Tag Archives: Yang-Ming Shan Mountains

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 extends 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.

Snow?! YES!

Unbelievable.  Incredible.  Amazing.

There is snow on the Yang-Ming-Shan mountains!  Not just on the tops, but all over.  A light dusting. Very light.  But it’s snow all the same! And it’s visible from all over this area. And just visible in my photos, taken this morning.

We’re having the coldest temps in Taipei for over 40 years.  4ºC.  Currently my phone is telling me it’s 3ºC, so maybe it’ll get even lower overnight.

It’s cold cold cold, very very cold.  Most people, including me, have no heating in their houses.  This is a sub-tropical country, and summer heat is our main concern.  Not snow. But today it’s freezing.  We’re all wrapped up like we live in Antarctica.  But there’s a certain excitement in the air as tons of people head up to Yang-Ming-Shan to see the snow.

This morning I met a baby snowman.  On the bonnet of a car.  He was born in Yang-Ming-Shan this morning, and is now living down here in Sanzhi.  Proof that there is enough snow up there to make a snowman ~ and that it’s cold enough down here to keep him alive!

America is having a super snowfall as I write.  Falling by the metre and grounding all transportation and normal life.  Meanwhile, we’re having our own little snow event here in Taiwan.

This being Taiwan, some things never change, not even in near-freezing temps and with snow falling all over.  I’ve counted 10-20 people today dressed up for winter in big coats, hats and gloves, and yet walking around and driving their motorcycles in flip-flops, with no socks.

Yep, unbelievable, incredible, amazing ~ 4ºC and NO SOCKS!!

Yang-Ming Shan Mountains 陽明山 ~ you can never have too much of a good thing!

After weeks and weeks of rain, suddenly the most beautiful weather for the weekend ~ and the whole of Taipei spent yesterday on Yang-Ming Shan Mountains!

Mega-long walk, 4:00am start from Sanzhi  三芝 via the graveyards – 5 hours to the top of Datun Shan 大屯山 (1092m), then 2-3 more hours to Qixing Shan 七星山 (1120m), finishing in a free foot-bath at the Lengshueikeng 冷水坑 Hot Springs and bus back at 2:00pm…..

Typhoon damage on the roads and paths meant some are still closed, and vandalism to the summit pillar on Qixing Shan means that it is currently all wrapped up in plastic…

As well as millions of people on the summit of Qixing Shan, there was also an ‘Asian Giant Hornet’ (虎頭蜂 ‘tiger head bee’ in Chinese) sitting there awaiting us…

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Despite it’s name, it wasn’t too giant, and fortunately there was only one of ’em, and this one kindly posing for photos – without getting angry!

Thanking God for such an amazing range of mountains so close to Taiwan’s capital city, so well-traversed with paths and trails, so well-managed by the national parks authority, so accessible for cars and buses, and so well-used by so many ~ such a blessing!