ITASHAO VILLAGE – From Taichung City, we took the bus to Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) in Nantou, one of the most famous tourist attractions in the entire island country. The lake boasts of “scenic beauty and tranquility”, which we hoped to see. On top of it (literally), we hoped to do some hiking, as always.
Hence, immediately upon arriving in Shuishe Village, we took a local bus to Itashao Village, on the other side of the lake. Itashao is the jumpoff for Shuisheshan (水社山; Mt. Shuishe), at 2059 MASL the tallest mountain within the lake’s vicinity; it is also the most challenging. The original plan was to take it easy today and climb Shuisheshan tomorrow, since the estimated time for the trek is 8 hours.
However, we felt that we could actually do it today, and we went for it! We started trekking at 1410H, and we hoped to reach the summit before sunset. I was joined by my hiking companion, medical student Terence Kua, who, like me, belonged to the INTARMED program.
The initial leg of the trail was forest, no different from those in the Philippines, but after an hour – the amazing part begins: a vast bamboo grove, just like those in Chinese movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and many others. Even Kawabata Yasunari, one of my favorite Japanese novelists, described such a scene in one of his short stories. We were enthralled to walk in such a scene, and for over an hour!
Past the bamboo groves, it was again forests, but this time, with an occasional glimpse of the Sun Moon Lake. There are signposts every 500 meters, indicating our distance and altitude. From the halfway mark, we were more vigilant in awaiting these signposts as we were getting very tired. The trail is a continuous assault of almost 1500 MASL altitude gain, and add the difference in humidity, and you will have some gasping lungs!
Yet, we pushed on, beckoned by the beatiful views of the lake. By 1700 we were within a kilometer of the summit, and at 1757H, just a few minutes before my goal of 1800H, we reached the summit. Although there was no view at the top, we were just glad that we made it, even as we knew the upcoming nighttrek would be another challenge.
Still, we had one final blessing: a view of the sunset! We saw the red sun descending on a sea of clouds, with the lake beneath! I even managed to take a picture of the sunset with its reflection on the lake! For the CHinese, the sun and the moon have special significance, and I understood the poignancy of the picture when the hotel owners asked for photos later!
Meanwhile, we descended. The bamboo groves had a very eerie feel, and there was even a time when we thought there was somebody else. It turned out that there was nobody else, and actually, for the entire hike we had the mountain to ourselves, which was a very nice change from Dakeng yesterday where there were throngs of people.
By 2020H we were back in Itashao, in time for the only restaurant that was stil open! We had kimchi hot pot and the restaurant people gave us free drinks, maybe because we had just come from the mountain.
TREKKING IN TAIWAN (SPRING 2011)
Hiking matters #171: Sun Moon Lake Mt. Qinglong Mt. Erlong
Hiking matters #173: Hehuanshan East Peak