niuliaopu to tough guy peak (牛寮埔到硬漢嶺)

distance: 3.3km

time: 3¼ hours including at least half an hour at the top and 15 minutes stoppage time to harvest satsumas. 

difficulty: 4/10 – really I can’t say this is difficult but it’s a little tiring due to all the steps, there’s no flat parts. 

water: 0.5L did us on a cool and cloudy day, I’d probably bring 0.8L in the summer though. There’s a metal water dispenser with drinking water at the top. 

shade: the clouds were so thick that I wasn’t really worrying about shade or lack thereof but I think the shade would be patchy-to-poor on a bright day. 

mobile network: sporadic, I always seemed to have network but it wasn’t always useable. 

enjoyment: 5.5/10 – this is lacking some of the features that I really enjoy (like being a loop or having natural walking surface), but it’s still fun exercise and the orange orchard at the start is an extra bonus if you go at the eighth time of year, (around Chinese New Year). 

We parked next to Wuji temple and made use of the temple toilets, (round the back, next to the large burner). To start walking, we went up the road following the sign pointing towards Yinghang Peak and Niuliaopu tourist orchard. 

The road starts going up through farmland, I rather liked the look of this low, red-brick farm house – I spend a lot of time in Taipei which (in my opinion) has some of the ugliest buildings ever constructed so it’s a pleasure to see a building with some sort of character. 

At the first junction we were about to continue going up to the right when Teresa spotted a woman harvesting oranges from her orchard. A couple of weeks ago we walked Qilong historic trail where we’d also seen lots of oranges and Teresa’s urge to pick them had gone unsatisfied, so she ambushed the woman and asked if we could buy some. To Teresa’s great excitement, not only could we buy them but we could also pick them right from the trees. 

The woman said that these were being grown and harvested for Chinese New Year and we bought extra to be used in whatever prayer activities Chinese New Year involves. We didn’t really want to walk up the hill with 4 jin of fruit so we paid the lady and considered where to leave the satsumas for collection in case the woman had gone home by the time we arrived. In the end the woman suggested that Tudi Gong could look after them for us in his little roadside shrine. 

With our satsumas temporarily feeding the local land God we carried on up the road until we found the steps. These were also signposted to Yinghan Peak and Elephant Tusk rock. 

As we started the climb up we could see wisps of clouds chasing through the upper branches. 

And within one or two hundred metres we were enveloped in the fog. On the way up we didn’t pass anyone, it was just us and the drip of cloud-harvesting trees. Elephant Tusk rock was decidedly underwhelming, as was the view from the ‘viewing area’ where it was located – both were obscured by plant growth. There were a couple of minor paths leading off to the side but the way to the top was clearly signposted at each so it was very easy to stay on track. 

We arrived at the first viewing platform to be greeted with an impressive curtain of white. The information board helpfully tells visitors about all the things they might see if the whole place wasn’t squatted on by fat clouds: Danshui Town, (once a major harbour and the place at which the Danshui River meets the Taiwan Strait), Hongshulin, (a red mangrove forest nature reserve and Taiwan’s largest kandelia forest), and also the Mount Datun volcanic area, (described as containing ‘the most complete traces of volcanic activity in Taiwan today’ – I’m not sure if that’s technical language I don’t get or if it’s a Taiwan-English special creation).

The area at the top had some cultivated areas with beautiful plants, lilies, devil’s snare and these beautiful flowers which remind me of Chinese lanterns. A later google of ‘Chinese lantern flower’ informed me that they are indeed sometimes called Chinese lantern or Chinese bell flowers but as there is another, totally different plant with by the same moniker, they are more commonly known as red vein Indian mallow or flowering maple, and it’s proper Latin title is Abutilum Striatum. (All of the references to China and India in the names are a little disingenuous given that they actually native to South America.)

Just beyond the viewing platform (and toilets), we reached the final flight of step leading up to the peak itself. 

Once at the top we saw white. Lots and lots of white – I’m sure the view is just grand but it was absent when we went. Instead of looking at great scenery we enjoyed watching some of the tough guys of tough guy hill – this abei was all lean, ropey muscle and was evidently oblivious to the cool air, (the woman in the picture was checking the temperature – it was 15 degrees). If we had started hiking earlier I would have liked to continue hiking a bit further or try to find another way down but as it was already 4pm it seemed more sensible to head down the same way. 

After returning to the orange seller’s orchard I retrieved our fruit from Tudi Gong’s house – hopefully he’d finished with them otherwise I might have angered the local God. 


how to get there

google maps address: 無極宮, 249, New Taipei City, Bali District – this is the address for Wuji Temple (which I kept mispronouncing as ‘no chicken temple’, much to Teresa’s mirth – so much for having a partner who is supportive of my interest in her language).

GPS location: N25 08.543 E121 25.931

public transport: if you take exit one coming out of Luzhou MRT station, turn right out of the exit and walk northwest on Sanmin Road, cross Zhongzheng Road. At Luzhou Station bus stop get the 704 bus going towards Bali Station (or Zhan)/八里站, get out at Mi Cang Elementary School bus stop and take the F123 bus going in the same direction. The bus goes uphill and you can get out by the temple at at Wang Mu Niang Niang (Xin Bus) / 王母娘娘[新巴士]. If you don’t mind an extra half hour walking then you can get the R13 or R22 from Guandu MRT station and get out off at Guan Yin Intersection. 


My new words learnt on this hike were:

  1. 彈簧 / tánhuáng / spring – as in bed spring – we saw a few decaying mattresses on the way up 
  2. 尿布 / niàobù / nappy 
  3. 階梯 / jiētī / a flight of stairs or s ladder
  4. 性騷擾 / xìngsāorǎo / sexual harassment – both noun and verb 
  5. 沒有用 / méiyǒu yòng / useless
  6. 你才是(…) / nǐ cái shì (…) / you are (…) – similar to the childish “no you are…” in English. As in “you’re an idiot.” “No you’re an idiot.”
  7. / qiǎn / shallow – only applied to things, not people as in English 
  8. 楊桃 / yángtáo / starfruit – there was a starfruit tree in front of the temple
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