05-Oct-2005 -- 23N – 121E Taiwan
Visit Date: October 5, 2005
This is a major line-hunting expedition for the Yip-Bannicq Group. As in the past, when Sierra was on the expedition, it usually turns out to be a challenging hunt.
In truth, we knew this would not be an easy hunt when we started to research this only unvisited land-based confluence point in Taiwan. Satellite photos and the latest topographic map indicated that this point is located deep in the central mountain range, about 10 km straight-line distance from the nearest village.
We had a week to visit Taiwan but the lack of direct flight between Beijing and Taipei pretty much used up 2 days for traveling via Hong Kong. We landed in Taipei airport right before typhoon Longwang (Dragon King) hit Taiwan straight on. After we landed, the airport shut down for more than a day.
The typhoon also shut down the railroad service for a day and a half. We departed for eastern Taiwan on the third day afternoon after we concluded the primary business which brought us to Taipei (line-hunting was the secondary objective).
We reached Hualian city for a quick overnight. This area was the hardest hit area by Dragon King. When we reached there the sight of devastation was impressive – fallen trees everywhere and few store signs still intact.
The next morning, we took the train further south and got off at a small town – Luye – closest rail stop to the confluence point. We were the only passengers who got off at this station, and the GPS reading was 16.8 km from the confluence point. Fortunately, there was a single taxi showing up to meet the train and it took us to a hotel near a bicycle rental shop which we have known about from prior research.
We were the only guests in the 40 room hotel, and when we went to the bicycle place, there was nobody attending the shop with 50 bicycles in the yard. The hotel attendant was able to reach Ado, the owner of the shop by cell phone and informed us we could just take any bike we liked.
Our plan to use a bicycle to check out the options on how was best to approach the confluence point did not work out very well. After 4-5 km the hill became so steep, and we were not able to reach the village closest to the point. We returned the bikes and, again, nobody was minding the shop. We walked to the train station and rented a scooter.
With the scooter we reached the Hong Ye (Red Leaf) Village, the closest community to the confluence point – 13 km in straight line distance. It turned out that this little village was quite famous in Taiwan because the baseball team from the local school had won several World Little League championships held every summer in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
When we were scouting around near the Hong Ye Village near dark, we found a road going up the mountain behind the village. A policeman came down the road and told us that this trail could go for about 26 km, and this appeared to be the right path that could bring us closer to the point.
The following morning we came back to the village and started on the road going up the mountain. Amazingly this road zig-zagging straight up a rather substantial mountain was in pretty good condition, even though it was supposed to lead to the middle of nowhere deep in the mountain range.
We managed to push the scooter all the way to mile 18 with a net gain of 1400 meters of elevation until our luck ran out – the road was no longer paved and it was too rocky for the small wheel of the scooter to navigate. We pushed a bit further but decided to turn around with a 8.4 GPS distance remaining.
Based on the best information, this forest road could bring us within 3-4 km from this confluence point. Judging from the surrounding of semi-tropical forest with very dense vegetation and steep mountains, it will not be an easy 3-4 km to hike in and out. Our estimation is that, it may take more than a day to do the final stretch. To hunt for this point, a small four-wheel drive car is needed to go further than we did and one must be prepared to overnight.
It took us a good hour and a half to come down the mountain and we stopped by a great hot spring for a soak. On the way to the train station we finally met Ado, the bicycle shop owner, and we had a good visit, and he refused to charge us for the use of the bikes. Ado offered to assist us and will go with us if we return to hunt for the point again.
Even though we did not come close to the confluence point, this has been a terrific trip. The best part of this expedition was the fact we discovered how wonderful was this whole area near Luye. The low land is a mixture of tea plantations and fruit trees and is surrounded by mountains on three sides. A great place for a relaxed holiday with friendly people and many great roads for bicycle tours – Ado offers guided bike tours (www.beisung.tw/ado).
All in all, this was a great hunt, even though incomplete. We have discovered a great area.
We shall return.
Rating of this hunt:
Degree of Challenge: estimated a 4-5 – serious mountain and dense forest to go through (1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
Scenery: 4– beautiful mountains and valleys (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
Culture-social factors: 4 – tranquil and pleasant communities with very friendly people (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)