Saturday, 24 October 2009


I'm moving my blog to wordpress. The new site is here

All my old posts can be found at the new address. If there's something specific you're looking for have a look at the search function on the right column of the new site. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Songluo Lake - 松羅湖

Songluohu - 松羅湖

Songluohu 松羅湖 is a kind of swampy lake set in a small basin and surrounded by mountains on all sides. It's a tremendously beautiful place and in some ways very similar to Jialuohu 加羅湖 which is also in Yilan. They are both great places to hike and camp and both can easily be done in a weekend.

We set off on Saturday morning and took the number 9 towards Yilan. It's a great road to drive on, especially since most of the Taipei to Yilan traffic now goes through the Xueshan tunnel. And the views of the Yilan plain towards the end of the road are spectacular (weather permitting!).

Songluohu - 松羅湖

Songluohu - 松羅湖

After a quick pit stop in Yilan City we cracked on and got to the township of Yulan 玉蘭 on the number 7 at around midday. From here we followed the Benjue road 本覺路 up and past the Yulan tea flieds. Unfortunately we didn't have time to stop here but next time I'm in the area I'll definitely go back. The tea place we passed had tables set up in the fields and it looked like a good place to chill out drink tea and enjoy the views of the valley below. Towards the end, the road condition began to deteriorate but we made it up on the motorbikes and at around 600m, we parked up next to the entrance to the trail.

Songluohu - 松羅湖

Songluohu - 松羅湖

The path is obvious throughout and very easy to follow, however, it isn't always that easy going! We started up the stairs and passed a couple of people coming down. They were covered in mud and said that the trail was 'bu hao zou'. Almost immediately after, the paved stairs gave way to mud and thick bush. We were slipping all over the place and each took a tumble or two!

Songluohu - 松羅湖

After ten about minutes we came out of the bush and back into the forest. The trees kept changing between tropical forest and pine and there was plenty of wildlife around with Neil getting a little peckish.

Songluohu - 松羅湖

At about halfway we, somewhat bizarrely, came to a tap with running water and filled up our empty bottles. I don't know whether the water is potable or not so we just used it for cooking later on that evening.

Songluohu - 松羅湖

After about four hours of hiking through the lush forest, the trail began to really steeply rise up the mountainside and it became much more difficult. There were a few small landslides to cross and a couple of ropes to climb up but after half an hour or so we got up to the highest point; a saddle between two small peaks. From there we followed a dry river down to the lake side.

Songluohu - 松羅湖

The hike took a little longer than we had anticipated and so we quickly got to setting up camp. The tents were just about ready when the wind picked up and we had to abandon our original site and go in search of somewhere more sheltered. We eventually settled on the far side of the lake a good 30m from the edge of the water.

Songluohu - 松羅湖

It got dark quickly and after eating, we messed around taking photos in the dark. For a brief while the stars came out and in the moon light the lake looked particularly beautiful. Feeling tired after a tough day's hiking, we went to sleep early. However our sleep was interrupted when the heavens opened and it began to pour down. The noise of the rain and the lightening was unbelievable but apparently my snoring was louder!

At about 5am, I woke to what sounded a lot like a river. Thinking it impossible as there was no river, we dismissed it as the just noise of the wind. I then rolled over only to find that the side and bottom of the tent were completely soaked. Sleepily climbing out of the tent we were then surprised to find the lake was now only a metre away and a river had appeared next to our camping spot!

Songluohu - 松羅湖

Packing in a hurry, we didn't get time for breakfast and only just got the tent down before the lake waters reached us. The walk back was a lot tougher in the rain. The saddle we crossed to get to the lake had turned into a river and it took about 5 hours to haul ourselves back to the car park.

Songluohu - 松羅湖 077

Next time I'm checking the CWB more thoroughly before heading out!

More photos here

Phil also has his blog for this one and I guess Neil will soon

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Friday, 25 September 2009

Formosa Adventuers - The grand finale!

At long last, after a busy month for all of us, we've finally been able to sit down and put the finishing touches to our final video! The last stage of voting begins on the 1st of October and runs until the end of that month. After that it'll be a tense wait until the 15th of November, when the winners of the million dollar prize will be announced.

Hopefully by putting this together, we've been able to inspire more people to get out there and enjoy the best parts of Taiwan, it's moutains, rivers and jungles. And we'd all like to thank everyone for their continuing support especially all the people who helped us out all the way on the trip.

Cheers! And enjoy!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

The Four Beasts and others - 四獸山

The Four Beasts 四獸山 are four small mountains in the Xinyi district that overlook Taipei city and Taipei 101. Separately they're called Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Tiger mountain (象山、豹山、獅山、虎山). Rising up further and behind the beasts are the peaks of Nangang mountain and Jiuwufeng.

A lot of the trails here are lit at night and so lots of people come, especially to Elephant mountain, to get a great view of the fantastic night scenery. Neil Wade and myself went up Juiwufeng a while ago and again last week and the views are something that you can never get tired of.

Previously I've always driven up to a certain point and then walked up from there but this time I wanted to start at the bottom and work my up, across the ridge and back down via Elehpant.

I started on Fude street 福德街 next to the Fengtian temple 奉天宮. To get there you can walk from Houshanpi MRT station exit 2 down Dadao road 大道路. At the bottom there is a T junction and a 7-11 on the left. Turn towards the 7-11 and walk past it, taking the next right down Fude Street's lane 221 . The temple is on the right.

Walking past the temple, look out for a circular gate on the left, Go through this and then straight up the stairs. This is the beginning of the trail. At the top of the stairs, the trail follows the edge of a cliff up to a spot called the Longdong rock (I think.... the name needs confirmation!). This is one of my favourite spots to watch the sunset over Taipei. On a good day, you can see the Grand Hotel, Gunayin mountain, Yangmingshan........ it really is spectacular and only takes 15 minutes to get to.

Following the trail up from here leads to a small viewing platform/shelter and a jungle gym. Taiwanese people seem to love going up into the mountains to do their pull ups and practice the hula hoop!

Tiger mountain is close now, follow the signs and pass by a rickety, homemade staircase with a VIP red carpet and you're there.

I walked down off tiger to the road behind it and then made a left. I then went straight at a T-junction and turned right to go to the Zhongyi Temple 忠義宮. Walking up past the temple, I came to a new but old-looking gate and turned right to go through it.

It's difficult to explain which way to go from here as there are so many trails. Just try to head up and towards the mountains and you'll get there!

After about 20 mins, you should get to the next turn off on the left. It isn't signed posted but it is just before a shelter and it doesn't have any paving, just rock, mud and a couple of hiking tags. Just before I started to head up, a woman came running over telling me how dangerous this route was and that I shouldn't go on. I told I'd be fine and went ahead anyway thinking that it couldn't be that bad!

The trail goes steeply up at this point. You need to clamber over boulders and avoid the enormous spiders on route. After fifteen sweaty, tiring minutes, I arrived at the bottom of a cliff. This part is very difficult and really it's more like rock climbing than hiking. Above is a 40m high cliff with ropes attached. It is really scary! I had come here on my own and if no-one else was there, I think I might well have turned around! But seeing a 12 year girl march straight up to the ropes and start pulling herself up, I felt like I had to do it.

Not many pictures of the climb unfortunately. I was too busy fearfully gripping the ropes to stop and get my camera out! Maybe next time I'll take a smaller camera. At the very top, I scrambled over a metal fence and kissed the ground. I had made it! To the right is Jiuwufeng peak and after that comes the slightly smaller Nangang mountain. Jiuwufeng has awesome views of the Taipei basin and even though the weather wasn't perfect, I thought it still looked fantastic.

From Nangang mountain, I turned back the way I had come and then took the next left. Immediately after turning, I headed down to the right to a small roped section, with some crazy, unsteady ladders.

From here the trail is again really difficult to explain. Best just to follow the sounds of KTV and head downwards. There are lots of trails and I suspect they all lead pretty much the same way. After a while I got to the Sishou trail and I followed this to elephant mountain. Just after elephant is Thumb rock, a small collection of rocks with a wonderful view of Taipei 101.

By this point the clouds were really starting to roll in and I needed to get down before a storm broke out. I headed down and managed to just make back before all hell broke loose with lightening and huge amounts of rain.

Photos are here and here

Neil Wade has accounts of his trips and great photos here


The trails up on the four beasts are nearly all paved and easy to follow. However the roped section leading up to Jiuwufeng is very, very difficult and should only be done on a dry day.

Water and everything you need can be bought at the 7-11 on Fude Street at the start.

Information on buses can be found here.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Formosa Adventurers

We finally made in back to Taipei late last night after four fantastic days of travelling down the east coast of Taiwan. We've all had a great time and looking back on it, it's amazing just how much we managed to fit into only four days.

Eventually, when we're all sorted out and fully recovered, I'll publish an itinerary of what we did with details so that if anyone is interested in doing any of the activities will be able to use it as a guide.

In the meantime here are the videos and don't forget to check back soon for the final video!!!

Thanks for all the support!

Day 1 Hualien - Rivertracing, the Ami harvest festival and the Nanbin night market.

Day 2 Ruishui and Taidong - White water rafting and the old Taidong train station.

Day 3 Taidong and Gaotai - Quad biking, paragliding and the Bunun aboriginal centre

Day 4 Zhiben - Hiking and hot springs..... and rain, lots of it