HUEHUANSHAN - bazancik

At 3000m high, Huehuanshan offers some fantastic views and plenty of hiking opportunities. And with the winding roads clinging to the mountain slopes, one of the most scenic drive you can wish for.


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Scooters up (3000m up!)

Scooters up (3000m & up!)

Scootering around Hehuanshan area is brilliant. The road is narrow and full of buses and cars stopping for a selfie. Scooter just keeps you moving and getting closer to the scenery. The bending road makes you hum 'Born to be Wild' - till you hit one of the steeper ascents and all of the sudden the power is gone. 125cm scooter, two people and 3000m up - it gets interesting at times. Every now and then we we looked more like a rowing crew on a training machine. To get up it took some coordinated moves like being on a swing: up we go, up we go, up we go....

Moutains and Valleys

Most of the time you feel you are above the clouds - despite the fact that you just got off a scooter. Well, you are above the clouds - so enjoy the view and the ride. It is absolutely exhilarating! Hehuanshan offers some fantastic vistas, many of them straight from the main road. But a short walk from the main road often hides even better views. Well worth to make the effort and explore the many small paths and walks.


The road

The road clings to the mountains, winding its way up and down, one bend after another, once stunning view after another. It is hard not to smile when you ride the road (even though your balls might be frozen on the scooter!).


  • The Road
Into the wild

Into the wild

When on the road, your attention is focused on the next bend, the selfie-obsessed drivers parking in the middle of the way and the driven-by-maniacs packs of VW Calavelle (equivalent of white van drivers in the UK). Taking a break and strolling around the hills scattered around the route can reward you with a more complete picture of the road you just took. And it’s stunning. Truly stunning.


Seriously scenic

A path less travelled (compared to the road below!)

Of course, hiking up in itself is a fantastic and rewarding feast. Near-solitude - not a common feature in Taiwan. And you will get the views.

A path less travelled (compared to the road below!)

Proudly Taiwanese

  • Proudly Taiwanese
  • Proudly Taiwanese

Yes, there is only One China. And there is only One Taiwan.

No, not part of China. Or you could claim that it's part of Portugal (they were here first!)

It's like claiming that the US is part of the UK...


Staying at the Ski Lodge and the sunset

After the exhilarating ride up and down the mountains, we settled for a couple of nights at the Ski Lodge, part of the Song Syue Lodge (松雪樓).

It offers some simple hostel-style accommodation for hikers and travellers (fortunately, not many Hello-Kitty seemed to stay there).  At 3150m it is the highest hotel in Taiwan and offers some fantastic access to the nearby peaks for sunset and sunrise. Of course, being at this hight also means some seriously unpredictable weather that can change in minutes from a total white-out to blue sky to rain...

This was certainly the case on the day we arrived. The clouds started coming around 2pm and completely shrouded the area in thick, white stuff. We went back to the accommodation as the evening looked gloomy and unpromising at the best. Working away on the laptop, I totally forgot about the rotten weather outside.

Till I looked up as realised the clouds started thinning out a little bit here and there, promising a glimpse of some of the peaks.

After a mad dash back to the Ski Lodge to get the camera and tripod some running up the hill to the location. There was some hope for the evening to clear out and the mountains to show their face. By the time we were half way up the hill, I could catch the first glimpse of Chilai Shan (奇萊山) - an impressive mountain face towering over the area.

And it only got better as the time went on.

The nearby peaks kept peeking out, revealing the grand location of the Lodge. and the majestic mountains. This is probably my favourite photo of the evening - a little patches of mist, the lodge and the towering Chilai Shan – 奇萊山.

Evening blue(s)

Sunset blues

The evening has soon provided us with another feast - some beautiful blue and pink hues just above the dancing clouds, providing the perfect backdrop for the peaking peak (is it where the name comes from?) of Chilai Shan (奇萊山). For some reason the scene made me think of cake, one with some nice and soft filling in between light sponge layers... yum...


Vortex

Evening vortex

As quickly as they came, following some dramatic and animated performance, the clouds started swiftly disappearing: just as someone pulled the plug in a bathtub, a small vortex sucked the clouds out, leaving the rest of the night clear and full of stars. Thank you , whoever pulled the plug - and didn't do so too early.

As the evening fall and the the last of the cars from the visitor centre disappeared, the place offered some very welcomed solitude underneath the starry sky.


It was an early start next morning. The plan was simple: get up early, see what the weather is doing and head to one of the peaks for the sunrise. Fortunately, there was quite a bit of choice and none was too far away.

Walking to the stars

Well before the sunrise it was the sea of stars that guided us up. The sky was clear and the dawn was already crawling in. What a way to start a day!



And the morning did not disappoint either. As the sun made its way up, its rays soon met with the playful clouds dancing in the sky. Diffused light started hitting the mountain ridges an amazing display of light and shadows has commenced.

Cloud Display

Holy smoke !

At some point the warming air created some up-draught, making the clouds look more like smoke coming up from two giant chimneys hiding behind the ridge.

Holy smoke!

Symmetry

Once the sun appeared from behind the mountains, the changes were even faster. Clouds were burning, peaks and ridges all of sudden started putting their colours on. The orange rays broke free from behind one of the peaks, aligning perfectly with the ridge below. Symmetry.

Tre colore

Central Range Point - Mount Chung Yang - 中央尖山

Zhongyangjian Mountain (中央尖山; Central Range Point) is a distinctive peak, looking sharp as a Japanese knife from the distance. When seen from the 合歡山 when the clouds do their display, it seems to be floating on a fluffy bed of candy-floss. The scenery was changing so fast that it was hard to keep pace and focus. Clouds coming and going, colours changing all the time. As the clouds lifted and kept moving around at speed, they produced amazing patterns of trails.

The ridge (or two)

The light was getting harsher and harsher with every minute. The clouds that were playfully floating around have burnt, leaving behind what looked like a lake filled with clouds. Candy floss like lake.

Once the sun came up, it illuminated the curvy ridges and brought up all the tones and till not muted colours. All of sudden you feel like you just want to walk and enjoy the scenery, be part of it. And so we did, knowing that the show was over and it was time to enjoy the outdoors and get to the top of the hill.

Layered cake

Layered moutains

How wrong we were! Once we hit the peak, my eyes got fixated. This was one of the images of Taiwan that I had stuck in my head. I must have seen it somewhere in a magazine or online. I did not have the details – but the layered mountains haunted me ever since. I tried to get some of that effect when in Taipei – and to an extent, it worked. But it was not blue enough or ‘layered’ enough. I did not have a clue we were so close to this. My whole attention was focused towards the east and north that morning: capturing the playful clouds and the Central Range Point. What started as a fast walk up, soon became a crawl as I was stopping to get a quick shot of (yet another) display. The sun was already up when I made it to the top, still focused in the east… I only looked south when the sun burnt most of the clouds and the contrast became far too strong for a decent photo (except, of course, of some high-contrast shot). I dragged my feet towards the top just to come across THE VIEW! I was not sure whether to be happy – or annoyed. If I knew, I would have raced to the top much earlier and much faster. After a quick scrambled around to find a decent vantage point, I grabbed a few shots and decided to come back next morning. Or maybe even for the sunset… Neither was kind enough with the weather to warrant another trip though. There would have to be another trip to this amazing place.


Compulsory 'selfie'

The peaks of Hehuanshan(合歡山) are impressive when they stand against the low cloud. Majestic. Powerful. Proud. Here the clouds ‘wedge’ between two ridges, hiding from the burning sun.


Floating above the clouds

Floating above the clouds

Time for breakkie

The walk


The hike is easy as many of the walks in Taiwan are a little bit like a highway: well-defined, often paved. Guess it allows you to focus on the views rather than scrambling and looking for a stable footing.

After the super exciting morning it was time to get some breakfast in the lodge. And some ginger tea...


Hehuan North Peak (合歡北峰)

The clear morning soon turned around again and some more clouds came from the west. The plan was to do some hikes and later get set for sunset. After breakfast we set off for the Hehuan North Peak (合歡北峰). At 3422 meters high, it is the highest peak among Hehuanshan. Low cloud soon shrouded the peak again, offering no views. We could only imagine what was behind the white curtain. We were back in the mystery land.


Dry Lands

Alpine desert

At the height of over 3000m, the landscape of the walk up the Hehuan North Peak (合歡北峰) is a mix of rocks and some low-shrubs that can withstand the wind and often-changing weather. At some point we came across a small ditch that was completely dried up and looked more like from some draught-stricken place in Africa. The dried ground cracked at the depth of some 3-4cm. And it was raining a few minutes earlier!

The north peak

A group of seasoned hikers at the top of the Hehuan North Peak (合歡北峰). There are lots of elderly walkers on the trails. Many of them in their 60s, with a track record and fantastic knowledge of most local trails. Their lunch looked soooooo good.

@ the Hehuan North Peak (合歡北峰)

The evening was nothing like the day before - or the morning. There was plenty of cloud - a fast moving, low cloud around and very little light could make it through. I only managed to get a short time-lapse of the action before the tripod was swallowed by the clouds. 

The next morning welcomed us with some heavy rain and cold wind. Guess we were lucky to get one good sunset and sunrise anyway.

Definitely will come back though...

Moving fast

After a long wait for the rain to ease off we were finally back on the scooter, looking a bit like astronauts on the mission to Mars...

Wet and cold it started but even in that miserable weather we still got some amazing cloud-packed action and views.

The clouds and the mountain just seemed perfect for a B&W shot. As we scootered down, I kept stopping every 50 – 100 meters, trying to find a clear and unobstructed view of the mountain. Each time it was a struggle – trees, electricity cables … and every 50 - 100 meters a new, (marginally) better vantage point seemed to be appearing. “why did I waste time and risk life there if it’s so much easier here” seems often to be the mantra of this type of photo-hunting… Finally it came together into some stitched panorama. Yay. Let’s keep moving – Taroko is awaiting…

perfect B&W

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