|Suao port and beach from Suhua Highway|
The one thing to expect on a 3 day weekend in Taiwan are the crowds. That and train tickets will be sold out 2 weeks before they sell at the station (you can buy online with a Taiwanese ID #). So when we had moments of crowd-less nature, I definitely was over the moon with gratitude. It was also the first time in 6 years I was free in my own car to explore Yilan.
|The empty Neibi beach, Suao.|
The woman at the cafe told me in Mandarin that the local Matsu temple was moving the goddess idol to visit a god in Yilan and she explained times and locations. I was pretty giddy to have my comprehension of her explanation proved when we ran into the pilgrims. They had the coolest shirts, a sea of red devotees.
|My friend climbing for a jump, Auhua Waterfalls.|
After that it was back in the car to Nan'ao and there we found the crowds, bumper to bumper on the notoriously dangerous and most beautiful highway, the Suh-ua Highway. Its danger is not due to the narrow one lane switchbacks that plummet to the Pacific, but because fellow drivers are impatient and pass the corners on blind spots.
Outside a little aboriginal village called Aohua (the 161 km marker) there is the most magnificent waterfall. Three aboriginal teens on one scooter took us there. There were other cars in the lot and we hiked up a 5 minute walk, scrambled some rocks and there it was. There were a few families, but the pool was so enormous, the water dwarfed us so there was room enough for all. My companion bravely scrambled a bit up the wet and slippery rocks to plummet into the sparkling cold abyss.
We went home as planned, beat, ready for Sunday and finding a camping spot. Our day 2 definitely did not go as planned, except for the coffee at the revolving cafe on Highway 7. We found a camping spot next to Champing Lake, which was fairly close, like 15 minutes outside of Loudong. There was a lake circumstanced by wooden walkways and the camp spots had wooden platforms and BBQ grills. There was even a go-cart track. Surpisingly, there were few campers, maybe 2 or 3 tents that I could see. And still, greedy for solitude, we kept going further up the 7, farther away from big cities, only to find more crowds and rain. Camping did not happen.
We did go up the eastern part of the North Cross highway to check out the Mingchi Forest Recreation area. It was disappointing. The lake was over-developed and charged an entrance fee. The Forest area itself has a massive resort (明池國家森林遊樂區) on it with cabins and a restaurant that was of course crowded. The North Cross Highway which is high in altitude has some nice views and dark, misty, dank forests. There were moments we drove in clouds and we definitely got caught in the rain on the way back. We took a walk behind the cabins and found a few trails, but there were no camping spots there. Who knows we might com back on a non-holiday weekend and stay in one of the cabins.
Day 3 of our Moon Festival weekend, on Monday, we took our time heading out to one more nearby waterfall. Around the corner from Xingliao Waterfall is the abandoned Jiuliou Waterfall, about a 20 minute drive from my home. The trail was not very well maintained, but there wasn't another person there. We had the whole overgrown trail and small waterfall to ourselves. The overgrown parking lot is a perfect camping spot, no bathrooms, wooden platforms or vending machines. The path from the parking lot to the trail has a pomelo orchard on it. Pomelo is the fruit of the mid-Autumn festival.
We will hopefully return to those falls to camp next weekend.
|Turtle Island from the Suao/Suhua Highway overlook|