Taiwan 2011 trip, Day 11, Feb 24th: Reuili, Ruefang, and Sitou

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9:02pm, Youth Activity Center, Sitou

Another big day in the books, and it takes me a little while to remember where it beganů

I woke up well before the 6:45am alarm, and noticed clear skies with some pink clouds to the east, but as we were sitting in a valley, there wouldn't be much of a sunrise view, so I laid in bed till the alarm. We packed the car, and got ready for 7:30am breakfast at the attached restaurant. For a change of pace, we were give plates of food instead of a buffet for the first time. The amount of food was small, but I didn't mind, since it would force me to keep a light stomach on a day with heavy hiking. After eating, they beckoned us to have some tea with the old master tea-man (just like last night).


This was the entirity of our breakfast. The little hot dog thing was a bit out of the ordinary...

After breakfast we spent some time taking pics of the gorgeous flower garden outside our inn.






All the above flowers were from the garden outside our Inn in Rueili...

After admiring flowers, we drove up some steep narrow side roads above town looking for the bamboo lined "Green Tunnel" trail. Turns out you can actually drive through it, and we passed through without realizing it. I hiked a few minutes of the Rituai trail instead, which was quite beautiful with hilly bamboo, while the Changs took more pics of flowers near the parking lot.


Bamboo forests are mesmorizing...



More amazing flowers in Rueili...

After driving back through the Green Tunnel (which wasn't nearly impressive as the bamboo from the hike yesterday), we made a 15 minute drive down to the Yuntan Waterfall trailhead, wrapping around windy roads, and waiting for construction machines to clear aside a couple of times. We were the only car at the trailhead for this 1km round trip hike. The trail was entirely steps leading down to two waterfall viewing platforms. On the way back up, Wendy counted: 283 steps from the lower platform to the trail, then 533 more steps to trailhead. ~350' descent and ascent.


Visiting Yuntan Waterfall...



Just around the corner was the new Eco Park, which I hadn't read about, but figured was worth a stop. Wendy happened to pop in the visitors center, and found out we could get free photo booth pics, with backgrounds from the Alishan mountain region. This made the stop well worth it. There were also more flower near the visitor center.


Wendy and I posed in a booth for a free postcard...


More amazing flowers in Rueili...



Wendy and I ran the .5km up to the Botanical Gardens and back, which was pretty bare, before driving back to the hotel to check-out, and grab lunch at the noodle place nearby. I snacked on bananas and moustache beans (which happen to be a type of water chestnut only grown in Taiwan and China), while the Changs ate noodle soup and dumplings. We posed for pics with the moustaches.


"Mustache bean" poses...


Here's a look at the brain-like water-chestnut inside the mustache shell. Mmm... I ate most of them...

Then it was time to say good bye to Ruili, and head up the mountain and down the other side a bit to Ruefang, ~20 minutes away, for a hike to another waterfall.


More mountain plantations on the way to Ruefang...


Typhons washed out much of the trail a few years ago, but most of the trail had been rebuilt. We walked along boardwalk, traversing the side of a valley, climbing up and down ~150' of steps to clear a hump, and reached a viewing point of the waterfall.



We followed the boardwalk trail towards another waterfall. Wendy and I would eventually walk directly behind this waterfall (see pics below)...

The unique aspect of this waterfall is a trail running under the cliffs behind the falls, which we could see from a distance. However, the trail hadn't been fully repaired to reach it. Irene and Betsy stayed at the viewing platform while Wendy and I explored further.

We crossed another new bridge, and then reached a washed out steep side of the valley with a bridge wreckage hanging on the far side. However, there was a dirt trail leading down to the dry riverbed, across the rocks, and up the rocky/dirt slope on the far side, leading back to the boardwalk. We scrambled over, and made it up to the cliffside with ease, excited to have the waterfall within reach! The boardwalk followed the hollow gap in the cliffside, leading straight to the falls. We stopped and took lots of pics at this unique location.


Typhons washed out the bridge, but Wendy and I scrambled down to the mostly dry creek bed...


...and climbed back up to the trail. We could see Irene and Betsy watching us from the lookout...


The waterfall was straight ahead...



I ventured all the way to the other side of the falls, taking a light sprinkle along the way. We had the entire place to ourselves, and in fact, all the hikes from yesterday and today had no other people aside from us. Quite special. Guess it helps to come in the winter on a weekday.


Wow, pretty cool they built a trail that follows the cliff band crack under the waterfall. I explored the other side...


A view from the other side of the falls...


Wendy and I take pics of each other across the falls...



And I'm back. Time to recross the creek bed, and rejoin the trail back...

We returned back to the car park, where a woman was selling wild honey food products. We tried a wild honey water, and a honey - wild natural fruit jelly (grown from the area) - jello thing. Pretty unique fare.


Another unique snack: wild honey & native wild fruit jelly/jello. This just might be the only place in the world selling this particular food...

With all the hikes planned for today under our belt (and completed just after our target time of 2pm), we started the long drive out to the highway. Route 162 used to be an old route from the Ching dynasty, and is famous for it's 35 hairpin turns that cover ~2300'. Aside from being windy, the road was well paved and very wide, making for an easy ride. I never encountered a car in front of me the entire way. Betsy and Irene were a bit freaked out by the road's drop-offs along the side. We finally made it to the bottom around 1hr from Ruefang, and made our way up the Freeway towards Sitou.


When Wendy saw this street sign, she erupted into laughter that couldn't be restrained for 10 minutes. Meanwhile Irene and Betsy didn't think it was quite as funny, as this 35 hairpin road was kept them on their nerves. The road was fortunately in great shape and plenty wide. Trivial compared to yesterdays driving...


A big Buddha statue out the window on the way to Sitou. Our hostel tonight had pretty lanterns...

The road into Sitou was a stark contrast to the previous days roads. Stores, resorts, and eateries lined the road for 30 minutes before we finally entered the forest region. It was quite a hassle to get into the park, first paying entrance fees to park, then getting clearance to go inside the park from our hostel (which sits inside the park). Finally we made it in, and marveled at the deep green woods, with tall straight trees. It was appropriate that the LOTR CD was playing the Lothlorien theme at the time. This was a completely different forest environment than Rueli, though they are not far apart on the map.

We checked into the hostel at 4:30pm, and found our 4 person cabin to be spacious, and even had wi-fi. Dinner at the hostel was at 6pm, so we walked to a scenic pond area first. Plenty of photo ops.


Some forest views around our hostel in Sitou Nat Park...


Wendy poses as a stick figure again. Don't slip Wendy!


Gorgeous forest...



Bamboo bridges...



Wendy shows what not to do (according to the sign behind her).


Wendy and I on the bamboo bridge. A look at our 4-person hostel room...

Dinner was buffet style (for the 1st time), and we hit it hard (ok, mainly Wendy and me. ok, mainly me). There was a decent variety of dishes, including fried fish pieces: head half, tail half (tails were much more popular, and went by fast). After a big day on the trails, I took advantage of the buffet, and ate pretty much nonstop from 6-7pm (when they closed).


A dinner buffet! Another great meal in Taiwan...

Back at the hostel, we checked in online for our flights out Saturday morning, and planned out the day tomorrow. Gotta get up early, spend a couple hours touring the park, then make the 4+ hour drive back to Taipei, stopping at a ceramic museum on the way if time allows.

Michael Jackson's documentary "This is It" was on TV, which was appropriate as we've been playing his CDs in the car the past week.

Wow, done with the journal by 10pm! Should get plenty of sleep for the big drive back tomorrow.

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