May 31, 2009
As summer approaches and things heat up, my thoughts inevitably turn to cooler escapes. And that inevitably means it's time to run for the hills. Big hills.
I've already written about Lalashan and Alishan (shan as you might have guessed means mountain in Mandarin), so I thought I'd bring you something new. When a friend mentioned Wuling Farm I must admit I had not heard of it before. This is always a good start when planning a trip though for me, and a quick check of the website looked promising. (http://www.wuling-farm.com.tw) The one thing that especially stood out was the Formosan land-locked salmon. This I had heard of before as one of the species indigenous to Taiwan and another on the critically endangered list. All in all then it promised to be an interesting trip.
It takes about 4 hours to drive from Taipei, and there is a bus from the Main Bus Station. Mind you the roads are mountainous, so if you are driving prepare for plenty of stops, and if you go with anyone who gets car sick, travel sickness medicine would probably help. Also be prepared for the weather to close in without warning. We had brilliant sunshine for two days, but driving back the clouds swallowed the road making the trip down challenging. Did I mention having adequate travel insurance?
Although Wuling Farm is in Taichung County, it is just over the border from Ilan County, and with the Hsuehshan Tunnel we chose this route. It's a beautiful trip for the most part, and it reminds you just how fertile Taiwan is. Cabbages line riverbeds and hillsides for much of the way at varying degrees of growth from sea level to higher elevations.
Wuling Farm is not actually a farm as you might expect in that you won't see herds of animals or fields of crops. It's more of a National Park or ??Recreational Farm??, and it is very well run. The Wuling National Hostel (http://www.wuling-farm.com.tw/room_01_en.html) is where we chose to stay. It's right in the heart of the park and provides one of the few places to eat, good clean rooms as well as lots of information for things to do and see in the park.
If you have a party of eight or so, you can also stay in one of the wooden cabins, although you should book any type of accommodation ahead of time. It's a mighty long way down if it's all booked!
As I mentioned, although Wuling is not a farm in the traditional sense, there are orchards of pears, apples, peaches and plums and tea is grown in abundance.
Hiking is a probably the thing most people come for, and the scenery is really beautiful. There are hikes of varying degrees of difficulty, from mostly paved to one of the most dramatic of all hikes in Taiwan, Snow Mountain (Hsuehshan).
Note though that this hike will take a couple of days and you will need to have permits before you are allowed to enter this part of the park. Still, the entrance to the trail does offer stunning views of the mountains, and is worth a trip. Weather permitting, you might see a sea of clouds effect as we were lucky enough to. Watching the clouds literally wash over a higher mountain peak in the background over the mountains in front of us was breathtaking (but alas loses it's charm in still photography).
As mentioned in the intro, the other big attraction in Wuling is the Formosan landlocked salmon. This critically endangered species is one of the indigenous Taiwan species that has suffered greatly from the enormous growth in Taiwan over the last few decades. Thankfully, conservation is being treated ever more seriously, and Wuling is now key to the salmon's survival.
As a result, most of the rivers in the area are off limits, although still beautiful to appreciate from hiking trails (including viewing platforms where you can glance the elusive fish). The future is still uncertain for the salmon, but at least there is hope.
The other thing you will notice in Wuling is the flora. With the cooler climate, there are more species that you will be familiar with. It really adds a splash of color to an already spectacular place enhancing the overall feeling of well being. Well it did for me anyway, and my daughter declared them beautiful as well.
One thing to note, it really does get cold up here and that is also a theme you will notice around the park. While we were here (May) it dropped to 13C at night compared to 26C in Taipei. It can snow in the winter so be prepared.
I know I have said this before, but when visiting Taiwan it would be such a shame to miss out on the mountains. It's a different world to the plains and cities and is in my view a must.
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