Monday, November 7, 2016

Hehuanshan (合歡山) - Wuling (武嶺) - Mt. Shihmen (石門山) Trail [Travel in Taiwan 161106: Wonderland Part 3 “Garden of the Gods”]


In the heart of Taiwan lies a mountain that transforms into a big slab of whiteness during the cold winter months. It also turns into a green grassland during the summer days and in spring it is said to be covered with mist which adds more mystery for those who tried to climb its peaks. The favorable weather during autumn makes it more fun to visit as the sunny skies in Central Taiwan brighten the day while the cold breeze of the Northeasterly winds send chills to every visitor.

This “mountain of joy” is called Hehuanshan (合歡山) and I had been praying for months to finally see this place in Taiwan. I still remember my adventure in Taiwan Day 876 (Center of Attraction Part 2 “When it snows, it pours”) where I failed to reach Hehuanshan. It was winter and snow was falling heavily on its slopes. Unfortunately, a lot of locals and international visitors also wanted to visit Hehuanshan creating a traffic jam in the mountain. The thick snow also made it impossible to enjoy the weather at that time. It had already become dangerous that many decided to go back home.

The good thing is that the gods and goddesses of Taiwan had finally answered my prayers. Thanks to KKday's Hehuanshan half-day tour package (https://www.kkday.com/en/product/1643?cid=3255) that I was able to visit the mountain. To book a tour, one must have a companion because the minimum order is for two persons. Luckily, I have my Travel Buddy Teklu to join with me. The price of the tour was NTD 800 and the cost was right enough since there is a lack of public transportation that will you take back to Taichung if you plan to have a daytrip in Hehuanshan.

Cingjing Guest House.  I actually didn't book on this hotel and I just set this as my pick up point since Bus 6659 would stop here. My Travel Buddy and I slept in Puli Center Cente Hostel in Nantou and at 6 am we boarded the bus and alighted at the Cingjing Guest House.

The minsu of our fellow passengers

Inside the tour bus

In the booking website of KKday, I set the meeting place at Cingjing Guest House (清境農場國民賓館). A staff at the front desk of the hotel helped me to talk to the Chinese driver of the bus. After waiting for 10 minutes, a 9-seater van finally came at 8:40 am. There were already two passengers inside our van and the driver drove fast to pick up our two other bus mates in their minsu.



The view from the window of the bus

at Yuanfeng Station



Travel Buddy Teklu 

Going up to the mountain was already an adventure. The sky was clear and the clouds seemed to be blown away by a powerful force. The blue color of the heavens matched perfectly to the lush mountains of Nantou and I enjoyed the scenery like there was no fear of our bus falling from the cliff road. A 10-minute stop in Yuanfeng Station made me shiver with the cold temperature of the mountains that I had to wear my shirt made up of wool to keep me warm. There were some viewing points in Yuanfeng but not sufficient enough to see all the beauty of Hehuanshan.

The journey continued ...

until we reached Wuling where we saw the winding road looking like a horizontal line that divided the mountains.

Wuling (3,275 meters above sea level)

The view from the marker in Wuling.

Me and Travel Buddy Teklu at Wuling marker


Some high altitude trees in Wuling

My excitement became higher as the tour bus went to Wuling. At a height of 3,275 meters, the neighboring mountains of Hehuanshan can be seen here. A must-do here in Wuling was to have a photo of the mountain road. It was picturesque as it looks like a horizontal line that divided the green slopes of Taiwan's mighty mountains. I saw some trees but Hehuanshan was almost as green as grass on a clear sunny day. After wandering in Wuling for 20 minutes, my tour bus left the place to reach Taiwan’s highest hotel


At an elevaton of more than 3,000 meters above sea level, Song Syue Lodge is the highest hotel in Taiwan.

From Wuling Peak to Song Syue Lodge to the entrance of the Mt. Shihmen Trail

If the gods of Taiwan came down to Earth to visit Hehuanshan for an overnight stay, then they must have stayed in Song Syue Lodge. Haha! They would also have booked their stay one month before their planned visit. This hotel is always full and prospective visitors must go to its online reservation system to get a room. Seeing the Song Syue Lodge made me fantasize to sleep in that hotel someday but I suddenly got distracted when my tour bus just passed by the building.

The entrance of the Mt. Shihmen trail is just beside the road.
Teklu was having a great time in Hehuanshan.



Along the Mt. Shihmen Trail, were some lakes.



There was another trail beside Mt. Shihmen Trail. Can you see it? 

climbing...

nice view

Stairs!

Wow!

Still a long way to go



At the summit of Mt. Shihmen


while going down the mountain


One more look at the Mt. Shihmen trail

The Song Syue Lodge was near the entrance of the Mt. Shihmen Trail.

Song Syue Lodge

I was expecting the vehicle to stop near the hotel but our driver dropped us at the entrance of the Mt. Shihmen trail where we were given 50 minutes to explore the mountain. At 11:30 am, everybody should be back at the tour bus which was parked near Song Syue Lodge. Without wasting any time, my Travel Buddy and I started hiking the trail. The temperature was so cold at 11° Celsius and I wore my winter jacket to survive the hike. Brrrr!


Our tour bus as it was parked near Song Syue Lodge

The sky became cloudy at noontime and traffic was also building up in the mountain road.

These cars were going to Song Syue Lodge.

The trail was easy to climb but Taiwan's Central Mountain range was like a temptation. We stopped every time we saw a good view and then we take photos of ourselves. As we go higher, it becomes colder and the scenery becomes more majestic. Song Syue was visible from the mountain slopes and I imagined how it would look like when there is snow. Teklu and I were able to get back to our bus at 11:40 am and at 12:30 pm we arrived at the north entrance of Cingjing Farm. A half-day tour was not really enough to see all what Hehuanshan has to offer but at least I had already visited the place and I will be back again for another adventure.

The view of the sky and the mountains along the road going to Hehuanshan.








Ah Hehuanshan! How can I best describe you? You are like a gift from the heavens to the Taiwanese people. Towering above at more than 3,200 meters above sea level, your height and your beauty makes you the garden of the gods.

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