It isn’t easy reaching Hehuan Mountain by public transport because local tourism buses don’t connect Qingjing Farm to Hehuan Mountain. Cabs can be quite expensive and not easy to find. Our B&B owner arranged a morning sunrise tour to Hehuan Mountain for us. We’d share the ride with 7 other passengers.
We left our B&B at around 4 a.m. and picked the other passengers along the way. The ride to Hehuan Mountain is smooth and the only sharp turns occurred along the curves of the mountain road. The driver doubled as our tour guide. We stopped under the dark sky and our guide pointed towards the constellations above. We felt a bit left out because his explanation was in Chinese. We didn’t realise that the entire tour would be in Chinese. Turns out that we were the only ones who didn’t speak the language. Whilst the others laughed at his jokes; we admired the sky above. Sometimes, he would speak to us in broken English and see if we were OK. It was too late to observe the Milky Way and we tried to make the most of the experience.
It’s hard to get your orientation in the darkness. The change in altitude wasn’t too bad and I was mildly queasy. The tour would focus on 5 or 6 points in Hehuan Mountain, but most of those points were lost in translation. The views made the effort worth it.
Hehuan Mountain has some excellent hiking trails offering stunning views of the cascading peaks. After acclimatisation in Qingjing (Cingjing), it makes sense to spend the next night in Songsyue Lodge. It’s the only accommodation available in Hehuan Mountain. Sadly, we couldn’t make the booking and chose to spend 2 nights in Qingjing. Hiking in Hehuan Mountain may require a permit and it’s better to follow local rules/instructions before attempting a hike. The weather conditions change drastically in the high altitude mountains depending upon the seasons and time of day. High altitude hikes can be tricky if you’re not adequately prepared.
Waiting for Sunrise
Our guide zipped through the curvy mountain roads. We saw many vantage points on the way and I wished our guide would have stopped. But, he had his own secluded corner in the mountains. There weren’t many tourists at this point. I was disappointed though. The clouds didn’t look as spectacular as the other spots we’d seen through our window.
Light was slowly trickling into the sky and spilling over the mountains. We could spot a variety of flowers. The sun was nowhere in sight and we’d have to wait for a bit. Everyone chose a spot and the guide helped to find the best angle to capture sunrise.
No matter how many times I’ve watched the sun rise and set in the sky; I’ve always found every experience to be as breathtaking as my first. There’s something magical about observing the sun. It also makes normal people turn into photo-hungry zombies. As I found a spot to observe the sun, one of the passengers in our group walked upto me and asked me to step aside. I was puzzled. There was a lot of place and she’d chosen me to move from my spot. If she’d asked nicely, I wouldn’t have thought twice. However, I didn’t want to fight for a spot on a mountain. We leave those fights in the plains where we’re outrun by people and greed. The mountains are for solitude and reflection. It’s the only place where we can hope to be human again. I stepped aside and tried not to let it ruin the moment.
Once the sun emerges from the cloud cover, it’s just a matter of minutes before the sky is filled with bright yellow light. We stayed for a bit and moved to the next point.
Travel has always been my escape from reality. I feel at home in the mountains — with the deafening silence — clearing the noise in my head. The fresh mountain air makes me appreciate life. There’s sanctity in the mountains. A rare purity of thought and emotion. I couldn’t get myself to read about Taiwan’s past history and conflict with Japan. I understand why history is important, but in the mountains — I want to be an escapist.
We could see the different peaks of the mountains from the vantage point. The sun hit those greens and popped colour in the mountains.
Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park spreads over 92,000 hectares in the northern part of the Central Mountain Range. Hehuan Mountain is located in the western section of the national park and is conveniently accessed from Qingjing Farm.
Before sunrise, our guide had clicked a picture for us with the board of the Taroko National Park. Most tour groups made a second stop here, to click pictures with the mountains after sunrise.
The peaks looked stunning in the morning sunlight. Basil wanted to try a trail, but we hadn’t planned this section of the trip well. Without knowing transportation back, it’s tricky to explore these parts of the mountains.
Mountains & Peaks…
Strike a Pose
Photography is a big thing in this part of the world. Tourists prefer to have themselves in every frame rather than taking in the beauty of the mountains. Guides double as photographers and advise tourists how to pose or jump at the right moment. We spotted a tourism bus (light vehicle) chugging along the mountain roads. A pair of mountain birds (I’m bad with names) fluttered around and was quite friendly with tourists.
Back to Qingjing
Dingdai Glass Villa
We reached our B&B around 7 a.m. and we were in time for breakfast. I was feeling queasy on the way back to Qingjing and we spent the next few hours in our room.
We used our EasyCard to board the Nantou Tourism bus. We had borrowed a map from the manager and showed the bus driver the spot we wanted to explore. We found the Cryptomeria Trail opposite mini Swiss Village.
This was the last map we found near the administration office and lodging.
Into the Woods
This path was deserted at noon. We found a campsite next to this trail and it looked interesting.
We continued walking and taking in the sights of this bucolic village escape. We didn’t find anyone here. It seemed like a farming village.
487-Steps Trail lies at the south gate of Qingjing Skywalk. I was tired and skipped this path. Basil climbed for a bit and returned in 20 minutes. There are other trails in Qingjing, but we decided to call it a day. We had lunch at the local 7-Eleven and then caught the bus back to our B&B. We spent the rest of the evening in our room.
Sunrise may have been disappointing, but moonrise was spectacular. We got VIP seats for this celestial event at the balcony of our B&B. The clouds spread across the sky and touched the higher peaks of the mountains.
Spending an extra night in Qingjing wasn’t such a bad idea after all.