Saturday, June 29, 2013

Super hikers!

Today was one of the most hot, tiring, and amazing days so far! I absolutely love hiking, so it was so cool to experience hiking of Taiwan's unique mountainous terrain. We headed to Yangmingshan Nation Park, to try and climb Mt. Qixing. This mountain is located on the Datun Volcano Group and is the highest mountain at the rim of Taipei City/Taipei Basin. Also it is the highest dormant volcano in Taiwan. I've been to Yangmingshan before when the grad students took me but last time we took our prof's car to make it up a couple mountains. This time, we were going to experience the elevation change first hand; a more rewarding trip :) It was especially cool because we had two profs with us to point out some of the vegetation and insect species. We made many stops along the trail to see some lizards, insects, and some interesting flowers/plants. There was a loud buzzing sound all throughout the forests, so we eventually found the insects that made them.  They were called cicadas! They are insects that only live for a short time. They come out of their "shells" to feed. One of the profs caught one of them (only males make sound) so this one went crazy!! I felt kind of bad for this little guy, the sound he made was like a distress screech! but at the same time, it was cool to see the big bug up close.
What I found most interesting was the changing vegetation as we moved from the base of the mountain to the top. We started with dense forests, with tall luscious trees, ferns, and a lot of shade cover. It was especially humid today, and for the first half of the hike, it was sticky hot. As we inched closer to our goal, the trees became more and more sparse, with more sunlight peeking through the canopy.  Eventually we hit an area where the trees turn into long shoots of bamboo. The bamboo was so dense, you couldn't see through the brush (and on the way down, we took turn leaning up against the bamboo, it was so dense that it held up our weight!). Also, the wind got very strong as we moved up, so the temperature was super chill, which was a nice break from the humidity. The top of the mountain was such a rewarding experience; we all let out a huge sigh of relief that we made it, and we had a new burst of energy cause we were all excited to see the amazing view!  1120 m above sea level, and we got a 180 degree picturesque view of the ocean, mountains, city, and forests (all available from a turn of the head). The wind was so strong, we all had trouble standing up straight! I was surprised that I had to fight to hold myself up and not fall due to the wind's power! 
The way down was so easy compared to the four hours of hiking at a 70 degree angle. It seemed that it took us only an hour to make it down. At the bottom we stopped at some sulfur deposits, and the dormant volcano site. It definitely smelled like it! After breathing the clean air from all the trees, the pungent smell coming from the ground shocked all our noses haha.
At the very bottom, we all stopped for lunch, and a much needed icecream bar. Mango icecream was the perfect treat after our work! Mangos are really expensive in the States, so I've been trying anything I see with the words mango in it.
the entrance, I don't think we knew what we were in for..
this dog was cheering us on!
 almost there!
on top of some sulfur crystals (on the way down)
at the top!! enjoying the view and wind!

The bus ride to the Beitou Hot Springs was so quiet because all of us were taking a much needed nap! The hike pooped us out!! But we were only halfway done with the day, and next on our agenda was the famous hot springs! The museum was very cute. There was a Japanese style room with the sliding doors and bamboo mats where many performances were held for the bathers. Also, we learned that Beitou was famous for the many old Taiwanese movies that were filmed here. So we watched some clips from a very very old movie. It was comical to see the overacting and funny actions of the actors haha.
After the museum, we walking up the hill a little ways to the actually Thermal Valley, which is the source for the hot spring's water. The hot spring in the valley is so-called Green Sulfur Spring. There is only two green- sulfur-spring found in this world, and Beitou Termal Valley is one of them! It was very beautiful! When standing at the railing, and looking out onto the water, it was like you were in a sauna! It made the already humid/hot weather seem cooler. There was steam surrounding and rising from the light blue water. The pH value of this Green Sulfur Spring is between 1.2 - 1.6... I dare not to imagine how painful it is if one skin is in contact with the water!
at the Beitou Hot Spring Museum (we had to take off our shoes and wear these slippers)
Thermal Valley (Beitou)

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