(Rest Day, 12 KMs)

Thursday 29th February


In search of Taiwan’s highest peak

After successfully booking our tickets to Alishan online, we didn’t have to rush to queue for the bus. We still allowed plenty of time, stocking up with lunch provisions at the 7-11 next to the bus stop.

There were a lot of people queueing but no one seemed to be waiting at the 7322 bus stand except for a young French lad who was studying in Kaohsiung.  Then a lady called for us to move to where others were waiting as that was the queue for the Alishan bus. As we had tickets, we were allowed to board first and tried to match the numbers on our tickets to seats. The numbers didn’t match, so we just found two seats together.  The bus filled up quickly and it was soon standing room only and still people were getting on.  The French lad was one of the last to board.

We picked up a few more people until the bus was officially full and started to turn people away.  We were soon out of the city and the bus wound its way up steep, narrow roads with spectacular views as we climbed up to Alishan Village at an elevation of 2,190 metres.  The bus stopped at a town near the turn off to Fenqihu and we had a 15 minute break.  Most of those with seats stayed on the bus (maybe for fear of losing them).  We then travelled the last 12kms or so to the final stop. 

I was keen to catch the little red train to Zhaoping station which departed on the half hour so we headed straight for the station.  It was only a six minute journey, covering 1.6kms.  There are three train routes i the park, and riding these trains is a must do on any visit (unless you caught the train up from Chiayi - a slower journey and requiring a bus from Fenqihu). There were lots of trees in flower around the station, and we walked along the trail past wood themed sculptures that reflected the logging history of the Alishan area.

We continued on to the Younger Sister Pond and picked up the Tashan Trail, a 7.4km return trip to the top of Tashan promising views of Yushan (Mt Jade), the tallest mountain in Taiwan, and towards the Central Mountain Range. The trail was very undulating, with lots of stairs, and we soon reverted to walking along the gentler gradient of the railway line (which is only used by trains for the sunrise). After 2 kilometres, we rejoined the trail which climbed 400 metres over the next 1.7kms.  Though steep, the stairs were easily manageable, but as we climbed the visibility decreased and soon all we could see was the immediate trail and swirling mist. 

Jonno had been waiting about 20 minutes by the time I reached the top at 2663 meters, and he was amusing himself watching the resident bird.  We were surrounded by cloud and there were no views at all, we could only see a few metres in any direction.  We chatted to a Taiwanese man, who advised that his little group of three was from Tainan and asked us about our travels.  As we were leaving they had set up a table with some orbs and golden apples.  It was a bizarre setup and we were curious as to what it all meant. 

It was a fairly quick trip down and we were soon gathered at the Elder Sister pond for our picnic lunch.  The Sister Ponds are named after two sisters from the Tsou tribe (the original inhabitants of the area) who both fell in love with the same man.  The elder sister wanted her younger sister to be happy so she drowned herself in the lake, The younger sister, now distraught, also drowned herself.  The joined gazebos over the water represent the two sisters,  We then continued on through the Mangolia Garden to the Shouzhen Temple, where we bought some millet donuts and a boar sausage to supplement our lunch.

We took the Giant Tree walkway through the forest and past the Sacred Tree station. We had plenty of time, so we admired the many giant tress along the walk and climbed up and down the many stairs before heading down to Alishan Village and back to the bus stop.

The trip back was much faster through the mist occasionally swirled in, dramatically reducing visibility.  Back at the hotel, we put on some washing and Simon lubricated the chains ready for another few days of cycling. 

We had dinner in a little Japanese restuarant, Himaze, that specialised in Japanese curries.  The pork chop accompanying my curry was massive, and Jonno managed to eat both his meal and most of my rice. The lemon black tea that we had with dinner was delicious, as were our croquettes for entree.  We returned to the hotel in time to use our VIP, happy hour vouchers that we had received for booking directly with the hotel.  I had a chilled red wine, Si had a beer, G had a sprite and Jonno had a lurid pink cocktail that he said tasted pretty good.