DRAGON BOAT ROCK AND MOUNT KAIYAN TRAIL (開眼山/白石湖山/大邱田山/龍船岩O型路線)

Distance: 5.1km

Time: 2¾ hours

Difficulty: 4-5/10 – it’s shouldn’t actually difficult at all for people with a reasonable fitness level and without any physical impairments, but the unpaved sections may seem tough if you’re used to having steps. 

Total ascent: 343m to a high point of 423m.

Water: I think I drank about 0.7L because I’d run out by the time we made it back to the start. I’m not sure why since this wasn’t an especially taxing walk, but I guess it is a reminder to over prepare a little. 

Shade: some exposed areas, but I didn’t need extra protection in November, (I would have taken a hat in summer).

Mobile network: a couple of gray areas, but mostly ok. 

Enjoyment: 6/10 – a couple of nice vistas and a decent work out over varied terrain. 

Other: you’ll probably want long trousers at a minimum if you’re not so comfortable brushing against unidentified plants. I’d recommend gloves too, but only one of us wore them. 

Map:

Screen Shot 2018-11-24 at 9.27.03 PM

GPX file available here.

After a pleasant ride up through farmland dotted with cute coffee shops and vistas where Taipeiers could stop and photograph themselves looking all rural, we arrived at the end of the road and parked our scooter ride next to the bus stop. Walking between the houses, it initially seemed as if there was no where to go and that the road was just leading to private land.

Following the road we saw dogs and a cat chilling in front of their houses. The buildings here are pretty old, one courtyard house dates back over a hundred years, and right where the trail starts there is a big, raised pool next to a pomelo tree (in fruit at the time of our visit), which is said to be the reason why the families in this area can prosper.

The trailhead is marked by a brown signpost, and quickly carried us over a stream, through a small area of farmland and up some steps.

Less than ten minutes after leaving the last building, we arrived two shrines close together. The first was older with a grate over the front and what looked like a funeral urn sheltered within. The second was a more standard land God shrine.

This shrine marked a crossroads: right went down towards Dragonboat Rock/Longchuanyan (龍船岩), straight was signposted as leading towards Mammon Temple (五路財神廟), and left headed up to Kaiyan Shan (開眼山). By the end of the walk, we had traversed all four paths, but to kick off the loop, we headed left and uphill.

Less than five minutes after setting off there is a large rock jutting out on the left of the trail. You can see back down to the start of the trail and south towards Taipei. We left when another couple came up behind us to have a look at the scenery.

Gaps in the trees to the right of the trail offer views over Neihu district. I was initially confused by seeing this river-like body of water where there shouldn’t have been any river, but a closer look revealed it to be the narrower eastern edge of Dahu Park’s eponymous big lake.

This section of the trail reminds me quite a bit of some of the rougher sections of the Lantau trail in Hong Kong – something both in the nature of the foliage and the path surface seemed quite Hong Kongeqsue when put together. It was around this section that I was rudely reminded of the need to stay alert even on easy seeming trails. A rush of movement in my peripheral vision alerted me to the fact that I had almost stepped on a snake. A slim, black one with thin, horizontal and wide spaced yellowy-white lines, maybe 50cm long. I am pretty confident that this was my first meeting with a Chinese cobra.

We made it up to Kaiyanshan peak, it was nothing amazing, a sign stating the elavation (400m) and a bit of a view over Dahu Park again. We had a drink and then passed straight over. The path down the other side immediately stated its intent; what had previously been quite an easy, semi-paved surface became steep and muddy.

A short way later it became steep, muddy and also overgrown with ferns. The trail was obviously walked regularly, but it seemed like probably not many people passed this way. Both of us had chosen to wear only short-sleeved tops rather than our normal long sleeves since the mosquito onslaught has briefly ceased, and the sun didn’t seem like it would fry me in a matter of minutes. Personally, I felt a little under protected, but I guess that is just because I have grown accustomed to having a layer between me and everything else. If you don’t like bugs  you should probably keep covered, but actually I found that I was fine.

10-15 minutes after leaving Kaiyan shan the trail splits in two. We headed right to keep following the loop we were hoping to finish, but the blog I’d found the route on took the short detour up to Baishihu shan (白石湖山). If you’re an avid trig point collector maybe is worth the trip, but photos suggest that it is very similar to the other peaks on this route.

From the junction until we teacherse the road we were doing one of my favourite styles of walking: ridge walking. The exposed sections were pretty overgrown, but the path was still easy to follow. Just five minutes after turning right, we arrived at the eastern peak of Baishihu shan, but as it was just a trig point without a view, we continued onwards.

As the path starts to head downhill, it becomes tree-shaded, and the absence of so many ferns makes the walking a little easier.

Ten minutes more walking took us to Daqiu tianshan (大邱田山). This was even less of a noteworthy point than the two we’d already passed because it wasn’t even obviously anything in particular – just a slight widening of the path as it sound downwards.

Emerging out of the trees briefly just below 大邱田山 there is another fork in the path. The blog I had followed turned right at this point, but the right path looked so overgrown as to be almost impassable. We decided to stick on the straight path instead because it seemed a lot more well-used.

A mere two minutes later we encountered another junction, (where someone has inexplicably gone to quite a bit of effort to install a waterbutt), this time a spur on the left was signposted, but he path itself was unclear, so again we went straight.

Almost immediately beyond the junction, a prominent rock juts out inviting passers by to take in the view/take a nap. Teresa being Teresa, of course napping was her first choice.

From this rocky vantage point, the road that we were heading to was pretty obvious, and its proximity suggested that we were about to do a bit of steep downwards walking.

It was a pretty steep descent, but nothing too unpleasant. We had made our way out to the road within five minutes of leaving there rock. Where the path comes out, there are two temples, a newer one behind an older one. We went to have a little look at the newer one, and as we were making our way down to the newer one in the front, we bumped into a very friendly 65-year old aunty who asked where we’d walked from. She then proceeded to chatter happily in English, Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese and told us all manner of things. She told us about her visit to Glasgow, (she has a friend there), her opinion of English food, (terrible), and French food, (pretty good). She asked my opinion on Taiwanese food, passed favourable comment on my vegetarianism and told us that the reason her daughter won’t remain in Japan after she finishes her law degree is that her fighter feels that the Japanese attitude towards women is somewhat outdated. It’s always fun to see where an aunty conversation will take you.

We parted ways and the aunty suggested we help ourselves to water from the lower temple before she went to pay her respects to the one we’d just visited. We took the road downhill and right. There’s no pavement here, and although the traffic was light, we stick close to the edges to avoid getting in the way of the weekend motorcyclists who were thundering up and down the country road.

The main road section is only a short five minutes, and then the loop takes a right turn up a smaller lane.

At the first junction we took the left fork. The lane has farmland on either side and there were a couple of people out tending to their crops.

At a temple we followed the road as it curved uphill. Aparently there is a pick-your-own strawberry farm up here, but I’m not sure I’d like to drive my car up this road – it’s fine for walking but I imagine it’d be a rough ride. As we passed a locked-shut gate I was startled by the sound of angry barking. It seemed to get closer and closer, but fortunately the barkers never revealed themselves and we continued on unaccosted. 

Before reaching the strawberry farm, a sign post directed us left towards Longchuan Yan. 

The dirt track passed through more farmland before tapering off into a pedestrian path again. Just as the road became trail, we entered a small graveyard. Ominously, the rough floor was made up of chunks of torn down tombs; fragments of tiles and oranaments were strewn everywhere. It made me instantly uncomfortable, but mostly because I knew Teresa would probably  be hating it. (The last time I’d accidentally taken her through a graveyard with many desecrated tombs, she was in a bad mood with me for a while.)

We managed to exit the graveyard with moods unscathed. The return to the path proper is marked by two boundary stones and, well, a proper path. From here it was a straightforward walk back to the junction with the land God shrine. We encounted a family who asked how far it was to Longchuan Yan. We were able to let them know that they only had another 5-10 minutes to go, and the mother shared some pine cones with us. She told us that if we took it home and placed it in the sun then it would open up, but unbeknownst to her I had already collected some of my own when we were near the temple. It was lovely to meet someone else who was fascinated by nature’s simple beauties. Teresa had laughed at me for picking them up, but this women cared enough to pick them up too. 

We decided that we may as well take a took at Longchuan Yan whilst we were nearby, so we took the short detour downhill. 

When we arrived at the rock it was crawling with young, hip sorts (as well as some less young ones) taking amusing ‘look at me on a cliff’ selfies. Apparently that is why people make the trip up here, to take funny pictures. (See this article or this one for examples of what I mean.)

Quickly tiring of the excitement on Longchuan Yan, the pair of us wen back up to pass the land God shrine for the third time, and from there we headed left down the path that we’d originally walked up. Passing the village for a second time, I wondered how much change the old houses here have witnessed. I imagine the skyline now looks pretty different to how it looked when these homes were built. 


How to get there

Google maps address: we started from Shikan bus stop, 114, Taipei City, Neihu District

GPS location: N25 E121

Public transport: the S2/小2 bus goes from the National Taiwan College of Performing Arts, which is a three minute walk from the brown line’s Wende MRT Station. According to the S2’s website, service starts at 5:10am on regular days and earlier on holidays.  

Further reading: a Chinese language post on the walk can be found here. https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3593554


My new words learnt on this hike:

  • 不要激動 / bù yào jīdòng / calm down, don’t get so overexcited
  • 脆脆的 / cuì cuì de / crispy
  • 滾蛋 / gǔndàn / get out or get lost

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