Time: 1¼ – it’s a leisure trail rather than a hiking trail so we did it at a leisurely pace.
Difficulty: 2/10 – for some short climbs and interesting paths (in my dad’s words “scooter tyres filled with dust” and some paving slabs which seemed to have been layed atop of pivet stones to make sure they tip when you walk over them.
Total ascent: About 130m
Water: 0.5L should be enough, although as far as I could see, there wasn’t anywhere to pick up extra if you needed it so maybe take extra just in case.
Shade: not very shaded, especially after leaving the canal.
Mobile network: OK throughout
Enjoyment: This was a pleasant stroll, I really liked walking alongside flowing water, the view from the top was worth the short climb and it was neat to see pineapples growing for the first time. I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit here, but if you’re in the area, it’s a good way to spend an hour.
GPX file available here.
Walking from the temple, we followed the road west as it ran along next to the canal.
There is a little sign to mark the start of the trail, and it is very well paved.
I feel it’s kind of unusual to be able to walk along an easy path next to flowing water here in Taiwan. Back home, we have miles of footpath bordering canals and waterways – I guess this is mostly down to the contrasting geographical characteristics of the two places. The UK is flat enough for canals to have functioned as a convenient means of transportation in years gone by, whilst many of Taiwan’s waterways start off tumbling down through mountainous terrain. It made for a pleasant change.
One section, where the waterway crosses a dip in the valley, has the water running through a raised aqueduct with a wooden path running next to it. When we were there, a group of people had stopped to observe a squirrel from the walkway.
We went here during a national holiday, so the trail was pretty full of families. But I imagine that on a regular weekday it would be very peaceful.
Most of the way, the path is pleasantly shaded and the paving job they’ve done on it is not only functional, but also fits quite pleasantly into the surroundings.
At a bend in the trail, a gap though the trees allows a view of Freeway 1 stretching out towards the south. The day we went, this was clogged up with motorists heading down to catch a couple of days holiday in the sun.
The path turns into road and three out of the four of us followed the canal all the way to its end point where it somehow disappears into a culvert under a road and then fails to reappear in the larger artificially channelled stream on the other side. At the road junction we turned back the way we’d came and retraced our steps to the place where Teresa had gotten stuck talking to an older woman. The woman had some historical grievances about land ownership dating back to the period of Japanese occupation (which is when the canal was built), as well as some lamentations on the state of young people and the world at large (none of her sons wanted to live in the area or farm the land because it doesn’t make enough money). Further to this, she wanted to highlight the injustice in the farming system, why, she asked, does everyone expect to be able to buy rice for so little money. She said she can do two crops a year, but it doesn’t support her financially. What would happen, she asked us, if she gave up and took up a more lucrative job, what if all the rice farmers did? Whilst it was interesting to listen to her thoughts, standing around the edges of rice paddies as step into mosquito season is not a good idea, so we said our goodbyes and walked on.
At a small, unsignposted junction, my mum decided to continue back along the path that we’d walked already, whilst the rest of us headed up on a dusty, sand track.
The path that has been constructed out of a random assortment of materials is kind of hazardous, but nothing too unusal by Taiwan standards. And since pretty much the whole 130m of ascent is done I this section, you climb a short way quite quickly and then it’s all flat or downhill.
The view from the top was interesting but not especially amazing . o the right it was just possible to make out the flat blankness of the Taiwan Strait, spreading out to the south was Changhua, where we had spent the morning satisfying my dad with the unique attractions of Changhua Roundhouse – one of only three roundhouses in the world which still operates as a working roundhouse. If you are even slightly interested in trains or railways, then you should definitely check out this wonderfully detailed blog on the subject.
Upon reaching the tree at the top of the climb, we turned right and followed the path along the cliff. The male half of the couple in front of us insisted on getting alarmingly close to the edge for photos, we didn’t hear any screams, so presumably he managed not to fall.
Looking towards the left as you walk through the grassland at the top, you can first see Wuri District’s 9th Cemetery, and then further along, the trail passes the remains of army barracks which are half hidden by long grass.
The trail exits onto the road through an old doorway, and from here we turned right to continue the loop back downhill.
Walking down the road, I noticed some beautifully tinted, spiky plants. A closer look revealed these to be pineapple plants – this was the first time I’d ever seen pineapples growing, I had known that they were a floor-growing fruit, but it still seems slightly strange. If you look closely just below the central spot in the picture, you can see a small pineapple forming.
After road walking for ten minutes, there is a rough path leading off to the right. A sign in Chinese indicated that this heads back to the temple where we started.
The little scrubby patch of land feels like something that I might associate with nefarious acts in my home country, but this is Taiwan so I had no such fears.
A rusted gateway opens into the temple property, again Chinese signs indicate that you’re heading in the right direction – I would have hesitated to enter if they weren’t there.
From the gate down to the road is another of Taiwan’s intriguingly constructed paths – in this case it seemed to be formed of paving slabs (good start), each of which was balanced on a number of unevenly sized rocks with occasional areas of poured concrete. The overall effect was like a land based version of one of those Takeshi Castel games where contestants have to run accross a body of water by jumping from stepping stone to stepping stone – only some of the stepping stones are actually floating and will send you spilling into the swamp.
As we neared the end of the path, we passed a gigantic grave, and then the path became a private road just before exiting through a gate. Thankfully we were able to relocate mum before she caused too much trouble and together we headed into Taichung to find our beds for the night.
How to get there
Google maps address: 知高圳步道, 414, Taichung City, Wuri District, 中山路三段登寺巷176號 – there’s some parking for both cars and scooters around the start of the trail here.
GPS location: N24 07.080 E120 35.389
Public transport: the entrance to the trail is a 20 minute walk away from
Further reading: Taichung’s tourism website has a little information on this walk.
My new words learnt on this hike:
- 我寧可你… / wǒ nìngkě nǐ… / I’d rather you… or I’d prefer you…
- 拉拉熊 / Lā lā xióng / Rilakkuma – anyone unaware of who or what Rilakkuma is clearly hasn’t spent any time in Asia in recent years. To quote from Rilakkuma’s website: “‘Rilakkuma’ means ‘Bear in relaxed mood’. At all time and everywhere Rilakkuma goes Rilakkuma is continuously lazy and relaxed.”
- 分解 / fēnjiě / disintegrate or break down – I’ve totally forgotten the context in which this was mentioned which bodes ill for my remembering it.
- li di mbu hseann? (Taiwanese) / 你在幹嘛？or 你在弄什麼？/ What are you up to? – this can be used when someone is fiddling with something and you want to ask what they’re doing in a way which somewhat conveys disapproval or that you think they they are faffing.