interesting blog post about the Batongguan Trail.