Tag Archives: Yang-Ming Shan Mountains

‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse’ 2020!

Or as I prefer, the West-East Vertical Traverse! This is THE mountain challenge for all those looking for a day out from Taipei, an 11-hour hike over the 10 mountains in the Yang-Ming Shan range that lie just above Taipei City. It’s effectively a ridge walk, total 26.25 km (16.3 miles), 1,817 m (5961 ft) of ascent and over 53,000 steps in total. And totally worth it!

This post is an adapted version of my previous trip published here on October 28, 2019, but updated because I’ve just done it again, yesterday, April 18, 2020, and also because all 10 summits are now open to the public. The photos below are those taken yesterday too (except for this one, added as a further update, taken on May 1, 2020 of the view of the whole ridge, as seen from Taipei City, actually taken on the Shezidao Bridge at 7:00 am, far left is Mt. Xiangtian).

Yang-Ming Shan range taken from Shezidao Bridge, Taipei City, 7:00 am, May 1, 2020

Spring or autumn is the best time to do this hike, because summer is Qixing too hot (and it rains nearly every afternoon) and winter is too wet. You need a number of dry days before the actual day, otherwise the paths are slippery, especially the roped ones. So yesterday fitted the bill exactly!

The first time I did this hike was in May 2018 (see that account here), but by the next time, in October 2019, the route had slightly changed, with one of the summits (Mt. Zhugao 竹篙山 ) closed to the public – to avoid the cattle, which are actually a mix of water buffalo and Tajima cattle, after someone was killed by one. The Mt. Zhugao summit marker post was moved to the highest point on the Lengqing Path, and renamed Jixinlun 雞心崙. Now it’s all open again, though the Jixinlun summit marker is still there – but it is hardly a real summit, so the big challenge lies in including Mt. Zhugao back in the itinerary once again. So that’s what I did yesterday – and just made it on time!

Fortunately the whole hike can be done in more manageable and smaller sections – it divides nicely into 4, which can be done over 4 days or 2. If you take the harder option, and do it all on one day, be prepared for aching limbs for 3 days afterwards – it’s hard work! Check out yesterday’s elevation record….

On each of the summits, there is a marker post, and on the top of each post is a Chinese character in metal ~ use a pencil and paper to do like a brass rubbing (or just take a photo!) Put together in order and these characters make a phrase. The 10 Chinese characters are: Mt. Ding (“陽”), Mt. Shiti (“明”), Jixinlun (“山”), Mt. Qixing East Peak (“東”), Mt. Qixing Main Peak (“西”), Mt. Datun Main Peak (“大”), Mt. Datun South Peak (“縱”), Mt. Datun West Peak (“走”), Mt. Miantian (“活”), and Mt. Xiangtian (“動”). The whole phrase, 陽明山東西大縱走活動 translates as the ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse Activity’. These are the 10 summit posts (left to right in the order I did them), though with Mt Zhugao instead of Jixinlun ….

Although it is titled the East-West Traverse, and the marker posts are numbered in that direction, actually it is easier to do it from west-east, mainly because of the times of the buses. The east end of the hike is a place called Fengguikou 風櫃口. The bus stop is about 1 km down the road from there, at a place called Fengguizui 風櫃嘴. The bus is the small city bus M1 (市民小巴1) from Jiantan MRT Station, and there’s not many of them! Every morning, the first bus leaves Jiantan MRT Station at 6:10 am going up to Fengguizui, taking about 30 minutes. The next bus after that is 10:10 am, so don’t miss it! The Taipei MRT opens at 6:00 am each day, so for those of us further away, it’s impossible to get to Jiantan MRT Station so early.

You also need to know that the final M1 bus of the day from Fengguizui down to Jiantan MRT goes at about 6:10 pm. That is the one to get! If you miss it, you have to walk down much further to Shengren Waterfall Bus Stop where there are many buses, but the road is long and winding, and the short-cut paths are steep – plus by then it’ll be dark, so timing is everything! The other reason for finishing at Fengguikou rather than starting from there is that the final part of the hike may be be long (6 km from Qingtiangang 擎天崗) but it is the least steep part of the whole hike, and after a long day going up and down, it’s nice to take things a bit more easily!

So all in all, I think it’s better to start at the west end of the hike, which is at Qingtian Temple 清天宮登山口 and walk eastwards. The bus you need is the S6 (小6) bus from Beitou MRT, and there are lots of buses all day long, and lots of people on a weekend all queuing for the early buses! Get there early. The earliest I could get to Qingtian Temple on Saturday was at 7:15 am. Qingtian Temple village has a temple or two, a public toilet and a large noticeboard with a map. The whole trail is very well-signposted as long as you know the order of the mountains. The trails on Yang-Ming Shan were mostly built in the Japanese Era, and they were built to last forever, mostly of stone. This is the view from Qingtian Temple Trail-head over towards Guanyinshan…

The trail from Qingtian Temple to the first summit of Mt. Xiangtian 向天山 takes just over an hour, going via the usually-water-less Xiangtian Pond. The path is nearly all in the trees, and among the bamboo, so it’s shady – but also slippery in wet weather…

On the way, you pass the Memorial Stone to Japanese Crown Prince Hirohito, erected in honour of his visit to the area in 1923 and his marriage the following year…

I was on the grassy summit of Mt. Xiangtian (949 m) by about 8:40 am – check out the Oldhams Azalea (Rhododendron oldhamii) – endemic to Taiwan and in flower all over the mountains at this time of year….

Twenty minutes later, I reached Summit 2, Mt. Miantian 面天山 (977 m) at 9:00 am. There’s a viewpoint and raised rest area there, 2 huge microwave reflectors and views down to St. John’s University and the whole northern coast – but it was hazy. No problem, it saved me time not taking so many photos, and time was a bit of the essence!

Taking the path straight down from Mt. Miantian leads back to the main path. Turn right for about 10 minutes heading to Miantianping 面天坪, where there’s a pavilion always full of people enjoying a day out. The path up to Mt. Datun West and South Peaks (and eventually to Mt. Datun Main Peak) starts here, on the left. The Datun Mountain range 大屯山 lies ahead. This is the steepest part of the whole hike coming up. Bring some cheap gloves to cling onto the fixed ropes that are provided to help you haul yourself up and down. Yesterday it was very slippery, and without ropes would have been a nightmare. But be prepared for aching arms and shoulders!

The ascent of Mt. Datun West Peak 大屯西峰 is steep and exhilarating, with lots of large rocks to get over. The top (985 m) is mostly rocks too, and the descent is equally steep, so it’s better to go down backwards. At the bottom, head on to Mt. Datun South Peak 大屯南峰, which is a shorter but even steeper climb than West Peak…

However once you get to the summit (959 m), that’s it with the ropes (and the gloves), they won’t be needed any more on this hike. The descent is much easier. The path brings you out ready to hike up to Mt. Datun Main Peak 大屯主峰, which is a bit of a slog up endless stone steps. The summit (1076 m) is high up above the path, there’s a viewpoint, and it’s the top of the road for the cyclists who like to come up on their bikes from Taipei. On Saturday, it was mostly foggy, so no views, but on a clear day the views of Taipei are great. You can drive up here by car, but not during the butterfly season, which is happening now. By then it was almost 11:30 am. 5 mountains down, 5 to go. We’re half way along – yes!

Then follows a long walk down from Mt. Datun Main Peak, either by road, or by path to the Anbu Entrance. I took the path, it comes out at the road, and there you turn right. Heading to the next big mountain, Mt. Qixing ~ and it is easier (but definitely not so pleasant) to walk along the main road. There are buses, cars and cyclists coming from all directions, but following the trail along down below the road is mossy and often slippery, and takes ages. I walked along the road – to the junction, then cross over and turn left, walk up to the car-park and up over the small grassy hill – spurred on by the call of the coffee shop at Xiaoyoukeng!

At Xiaoyoukeng 小油坑遊客服務站, the fumaroles were spouting forth tons of yellow and white sulphur gases, stinking the place out. They are fun to check out. There’s also a visitor’s center (with maps, displays, water machines to refill water bottles, and friendly National Park people to answer all your questions), toilets and coffee shop. Due to the coronavirus precautions, like all government buildings, there is someone on duty to check temperatures of those coming in to the center to fill up the water bottles – and you need to wear a face-mask. Face-masks are also compulsory on all public transport – never go out without one!

From here, spurred on by coffee, it’s time to launch forth up the highest mountain of the day, Mt. Qixing 七星主峰. The newly-restored path is beautiful. This is always the place with the most people, and the youngest people – groups of students, young couples and families. And yes, it was heaving, but it’s not a difficult climb, in fact it’s fairly manageable even for people more used to walking in high heels on city streets, hence the vast numbers of people going up at the weekends. I got to the top (1120 m) at about 1:30 pm, and there was a line of about 30 people queuing to take photos at the big summit post.

About 20 minutes later, I got to the top of the Mt. Qixing East Peak七星東峰 (1107 m). From there, the descent is long. I got to the Lengshuikeng Visitor’s Center 冷水坑遊客服務站 at about 2:45 pm, time to refill the water bottles and cool down. But time was moving on – gotta get to that bus! But first I had to go to Mt. Zhugao 竹篙山 via Jixinlun 雞心崙, the highest point on the Lengqing Path. You walk eastwards from the visitor’s center on the path, cross the bridge and turn right towards the pond. At the pond, turn left up the steep steps. At the top of the steps, turn right, and about 5 minutes later is a viewpoint, and the marker is positioned there. Then on to Qingtiangang 擎天崗, which was also full of people. Everyone was there to relax on the grass, eat picnics and see the cattle. There were plenty of big fat buffalo, all lazing around, and all very smelly – these ones in the photo are Tajima cattle…

Eight summits down, two to go. At this point many people give up and go home by bus. The next section and challenge is to cover 6 km (plus a further 1 km by path / road to the bus stop) to get to the eastern end of the trail at Fengguikou. But this is also the nicest part in many ways. The trail alternates between forest and grassland, finally getting to the summit of Mt. Shiti / Shitiling 石梯嶺 (863 m). Beautiful! By then I was running very late, and only got to the final summit, Mt. Ding 頂山 (768 m) at 5:20 pm, so it was non-stop action from there, on down to Fengguikou Trail Head 風櫃口登山口. At the car-park, there’s a path immediately to the right that goes from the trail head to cut off the winding road.

I arrived at the Fengguizui Bus Stop just as the bus appeared – it goes up to the terminus, turns round and comes back and picks up all the people at about 6:15 pm. Five minutes later and I would have missed it, and would have faced a long walk down that steep hill to the Shengren Waterfall bus-stop. Phew, was I relieved!

This is a highly-recommended but a bit-of-a-killer hike and I am expecting to be aching for the next week! Very grateful for cool-ish weather, not much sun, hardly any real mud, ropes, dry paths, friendly people, hot coffee, easy access, good and cheap public transport, friendly and knowledgeable National Park staff, clear signposts, spring flowers, energy, free time and strength – and especially in this time of the coronavirus when so many other people in the world are in lockdown, grateful that here we are, free to do a whole day of hiking in the mountains. Thanks be to God!

Above the Sea of Clouds: Taiwan’s Elections from afar…

Yesterday was THE day!  The weather forecast was sunny, warm and dry, it was a very rare free Saturday and the beautiful Yang-ming Shan Mountains above Taipei were calling.   At 7:00 am, it was just light as I set off on the trail upwards into the clouds, complete with gloves for the roped sections ahead, and plenty of coffee to keep me going.  Ever hopeful that the forecast would be right, I ventured forth – and so it turned out to be, at the top of Mt. Miantian 面天山 (977 m) where there are 2 huge microwave reflectors, I could look down onto a massive and beautiful sea of white clouds covering the whole of the northern coast, including St. John’s University and most of Taipei City.  Misty memories came back of the last time I was on Yang-ming Shan at the end of October 2019 to do the ‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-mIng Shan East-West Traverse’ ~ a killer hike and yes, mostly done in the mist. Yesterday turned out to be beautiful weather all day – cloud down below, blue sky above. And so the good weather continued – onto the summits of Mt. Datun 大屯山, Datun west, south and main peaks. The skies were blue, the clouds were white and the views were incredible.

And there were hardly any people.  Usually on a sunny Saturday all through the year there will be thousands of people on Yang-ming Shan hiking, walking, enjoying the hot springs, relaxing with family and friends.  After all, it is just so easy to get there from Taipei City by car or public transport, so there is really no excuse for NOT going!  But not yesterday.  It’s true that one of the roads was closed for repair after recent heavy rains, but even so, there were hardly any people anywhere to be seen.  Even Erziping with its famous lake and picnic site in the swirling mists had only a few people there…

Later, I did find out that one of my friends was following the same route as me, but a bit later in the morning – and by the time she got there at lunchtime, the sea of clouds had dispersed a bit.  And it was a bit of a surprise to bump into one of my adult students on the top of Mt. Datun, although Yang-ming Shan is that kind of place – anyway, it’s her who kindly took this photo ha ha! 

And the reason for there not being many people up in the mountains?  Election Day!  Down in Taipei and all over the country, people were lining up since 7:00 am to get in and vote in Taiwan’s 2020 Presidential and Legislative Elections.  Campaigning has been going for months, and it couldn’t be livelier.  Billboards, loudspeakers, TV appearances, campaign rallies, it’s been pretty non-stop all day long, and they cover every aspect – so it is impossible not to be involved.  Held once every 4 years, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was standing for a second term. 

Taiwan has no postal voting or voting by proxy, so the 14 million citizens who were qualified to vote had to travel home to the place of their household registration, which meant a mass exodus out of Taipei for the weekend.  St. John’s University and all other universities finished their term on Friday, allowing students to return home to vote.  Thousands more came home from overseas, combining the election with a pre-Chinese New Year visit to family and friends.  Democracy and the right to vote are cherished, and the level of enthusiasm was clear.  Yes, it was a very BIG day for Taiwan!

Thankfully voting went peacefully, and by early evening, it was clear that President Tsai had won a second term.  She received 8.2 million votes, 57% of the ballot, which is over a million more votes than she got first-time round in 2016. Her main rival, Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) won 5.5 million votes, 38 % of the ballot.  The DPP also won a majority of seats in the Legislature with 61 seats, the KMT took 38, and smaller parties took the remaining 14. 

We give thanks to God for safe and smooth elections yesterday, and please do keep President Tsai and her government in your prayers as she starts a second term. For more information, see the following news reports:

Taipei Times: 2020 Elections: Tsai wins by a landslide and 2020 Elections: DPP maintains its legislative majority

The Guardian Int’l Edition: Taiwan election: Tsai Ing-Wen wins landslide in rebuke to China

BBC: Taiwan election: Tsai Ing-wen wins second presidential term

And Taiwan’s next big event, coming up soon: Chinese New Year! Spring is coming too. The cherry blossom was coming out yesterday, and there are ponkan trees everywhere covered in fruits…

Ponkan 椪柑 ‘Chinese Honey Orange’ – a citrus hybrid (mandarin × pomelo), and just so delicious!

‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse’ 2019!

Or as I prefer, the ‘West-East’ Vertical Traverse! This is THE mountain challenge for all those looking for a day out from Taipei – a 10-hour hike over the 10 mountains in the Yang-ming Shan range that lie just above Taipei City. It’s 25 km, almost 1,700 m of ascent and about 45,000 steps in total. And totally worth it!

This is my account of my trip last Saturday, October 26. Spring or autumn is the best time to do this hike, because summer is too hot (and it rains nearly every afternoon) and winter is too wet. You need a number of dry days before the actual day, otherwise the paths are slippery, especially the roped ones! The only other time I’ve done this hike all in one day was in May 2018 (see that account here) but the route has slightly changed since then, with one of the summits (Mt. Zhugao 竹篙山 ) now closed to the public – to avoid the cattle, which are actually a mix of water buffalo and Tajima cattle, after someone was killed by one last year. The summit marker post has also been moved to the highest point on the Lengqing Path, and renamed Jixinlun 雞心崙.

Fortunately the whole hike can be done in more manageable and smaller sections – it divides nicely into 4, which can be done over 4 days or 2. That’s what I was doing on free days during the summer, and I would get home before the thunderstorms rolled in during the afternoons. If you take the harder option, and do it all on one day, be prepared for aching limbs for 3 days afterwards – it’s hard work!

On each of the summits, there is a marker post, and on the top of each post is a Chinese character in metal ~ use a pencil and paper to do like a brass rubbing (or just take a photo!) Put together in order and these characters make a phrase. The 10 Chinese characters are: Mt. Ding (“陽”), Mt. Shiti (“明”), Jixinlun (“山”), Mt. Qixing East Peak (“東”), Mt. Qixing Main Peak (“西”), Mt. Datun Main Peak (“大”), Mt. Datun South Peak (“縱”), Mt. Datun West Peak (“走”), Mt. Miantian (“活”), and Mt. Xiangtian (“動”). The whole phrase, 陽明山東西大縱走活動 translates as the ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse Activity’. These are the 10 posts (left to right in the order I did them) and 10 Chinese characters (kind of left to right in the correct reading order) below….

Although it is titled the East-West Traverse, and the marker posts are numbered in that direction, actually it is easier to do it from west-east, mainly because of the times of the buses. The east end of the hike is a place called Fengguikou 風櫃口. The bus stop is about 1 km down the road from there, at a place called Fengguizui 風櫃嘴. The bus is the small city bus M1 (市民小巴1) from Jiantan MRT Station, and there’s not many of them! Every morning, the first bus leaves Jiantan MRT Station at 6:10 am going up to Fengguizui, taking about 30 minutes. The next bus after that is 10:10 am, so don’t miss it! The Taipei MRT opens at 6:00 am each day, so for those of us further away, it’s impossible to get to Jiantan MRT Station so early.

You also need to know that the final M1 bus of the day from Fengguizui down to Jiantan MRT goes at about 6:10 pm. That is the one to get! If you miss it, you have to walk down much further to Shengren Waterfall Bus Stop where there are many buses, but the road is long and winding, and the short-cut paths are steep – plus by then it’ll be dark, so timing is everything!

The other reason for finishing at Fengguikou rather than starting from there is that the final part of the hike may be be long (6 km from Qingtiangang 擎天崗) but it is the least steep part of the whole hike, and after a long day going up and down, it’s nice to take things a bit more easily!

So all in all, I think it’s better to start at the west end of the hike, which is at Qingtian Temple 清天宮登山口 and walk eastwards. The bus you need is the S6 (小6) bus from Beitou MRT, and there are lots of buses all day long. Also lots of people on a weekend all queuing for the early buses! Get there early. The earliest I could get to Qingtian Temple on Saturday was at 7:20 am. Qingtian Temple village has a temple or two, a public toilet and a large noticeboard with a map. The whole trail is very well-signposted as long as you know the order of the mountains. The trails on Yang-ming Shan were mostly built in the Japanese Era, and they were built to last forever, mostly of stone. This is the view from Qingtian Temple Trail-head over towards Guanyinshan…

The trail from Qingtian Temple to the first summit of Mt. Xiangtian 向天山 takes just over an hour, going via the usually-water-less Xiangtian Pond. I was on the grassy summit (949 m) at about 8:30 am and 20 minutes later, reached Summit 2, Mt. Miantian 面天山 (977 m) at 8:50 am. There’s a viewpoint and raised rest area there, 2 huge microwave reflectors and views down to St. John’s University and the whole northern coast. But as it was alternating cloudy and sunny all day, so views were limited. That was a relief in a way, I didn’t have to keep taking photos! This is the silver-grass, at its best in the autumn….

Taking the path straight down from Mt. Miantian leads back to the main path. Turn right for about 10 minutes heading to Miantianping 面天坪, where there’s a pavilion always full of people enjoying a day out. The path up to Mt. Datun West and South Peaks (and eventually to Mt. Datun Main Peak) starts here, on the left. The Datun Mountain range 大屯山 lies ahead. This is the steepest part of the whole hike coming up. Bring some cheap gloves to cling onto the fixed ropes that are provided to help you haul yourself up and down. Be prepared for aching arms and shoulders the next day!

The ascent of Mt. Datun West Peak 大屯西峰 is steep and exhilarating, with lots of large rocks to get over. The top (985 m) is mostly rocks too, and the descent is equally steep, so it’s better to go down backwards. At the bottom, head on to Mt. Datun South Peak 大屯南峰, which is a shorter but even steeper climb than West Peak. However once you get to the summit (959 m), that’s it with the ropes (and the gloves), they won’t be needed any more on this hike. The descent is much easier. Berries en route to attract the birds….

The path brings you out ready to hike up to Mt. Datun Main Peak 大屯主峰, which is a bit of a slog up endless stone steps. The summit (1076 m) is high up above the path, there’s a viewpoint, and it’s the top of the road for the cyclists who like to come up on their bikes from Taipei. On Saturday, it was mostly foggy, so no views, but on a clear day the views of Taipei are great. By then it was almost 11:00 am. 5 mountains down, 5 to go. We’re half way – yes!

Then follows a long walk down from Mt. Datun Main Peak, either by road, or by path to the Anbu Entrance. I took the path, it comes out at the road, and there you turn right. Heading to the next big mountain, Mt. Qixing ~ and it is easier (but definitely not so pleasant) to walk along the main road. There are buses, cars and cyclists coming from all directions, but following the trail along down below the road is mossy and often slippery, and takes ages. I walked along the road – to the junction, then cross over and turn left, walk up to the car-park and up over the small grassy hill – spurred on by the call of the coffee shop at Xiaoyoukeng!

At Xiaoyoukeng 小油坑遊客服務站, the fumaroles were spouting forth tons of yellow and white sulphur gases, stinking the place out. They are fun to check out. There’s also a visitor’s center (with maps, displays, water machines to refill water bottles, and friendly National Park people to answer all your questions), toilets and coffee shop.

Now, spurred on by coffee, it’s time to launch forth up the highest mountain of the day, Mt. Qixing 七星主峰. The newly-restored path is beautiful. This is always the place with the most people. And yes, it was heaving, but it’s not a difficult climb, in fact it’s fairly manageable even for people more used to walking in high heels on city streets, hence the vast numbers of people going up at the weekends. I got to the top (1120 m) at about 1:00 pm, and there was a line of about 30 people queuing to take photos at the big summit post. Fortunately for me, nobody was interested in the small marker at the side, which is the one what I needed to take a photo of. About 20 minutes later, I got to the top of the Mt. Qixing East Peak七星東峰 (1107 m), where there was a line of about 10 people all trying take photos of the only summit marker. I joined the queue – but I was the only one not wanting myself in the photo!

The descent is long – and usually crowded with people. I got to the Lengshuikeng Visitor’s Center 冷水坑遊客服務站 at about 2:00 pm, time to refill the water bottles, drink hot chocolate, eat snacks and chat with all the many visitors. It was at the visitor’s center that the guides told me that the Mt. Zhugao 竹篙山 summit marker had now been moved, due to the path closure, and is now renamed as Jixinlun 雞心崙, the highest point on the Lengqing Path. You walk eastwards from the visitor’s center on the path, cross the bridge and turn right towards the pond. At the pond, turn left up the steep steps. At the top of the steps, turn right, and about 5 minutes later is a viewpoint, and the marker is positioned there.

By 3:00 pm, I had arrived at Qingtiangang Visitor’s Center 擎天崗遊客服務站 which was also full of people. Everyone was there to relax on the grass, and see the cattle. There were plenty of big fat buffalo, all lazing around, and all very smelly. 8 summits down, 2 to go. At this point many people give up and go home by bus. The next section and challenge is to cover 6 km (plus a further 1 km by path / road to the bus stop) to get to the eastern end of the trail at Fengguikou. But this is also the nicest part in many ways. The trail alternates between forest and grassland, finally getting to the summit of Mt. Shiti / Shitiling 石梯嶺 (863 m). I got there about 4:00 pm. The fog had lifted, and there were good views. The sun was beginning to go down and the light was special. But I didn’t want to hang around. I had a bus to catch and the light was fading ahead…

By 4:30 pm I was at the final summit, Mt. Ding 頂山 (768 m), and from there, on down to Fengguikou Trail Head 風櫃口登山口. At the car-park, there’s a path immediately to the right that goes from the trail head to cut off the winding road, but it’s steep, and it was dusk, so I took the long winding road, also to the right, heading towards Shilin, which took ages. But the sun was setting, it was lovely!

I arrived at the Fengguizui Bus Stop at about 5:30 pm, and waited for the bus at 6:10 pm, in the dark with a group of students and other walkers coming down from Yang-ming Shan. The phone signal is very poor in that area, so you have to move around a bit. This is the altitude diagram of the hike…

And guess what? As I was standing at that bus-stop, in the dark, on a remote mountainous road in a far corner of the Yang-ming Shan mountains, one of those students waiting with me suddenly asked me if I was Teacher Catherine from St. James’s Kindergarten in Taichung. I was and I am! It turned out she had been in my class when she was 5. She’s now at university, and this is the first time we’ve met since. Amazed that she should recognize me after all these years. But Taiwan is that kind of place, you never know who and where you might meet some lovely person who knows you!

This is a highly-recommended, but a bit-of-a-killer hike! Two days later and I am still aching all over, especially going up stairs. Grateful for cool weather, not much sun, no mud, dry paths, friendly people, hot coffee and hot chocolate, easy access, good and cheap public transport, friendly and knowledgeable National Park staff, clear signposts, lots of silver grass, energy, free time and strength – and unexpected reunions at bus-stops!

Thanks be to God!

PS Updated on April 20, 2020: a more recent account of this same hike is posted here, with all 10 summits now fully open.

Chilling up on Yang-Ming-Shan 陽明山: 🐍 Taiwan Habu / Brown Spotted Pit Viper / 龜殼花蛇!🐍 Or is it?

It’s high summer in Taiwan, exhaustively hot and humid, and the best outdoor place to escape the heat is up in the mountains, where there’s a breeze and some shade. So, up to Yang-ming-shan National Park 陽明山 (the mountains above Taipei) we all go ~ there’s a range of 10 mountains up there to choose from, and endless trails and places to walk, meet, chill, relax and enjoy the breeze.

And today on Mian-tian-shan 面天山 (Mt Mian-tian: 977 m) there was a s.n.a.k.e.😨 🐍🐍 😨 Snakes are common in Taiwan, but they usually move very fast, and, well, nobody hangs around long when a snake is on the move. This one was a very cool, calm and collected snake, all chilled out and all coiled up by the side of the path. So cool, calm and collected that I’d passed it by before the gathered crowd told me to look.

This could be a Brown Spotted Pit Viper, known locally as a Taiwan Habu, and in Chinese as 龜殼花蛇 (translates as ‘turtle shell pattern’), and in Latin as Protobothrops mucrosquamatus. Turns out to be highly venomous, and is the same species of snake as appeared on a Taiwan TV News report recently when one was spotted among the drinks on a delivery man’s motorbike in Taipei City. Certainly caused a stir!

So, things I have learnt today about the Taiwan Habu: it’s very common throughout Taiwan up to 1,000 m in altitude, occurs all over Asia, belongs to the same family as rattlesnakes (now there’s a thought!), mostly nocturnal, the most fearless of the common venomous snakes in Taiwan, can be aggressive – attacking shadows and moving objects, and especially in rural areas – even the smallest medical facilities carry Habu antivenom.

But since then, someone has told me that this might not in fact be a Taiwan Habu, it might be a False Taiwan Habu / False Viper 擬龜殼花 Macropisthodon rudis because its head is not as triangular as it should be. If so, it is only (!) mildly venomous, occurs only in south China and Taiwan, mimics the real Taiwan Habu in colours and patterns, and “when irritated and excited, it may make every effort to act or appear as a venomous snake: the head and neck, or the entire body, may be flattened as the snake coils up in defense; when flattened, the oval head may take on a strong, definite triangular shape in an attempt to mimic vipers.”

Isn’t nature amazing?

😉 Good job I didn’t know all that when I took the photograph! 😉

‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse’ 2018!

Can’t quite believe it.  10 mountains.  10 hours of walking.  1 day.  25 km.  53, 437 steps.  Highest point: 1,120 m.  The WHOLE Yang-Ming Shan traverse.  Up and down, and down and up all day long.  Steep steep steep, but dry.  No mud.  A little sun. Perfect!

All 10 mountain markers….

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Yang-Ming Shan is the range of mountains above Taipei City.  I’ve been up there many times and done the whole ‘traverse’ in sections before.  This time last year, I did it all over 2 days (see that report here).  This is the first time ever I’ve done the whole thing in one day.  This is the highest point, Qixing Main Peak, 1120 m, and the one with the most people, ha ha!

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Started off intending to do only half, but met some people who were doing the whole thing and somehow we all ended up doing it all together.  Started at Qingtian Temple in Beitou at 7:10 am.  Ended at Fenguikou Trail-head about 5:00 pm in time for the 6:10 pm bus down the mountain.  So actually I did it west to east, despite the title.

These butterflies were having a slightly more relaxing day than we were!

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And today?  E.X.H.A.U.S.T.E.D!

YIPPEE, SNOW!

Yes, finally, at long last, after 10 days of non-stop rain and more rain, and getting colder by the hour, today the rain has finally stopped, people’s moods have lifted, the skies have sort of cleared and in the far distance on Yang-Ming Shan Mountains 陽明山, just above Taipei City, there is SNOW!  YIPPEE!  The grey snow-laden sky is kinda merged with the white snow, but hey, check it out.  Ha ha, it’s there, honest. And just in case you’re still not sure what you’re supposed to be looking at – check out the arrows below!

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There’s no snow down here at sea-level of course, but still it’s freezing cold and we’re all bundled up with gloves and scarves and hats and coats etc etc.  Been dressed like this for several days now, it’s cold cold cold.  But today’s different, cos we are all so excited to see Real Live Snow! YES!  Albeit in the distance, 15-20 km away, but visible to the naked eye, even if not very clear on any camera.  So we’ve all been up on the 8th floor library building rooftop at St. John’s University gazing endlessly out at that distant view.  FYI, the altitude up there is about 1,000 m.

The last time this happened was exactly 2 years ago, and the time before that, well, was about a decade ago.  Before my time.  Hey guys, this is supposed to be a subtropical country.  We don’t have no central heating.  Or any heating come to that.  Only hand warmers, hot water bottles and extra layers of clothes.  And a few have those small electric fires in home or office, although there’s none here – our SJU chaplaincy opens onto the outside, where the wind howls and blows in all directions.  Ah, we just grin and bear it!  But forget the cold, today we’re all super-excited.  Just look at us all standing up on that 8th floor rooftop….  even though actually the photo doesn’t even show any snow!

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And in case you really want to see what it’s like up there in those mountains, these 2 photos below were taken yesterday up at Erziping 陽明山二子坪步道, by our good friend, Mr. J. C. Chen, who has kindly let me share them with you….a bit slushy by the looks of it, but oh so beautiful.

Yippee,  SNOW!  Happy Snow Day everyone!

And this is the view from Sanzhi late this afternoon!

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What a great view eh?!  And yes, plenty of snowmen being built up there, but so far, none down here!

The Cattle of YangMingShan 陽明山, Taipei

Yes, at last, I’ve found them!  The cattle of YangMingShan are smelt long before they are seen ~ the smell of ‘cow’ is everywhere in Qingtiangang especially on the grasslands, and there’s cowpats and muddy trails and hoof-prints all over.  But often the cattle themselves are nowhere to be found.  I’ve been up there twice recently and not a cow in sight.  But yesterday, there they all were, taking it easy – with the egrets perched on their backs, chewing the cud, yes!

YangMingShan is the mountain range on the northern side of Taipei City, highest point 1,120m above sea level, all volcanic in origin, with lots of sulfur deposits, fumaroles, hot springs, and in spring, cherry blossom.  From 1895-1945, Taiwan was under Japanese rule, and in 1937, the Japanese government declared the western part of YangMingShan around the Datun Mountain area as a national park. Much of the area was already being reforested, and the trails that we all use today were established at that time running along in-between the firebreaks.  And beautiful trails they are too!

The eastern part of YangMingShan, around Qingtiangang and further east to Fenggueikou, was used for tea-growing and grazing cattle.  In 1934, the Farmer’s Association of Taipei established a cattle ranch there, covering about 2,000 hectares, with about 1,600 cattle. This was disrupted during World War II, and even though farming was continued under the Chinese government after the war, it continued to decline. In 1985, Qingtiangang became part of the national park.  This was the site of the old farm office, near the Juansi Waterfall (‘Silk Waterfall’, because the water looks like spun silk) now derelict….

The cattle of YangMingShan today are of 2 types, Taiwan Water Buffalo and Tajima Cattle (a strain of Japanese Black).  In January 2017, former president of Taiwan, Lee Teng-Hui, who has a PhD in Agricultural Economics, announced a project to produce Japanese-style beef using Taiwanese cattle through experimental breeding techniques, using Tajima cattle from YangMingShan – though the report says the Tajima were underweight when they arrived at the research station.  No wonder, living up there, especially in winter! There’s one Tajima in the centre of this group….

The water buffalo are black in colour with large curved horns, in a crescent shape. The horns of the Tajima are smaller and shorter and straighter.  They all hang out together, and due to the heat can often be found sitting around taking it easy, chewing the cud or indulging in a bit of mud-bath therapy, keeping cool.  This is how they were yesterday!

The cattle area and grasslands extend for miles all the way along the ridge to Fengguikou. Beautiful scenery all the way and glorious views!

And how’s this for the view north towards the coast…. that’s the sea in the distance!

Great place, and those cows are something else – the ones in the mud-bath could be heard long before I could see them, wallowing and blowing bubbles.  Just like hippos in the Serengeti!

Yang-Ming Shan Mountains 陽明山 ~ before the storm….

It’s summer, well and truly summer!  Schools finished yesterday, the last day of June ~ so the summer holidays have officially started ~ and everyone is making the most of it!

Summer weather in Taipei this past week has meant fine and sunny weather every morning, up to the mid-30’s in temps, then soon after lunch, it clouds over and a storm comes rolling in, sometimes just torrential rain, sometimes with thunder and lightning too.  So today everyone was up early to the Yang-Ming Shan Mountains, just above Taipei, and back down again by early afternoon.  By 8:00 am I was already at Xiaoyoukeng, where the fumaroles were busy pouring forth their stinky sulphur.  The smell was incredible!  The noticeboard said 29°C, and that was before 8:00 am. It was gonna be a hot hot day!

Over Dragon Boat Weekend at the end of May, I was up in Yang-Ming Shan doing the ‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse’ over 2 days, the second day completely in the mist.  (Check out that blog post here). Parts of the eastern range were new to me, so I’ve been determined to go back and do the new sections in the sun.  So today was THE day!

Check out the flowers – the big purple flowers are Common Melastoma (Melastoma candidum) – which has a high tolerance of acidic, sulphurous and infertile soils.  Also some beautiful lichens…..

First to Qixingshan (Mt. Qixing or Mt. Cising), the highest peak, at 1120 m.  One of my lovely students, Calvin from Malaysia was up there a few days ago, with photo to prove it, and I always tell him I’ve gotta keep up with him, so this is in his honour!

The views of Mt. Datun were amazing…

And down to Taipei….

By 10:00 am, I was down the other side, in Lengshuikeng, drinking coffee and looking at the weather. It was already clouding over back where I’d come from, but ahead was clear – so on I went. First to check out the Milk Lake, which “turns white due to the sulfurous fumes vented from the lake bed which turns the water murky. After gradually precipitating, the sulfur forms whitish-yellow or pale grey layers on the lake bed. The temperature of the lake is around 40 °C.”

Then to Qingtiangang, “a lava terrace formed when the lava from Mt. Zhugao flowed north after its eruption. Because of its flat terrain, a ranch was established and the area was used as a pasture for grazing cattle during the Japanese occupation.” The smell there is no longer of sulphur.  It is very distinctly cow.  Very smelly.  Very stinky cows.  Never saw any, but there’s lots of evidence.  These are the grassy areas, completely different from the western end of Yang-Ming Shan….

This is one of the old ranch buildings, now a rest area….

And there’s lots of historic pillboxes, including one on Mt. Zhugao 竹篙山at 830 m, the highest pillbox, used for defence ….

This mountain has spectacular views of Qixingshan, where I’d just come from – though it was getting quite overcast over there…..

There’s an ancient historic trail, the Jinbaoli Trail that goes over the mountains from the sea at Jinshan to Shilin in Taipei and was used to transport fish, tea and sulphur right up to the 1950’s, this is one of the old gates….

Lots of people in the area today ~ it’s THE place where couples and families and friends all come for picnics, to brew tea, play Frisbee with the kids, and even take wedding photos!

And finally I ended up at the old home of Lin Yu-Tang 林語堂 (1895-1976) on the lower slopes of Yang-Ming Shan. He lived there for the last 10 years of his life and wrote lots of things, mostly in bed.  Not because he was confined to bed, but because he thought it was the best place to think and write and invent.  That’s what the notices around his house said anyway.  Am sure thousands would agree with him. Wikipedia describes him as “a Chinese writer, translator, linguist and inventor. His informal but polished style in both Chinese and English made him one of the most influential writers of his generation, and his compilations and translations of classic Chinese texts into English were bestsellers in the West.”  He is buried there in the garden, and his home is open to the public….

By then it was 2:30 pm and home I went, arriving back in Sanzhi just before the thunder started!  Yang-Ming Shan by then was looking very dark indeed, but for me the rain held off – yippee!

Thought you’d like to see one of the lovely signs, love the ‘desire path’….

Ah yes, I love Yang-Ming Shan, such a great range of mountains, and so close and so convenient for Taipei!

PS: It’s now nearly 7:00 pm and absolutely pouring down with rain here in Sanzhi!

‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse’ 2017!

It’s Dragon Boat Festival weekend, so we have 2 extra days off – yippee!  So far I’ve spent 2 days up on the Yang-Ming Shan Mountains above Taipei doing the East-West Traverse (Chinese version is here), a 25 km route, which I did in 2 halves – it takes in 10 peaks in total. Each of the 10 peaks has a marker post with a Chinese character on the top, and using a pencil, you make like a brass rubbing in a special book. Together the characters spell out the phrase ‘陽明山東西大縱走活動’ meaning ‘Yang-Ming Shan East-West Vertical Traverse Activity’.  So there you have it.

A new challenge. And I always like a new challenge. My good friend, Shiao Chien, who also volunteers at Yang-Ming Shan, gave me the book as a gift many months ago.  It’s taken until now to find some free time to do it!

The weather was wonderful.  Well, for ducks, that is.  And frogs.  Also wonderful for mountain walkers who want to keep cool.  Day one on Saturday started off clear and with a strong wind, but by lunchtime, the mist had rolled in and the drizzle had started.  Day Two was today. Down in Taipei, it was beautiful, all sunshine; but up in Yang-Ming Shan it was dense fog and drizzle virtually all day.  Ah, yes, quite fun!

So 2 days, each with 5 peaks, and each day about 5-6 hours of walking.  This is Saturday’s opening view from Mt Datun …. that’s Sanzhi down there in the distance, yes I could sort of see my house!

And the view from Mt Datun Main Peak… those green mountains are the next destination on the trail, south and west peaks, and Mt Miantian at the end.

Here I am with Taipei down below and my book ready for the first brass rubbing.  If only I knew what to do, and if only I had brought a pencil!  I had assumed it would be stamps with an ink-pad, that’s kinda normal in Taiwan.  But no sign of any stamps and ink-pads. The first man I met had no idea what to do, the second one said I needed to get a pencil. He offered me his chopstick as an alternative, but it didn’t work.  So here I am waiting for something to happen, otherwise I can’t fill in the Chinese character ha ha!  Wait and see….

Anyway, Mt Datun South Peak and West Peak climbs are short but very steep, and have ropes to help everyone get up and down over the mud and slippery rocks!

And so to Mt. Miantian where the large microwave reflector things are visible for miles around.  Just below it is Mt. Xiangtian…

On the way down, came across this stone…. erected in honour of the wedding of Crown Prince Hirohito in 1924…

And down through the bamboo forest….

To the trail head at Qingtian Temple….

This is the trail-head at the western end ~ yes, I’m half done!

Legs ached all weekend.  Arms too, from all those ropes.  Could hardly get down any stairs, it was agony on the old legs.  Serves me right for trying to do 5 peaks in one day.  But still, I was up bright and early to start today’s walk at Xiaoyoukeng where the fumaroles were very busy, spewing out sulphur.  Stinking the place out.  Even though it was 100% fog , we could all smell them!

This is the start of Qixing Main Peak and East Peak Trail, ah yes, all in the fog and drizzle!

The top is the highest point on the ridge… 1120m

And down to Lengshuikeng where the visitor centre is hidden in the mist.  Cue: coffee on sale here!

My destination was Fengguikou trail-head, still about 6 km away, with 3 more peaks en route.   The first time I’ve ever been along on that ridge.  It’s mostly grassland.  Cows too. Never saw any cows, but plenty of cowpats.  Really amazing ridge walk.  In the fog.  And y’know, it was so cool!   Usually grassland means no shade, and hot hot hot.  But today was great!  This is the Lengshuikeng Pond…

Passed through pines and cedars, remnants of forestry plantations planted by the Japanese in the 1920’s….

And so to my last peak, Mt Ding, yes I was so happy!

And so down to the trailhead…. more mud!

Lots of Nature with a capital ‘N’ – pink and purple thistles, the white-flowers of the ‘Narrow-Petaled Hydrangea’ 狹瓣八仙 (Hydrangea angustipetala) there in abundance, fungi growing on the cowpats and 2 pairs of Chinese Bamboo Partridge 竹雞 which seemed very tame – well, you can see how close I got!

So 10 peaks later, and in case you’re wondering how I got on without a pencil, well, guess what?  There I was waiting for something to happen at my first peak of the 10, and along came one of my colleagues from our university, with her family – these guys turned up completely unexpectedly on Saturday morning at Mt Datun Main Peak while I was there, and they showed me how to make the brass rubbing with their pencil – which they then donated to me to take on the trip. How’s that for a bit of divine intervention eh?!  🙂  🙂

From Fengguikou trail-head, I had to walk down another 2 km to the bus at ShengRen Bridge – the road above the National Palace Museum…. the descent got brighter and nicer and sunnier the lower I went ~ this was it!

And this was the scene at Tamsui MRT Station.  Just look at that blue sky!

Met loads and loads of people over these 2 days.  Most interesting of all, was the 2 men on Saturday who had parked at Fengguikou trail-head at 6:00 am and were doing the whole traverse, all 25 km and all 10 peaks down to Qingtian Temple, and then back again along exactly the same route.  All in one day!  When I met them, they had done the first 25 km in about 6 hours, so hopefully they got back in one piece!

An amazing route, great fun, beautiful scenery, good exercise, lots of nature and yes, now plenty of aching muscles – but hey, worth every penny and every ache!

PS Thought you may like to see a sign that I saw on Yang-Ming Shan on Saturday….

It’s good news for all Climbing Violators ~ none of them will be reported to the police, ha ha!

Ah yes, punctuation is everything!

Chinese New Year 2016

A sombre, sober and subdued Lunar New Year for all of Taiwan. It started with the deadly 6.4 earthquake early on Saturday February 6 in southern Taiwan, which led to the collapse of a number of high-rise buildings in Tainan, including the 17-storey Weiguan Jinlong apartment complex, where over 100 were killed. Electricity and water outages made the New Year even worse for many, and as High-Speed Rail services were cancelled in southern Taiwan, many people were forced to change their travel plans.

TV and Newspaper reports kept us all focused on the emerging nightmare….

IMG_4934Tragedy after tragedy – as bodies were pulled from the rubble, despair after despair – for those who had survived but with their loved ones missing.  Many moving stories – of those trapped, and those who had survived against the odds. The search and rescue crews were heroes, sacrificing their New Year celebrations to work around the clock to get everyone out. The Red Cross and other relief organizations, including churches, provided support and help.  The damage was intense in those areas where the fallen buildings lay, but thankfully there was not widespread devastation over the whole city and the relief effort was well-managed and organized.  By last night, the final day of the holiday, everyone in the 17-storey complex had been accounted for, and the collapsed buildings had been leveled.

The earthquake was a constant conversation topic throughout the whole week.  The tragedy was foremost on people’s minds.  TV New Year programs were toned down, social media posts more sombre than usual, the atmosphere everywhere subdued and respectful.

In complete contrast – and complete surprise – was the Chinese New Year weather.  After months and months of seemingly non-stop rain and freezing cold, with temperatures in Taipei the lowest for over 40 years, suddenly the weather cleared up, and we had a whole week of hot sunny weather, with temperatures in Taipei up to 28ºC on Saturday.  Chinese New Year in northern Taiwan is usually marked by cold, wet, totally miserable weather. But this year it was absolutely wonderful!

Chinese New Year is all about family reunions, and the main gathering is always on the evening of New Year’s Eve, which was Sunday February 7.  My good friends, Rev. and Mrs. Hsu, just down the road in Shuang-Lien Elderly Care Centre, kindly invited me to join the celebration meal at the centre, with over 100 tables spread for the residents and their families.  The 3 Hsu children, Victor, Anne and Alice had all come back from overseas, and Alice had come from Mauritius with her husband, Bishop Roger and their son, Alexander. Mrs. Hsu’s sister also joined us.  Yes, all my good friends ~ it was so great to see them all again!  Then on the second day of the New Year, which was Tuesday, the tradition is to go to visit the girl’s side of the family, so Mrs. Hsu invited me again, this time for lunch with the family and some friends, also at the care centre.

Yummy yummy yummy!

And then a whole week off!  With such glorious weather, everyone took to the roads and trains in big numbers, for days of sightseeing, eating, and visiting family and friends. Mahjong is a big Chinese New Year pastime, but with such wonderful weather this year, who could resist a day at the beach or up in the mountains, looking at the newly-opened cherry blossom?

And so. Me too!

On Monday off I went to climb Elephant Mountain 象山, Four Beasts Mountain 四獸山, and the top one, 9-5 Peak Jiuwufeng  九五峯, all located at the far end of the MRT line from Tamsui, over beyond Taipei 101.  Amazing views, and being the first day of the New Year, there were not many people – at least until the afternoon, when the crowds came out, everyone in their new clothes and shoes, some even in high heels lol!

Also a quick visit to Taipei 101, looking very festive with all the red lanterns….

This was all but preparation, in fact, for the big climb of the week, on Wednesday, to Yang-Ming Shan 陽明山 Mountains.  11 hours of walking, from Sanzhi 三芝 up to Mian-Tian Shan 面天山, then Datun Shan 大屯山 and Qixing Shan 七星山, and down to Leng-Shui Keng 冷水坑 for the bus home.  The first time I’ve ever done the walk up and 3 mountains as well, but it was well worth it, the views were fantastic, and it was warm but not too hot. The next day I visited one of our beloved church members in hospital in Taipei, and the final photo is the view of Yang-Ming Shan Mountains from the hospital ward, and what a view!

And so to Friday, and a nice gentle amble, along with zillions of others, around Yehliu 野柳, an hour on the bus from here along the coast eastwards.  Yehliu in summer is boiling hot with no shade, and in winter it’s always cold and wet, so a rare sunny warm day, and Yehliu is the place to go for a bit of fresh sea air, stunning rock formations, a small hill to climb, and a few hours well spent!  Met families from Guang-Dong, Philippines, Canada and Taiwan also escaping the crowds….

And then on Friday afternoon, my good friend, A-guan and 2 of her children suddenly decided to come – from St. James’ Church, Taichung.  Always a fun and lively time!  First stop, the beach at Bai-sha-wan to paddle and see the sunset…

IMG_5569Next stop, on Saturday morning, the National Palace Museum. A-Guan’s daughter’s first ever visit, and she wanted to go.  There were about as many people as at Yehliu the day before, it was packed out!  Y’know, walking round that museum is totally exhausting.  Walking 11 hours up and around Yang-Ming Shan is fine.  But 1-2 hours in a museum, and we were shattered. Had to sit in the park and drink coffee to recover.  But we did see the Pope’s red shoes.  As well as all the usual things on display, there’s also a display of things from the Vatican.  Kinda bizarre to see such ornate vestments and altar frontals next to all the ancient Chinese artifacts. And those red shoes are something else!

And finally, one of the highlights of Chinese New Year is always the cherry blossom, which is coming out at lower altitudes ~ spotting the pink trees is always fun….

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And then on Sunday, yesterday, the fine weather finally broke.  The end.  A cold front came, the rain and wind returned, and winter came back with a vengeance.  Then A-guan’s car broke down, and instead of returning home yesterday, ready for work today, they are still here. Experiencing Sanzhi cold and rain, drinking tea to keep warm!

Today is the first day of school for Taiwan’s children after the holidays.  St. John’s University has an extra day off, we start work tomorrow, and the new semester starts on Thursday.

Looking back over this past week, and Chinese New Year 2016 will always be a New Year to remember.  Such unusually good weather, a time to celebrate and enjoy the arrival of spring and the beauty of the countryside, for many to relax in the company of family and friends. But also a week to remember, grieve and pray for the victims of the earthquake in Tainan. So many have lost so much. So many face an uncertain future.  So many worry in case their own homes are now at risk in future earthquakes.  The investigations into the construction companies behind the collapsed buildings are only just beginning.

Ash Wednesday came in the middle of Chinese New Year week.  Lent has started.  A time of reflection, fasting and prayer.  We pray in earnest, for those suffering, the injured, the orphaned children, those who have lost their entire families, those whose homes, livelihoods and loved ones are gone.  We thank God for his mercy, and ask for your continued prayers for all those affected by the tragedy in southern Taiwan.