It’s November 4th and the US election is going on… I’m off hiking, no media, no interest in preoccupying myself with political drama and hype. Kaya is off training for her Yu-shan hike (later this month), so I jump on the bike and pedal along the river path south to the Maokong Gondola. It’s located next to the Taipei Zoo which I’m planning to visit later in the day. Today is cloudy with sunny breaks – should be a good day for it. 🙂
The Maokong Gondola spans about four kilometres going up and down the hills and hmm, around a couple of bends. So it has six stations, two of which are only to shift direction – no disembarking on those, folks! Taipei Zoo Station, Taipei Zoo South Station, Zhinan Temple Station and Maokong Station on top. Cost is very reasonable (around CAD$5 each way) – look for specials on Klook or use your Easycard to pay. Some of the gondolas are called “crystal cabins” because they have glass bottoms – the line ups for those are longer as there are only a few mixed in with the regular ones. So, as there is a line up, I with to the regular one up and maybe take a crystal one down later – both are fun. The views are stunning, the ride is smooth, I have the cabin for myself and love listening to the sound of the birds and insects below me. There is an insect here that has quite an intriguing song with many different parts. We pass over and by the zoo hidden by the tree canopy; there is one stop for the temple which I don’t have time to visit on this trip (it’s huge looking and seems under construction).
Up on top, I’m greeted by a cooler breeze, put on my sweater and drop in at the visitor centre to get info and ideas on where to wander from here as there are apparently plenty of hikes one can go on. They recommend the Zhangshu – Zhanghu trail through tea gardens, ponds, farm land – and off I go, tasting some local food fare before (and after). Unbeknownst to me at the time, I will be up there again the next day with Kaya for the Yinghe Cave hike.
Depending on your energy and time, you can walk a lot and eat a lot in these hills! The loop is a lovely walk with wonderful vistas of the city, some tea fields, farms, gardens, forests; I visit a smaller temple along the way; get myself a little lost trying to find the upper part of the route; and am nevertheless enjoying the scenery, the people I connect with, even just greeting each other along the way, eyes connecting, curious looks – Nihao. Yep, I may not be the only foreigner up here, but we are rather rare these days. I only meet two Eastern European women along the way. So often in my life here, I stand out and receive curious looks. Those who speak English will ask where I’m from, and engage in conversation. So far, it’s been sweet, and somewhat along the same lines i.e. where you from, oh yes, Vancouver, beautiful city, been there, or have brother there; what are you doing here? Oh, daughter, teach English, yes? And so on… I enjoy it. Simple nonsense, just like most of what travels through our heads. 🙂 Just as I enjoy watching the Taiwanese tourists pose and take photos and selfies – they are very good at it. I can learn something. 🙂
Some photos taken along the way…
When I get back to the gondola, I only have an hour and a half left to visit the zoo – definitely not enough, as I soon find out. After taking a peak, I decide to come back the next day. (See my previous blog post.) And one of these days I’ll be back to visit Zhinan Temple.
Yinghe, also YingHe or Yinehe Cave Hike
The following day, Kaya asks if I want to go for another hike. Sure, where to? Yinghe Cave and ridge trail and take the gondola back down. Sure, I was just in the area yesterday, but why not again?! Beauty abounds; so many more paths to take… and
This hike is a bit steeper – we don’t take the gondola up. Nope, we walk and it’s well worth it. The Yinhe Cave Hiking Trail is a fairly easy hike (if you’re good with many stairs) culminating in a spectacular view of a temple built right into a cliff face, next to a waterfall, and covered with vegetation. 銀 means silver and 河 means river or stream, and taken together they can mean “Milky Way” – so we have “Silver Stream Cave” or “Milky Way Cave;” the name appears to reference the way the waterfall strikes a slab of rock halfway down the cliff, just in front of the cave, resulting in a fine mist. It’s located in Xindian district, sometimes spelled Sindian. Up on top, the trail connects to the Maokong Gondola after two kilometres. It’s not a long hike and the tough part is steadily climbing up those stairs… Built into the recess of this cave is a small temple, humble yet wonderfully atmospheric; it’s a very rewarding goal for our hike. But if you prefer to take the stairs down, do it in reverse. Take the gondola up and eventually the stairs down. Be sure to take care and hold on to handrails if steps are wet – I have found them to be slippery at times.
Along the way, we meet a giant spider up above in its web in the tree branches… it is almost the size of my hand including legs. Wow! We stand underneath admiring it, feeling just a little creeped out, glad it’s high up there busy wrapping its latest catch, and that we’re not the right size prey. 🙂
We have a yummy lunch at a restaurant with a view before we take the gondola down. It was another wonderful day in this blessed life on beautiful planet earth. Gratitude!
|Some info on how to find the trail: Google Yinghe Cave Hiking Trail|
|Chinese Name: 銀河洞越嶺步道|
|English Address: No. 458, Section 2, Beiyi Road, Xindian District, New Taipei City|
|Chinese Address: 231新北市新店區北宜路二段458號附近|