Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day 34. November 1st: Around Zhiben

This day I decided to do something different. Instead of continuing along the coast, I decided to hike around Zhiben a bit, to get some relief from the unrelenting sunshine of the beach, and to see some mountains and forests for a change.
For those unfamiliar with Zhiben, it is a small, lush valley with steep hills and a clean river that comes from the high mountains. It’s about 10km south of Taidong city center, and about 5km from the shore. High mountain areas are just inland from Zhiben. It has natural hot springs, and it’s a famous resort area that was started by the Japanese.
The Zhiben River

A beautiful, almost unspoiled area

I got a bus to Zhiben no problem, and set out from the last stop, which was quite close to the Chipen [sic] Forest Recreation Area. But as I shlepped along towards it, I saw a sign indicating other trails. I followed it, and made my through various tracks and shortcuts until there was a clear mountain road going up to the hills (850 meters?) on the side of the valley. I saw some little hot spring facilities –blocks of concrete with pipes coming out of them, all shrouded in steam - loads of bin lang trees, and some jungley-looking woods, and a waterfall. At the top of this road there were some magnificent views.

Small road leading up to the high hills

Electrical wire up to the top, just dangling there

A trickle of a waterfall

I came down and entered the Forest Recreation area. This is actually fairly good, and has some nice short trails through old forest. There are some magnificent banyan trees, with buttresses and roots, and lots of other interesting plants. The shady fecundity of the forest was welcome after so many days of beach walking. I saw a bunch of monkeys, but got the impression that I was happier to see them than they were to see me! Then, as I slogged along, a short round deer suddenly plopped out onto the path from the bushes about 3 meters in front of me. It gave me a nervous glance, and then shot into the bushes on the other side! Time elapsed, two seconds, but long enough for a good look. Later on informative signboards along the path told me that these native deer (Formosan Reeves's Muntjac, also known as barking deer; Muntiacus reevesi; Chinese: 山羌) are fairly common in the area.

Green beauty: inside the Chiben Forest Recreation Park

Finishing my 90 minute hike in the park, I went to the “Don Tar” ( [sic] should be Dong Tai, as in Tai Dong) hotel’s outdoor spa, which was just great: 43C water, AAHH! Then the 17C cooling pool. OOOH! Nice views of the river too.

It was drizzling in Zhiben, but when I got to the train station nearer the coast it was hot and sunny.

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