time: a pretty leisurely two and a half hours, (we were overtaken by a couple of grandpas who then met us on their way down whilst we were still going up).
difficulty: 2/10 – nothing difficult here, it’s up all the way but so gently so that in most places you’re unaware of the climb. Underfoot it’s a mixture of (badly paved) and gravel neither of which pose any difficultly
water: 0.8L – in November I didn’t drink that much but in summer you’d want more.
shade: no problem in cooler months but in the summer it would be quite exposed.
mobile network: two or three bars the whole way.
enjoyment: 5.5//10 some nice views and a refreshing pool at the top but it never really felt like we reached ‘the top’ or similar end goal.
We drove all the way up to the start of the walk where we found a map of the trail but aparently many people choose to walk up the road to the start of the trail. The sign’s map isn’t that informative but it also has some information about this historic trail which is more interesting. It dates back to the end of the 1800’s or start of the 1900’s and was originally used as a logging path, after this it saw service during the military and has had a few names over the years. Actually, all the way along this trail there are small boards drawing attention to various aspects of the local landscape, legends, flora and fauna which were clearly written by someone with a deep passion for the area but an interest grasp of English.
We parked the car in the small parking area just in front of the trail mouth and headed up.
Just a short way up the trail there’s a mountain shelter.
This is a particular well-stocked shelter, compete with cooking equipment and concrete calf-stretching floor adaptations positioned so that the user can stand stretching their legs whilst looking out towards the valley.
Instead of going up beyond the shelter we headed right over a small bridge.
The path goes around the side of a hill and on the left you get views of Yilan. Most of the way it’s easy to see where you’re going, there are only one or two places where the path goes in more than one direction.
We passed this rather cool angular tree, (it was very impressive).
At one of the two places where the road goes in two directions we just headed straight on, (in the direction signposted as Paoma Trail), keeping the under-construction house to the right of us.
Taking a close le look at the signs we saw this (scientifically dubious) information board. It says something to the effect that, having already walked 1.7km from the start, the average 60kg adult would have burnt 480 calories on the ascent and would burn a further 72 when returning down. It then goes on to put that figure in different terms: 6 dumplings and one bowl of rice.
This is the only other time when the road splits. We ignored the left-hand road (which goes up to a campsite) and took the path on the right.
Tot far along the path we came across an area where rain had caused a small landslide. The rocks all had this beautiful, iron-y red colour.
In fact there were plenty of low-down-and-small things to catch my our attention.
Unlike my home country where November is a fading month with everything dying (albeit in spectacularly coloured ways), Taiwan has plenty of flowers braving the cooler months.
It felt like we saw more floral variety even than we’ve seen on some of the summer walks.
It wasn’t only flowers though, the vines got in on the action.
And the mushrooms too.
As we headed up along the side of the mountain we heard many song birds and I caught my first sight of a Taiwan blue magpie.
This is the view of the valley looking out towards the east coast and Kuei-Shan island. One of the information boards explained that according to local legend the plain you can see in the picture (Lan-Yang plain), was the daughter of the dragon sea king and the distant Kuei-Shan island was the king’s favourite general (and a sea turtle). The daughter and the general fell in love with each other but their love wasn’t accepted by the king. As a punishment the king banished his previously favoured general far out to sea so that for all eternity the turtle could only see his love from afar.
A little way further up someone had fashioned a small bench out of a tree.
Further up again we came across this small shrine to the spirit of the mountain or Tu Di Gong. The sign said that as this was an old route many people passing over the years, especially in more dangerous times, would add small shards of rock to the little cave under the shelter (behind the candles), to represent the spirit of the mountain.
A somewhat superfluous sign just where the path gives way to a more maintained road.
We only continued a little more beyond here.
We got to this small pond in the river.
As we made our way down we encountered a black dog running up the trail in the opposite direction. It stopped going up when it got to us and came with us all the way down, almost as if it had just come up to guide us back down in the growing dusk.
She was a very sweet little thing, and it seemed like she had a home to go to.
By the time we were reaching our car the light was well and truly going, giving us some lovely views of the lights coming on across Yilan.
how to get there:
car or scooter: google maps address – Pao Ma Old Trail 跑馬古道 – this is google’s directions to the bus stop right at the start of the trail, there’s space for a couple of cars here.
GPS address: N24 49.632 E121 45.768
public transport: from Taipei Main Station you can catch bus 1915 towards Yilan. Get off at the Xie Tian Temple / Jiao Xi Di Jun Temple stop and you can walk up (1.2km) to the start of the trail (there is a bus but it takes longer than walking).
My new words learnt this hike were:
- 島嶼 / dǎo yǔ / island
- 水怪 / shuǐ guài / water monster
- 山神 / shān shèn / mountain god
- 手電筒 / shǒu diàn tǒng / torch