CAOLING HISTORIC TRAIL (草嶺古道)

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distance: 10km from station to station – (if you cut out the accidental detour we did)

time: 4 hours – (again, this is how long it would have taken had we not gone the wrong way).

difficulty: 4/10 – there’s nothing technical here, and the trail is pretty well sign posted. The difficulty level is just for ascent and distance really – on the day we did it (in mid thirties temperatures), we were joined on the path by youngsters and oldsters and some small four legged friends. These all disappeared as soon as we took the non-paved route but that section was short. I think that the difficulty would increase significantly in wet weather since some of the rocks are the type which get quite slippery. Beginners level: doable but tough.

total ascent: 559m – given that the top elevation was only about 350m, that meant a bit of upping and downing.

water: I took about 1.5L and drank just over a litre of it on a hot day. There are actually a couple of vending machines part way down next to Yuanwangkeng Riverside Park – you don’t want to be caught out like a women we encountered less than a third of the way up complaining that she hadn’t got any water.

shade: not enough – I went in full length clothing with a face and neck covering hat. Teresa went in the opposite direction and stripped off in order to keep cool and she now has a pronounced sports bra suntan.

mobile network: patchy, from Dali to the high point was ok, but once we were heading town hill there were quite a lot of blank spots.

enjoyment: 6/10 – this is quite a busy and popular trail but if I’m honest, I’m not sure why. The convenience of the public transport is probably the best things it’s got going for it since anyone can get here by train. Perhaps the nearby Taoyuan Valley walk is a lot more worthwhile.

other: although the walk can be done in either direction, starting from Bali and finishing in Fulong means that you can cool off by heading to the beach – doing this definitely adds to the enjoyment of the whole walk.

map:

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A downloadable GPX file can be accessed here.

Arriving at Dali station we made use of the toilet facilities and then picked up a couple of extra bottles of water from the small shop accross the road before heading east to the start of the trail. The first 500-600m is all road walk, we passed a temple and an elementary school.

Just passed the elementary school there’s a car park where we turned in to start the hike proper.

The start of the trail is in the tree line next to the school’s playground – the area was full of people enjoying some basketball.

As we followed the road up we realised that it would have been possible to walk up through the temple complex to join the path.

We followed the road for a little way until steps signposted with Caoling Trail appeared on the left. From there it was mostly steps up, the path criss-crossing the winding mountain road.

As we got higher, we were treated to views looking back out towards turtle island and looking ahead to the ridges of the Taoyuan valley trail.

At the high point of the walk we reached a shelter over a shrine where a twelve year old dog was taking shade. His human told us that he likes to come up the mountain to play with the hawks and water buffalo but the poor thing looked to hot to be playing.

After a short rest we pressed on (ignoring the upward steps to the Taoyuan valley trail), and heading down towards Fulong.

Now far from the top we encountered a stone with an old character for tiger inscribed on it and a description of the logic behind its being placed there (to control some element of the generally poor local weather). From there it was an easy down with nowhere to go wrong for quite a long way.

The path started to run alongside a mountain stream as we climbed down, and after the steps broke out onto the road we couldn’t bear the temptation any longer and ended up with our shoes off and feet in the water as we ate the fruit we’d brought with us. We started to notice that small fish were coming to help alleviate us of our dead skin.

Leaving the water, we turned right onto the small road and continued following the stream down.

The road narrows to cross a bridge and just beyond that we turned right.

The right turn takes you through a carpark and here you have a choice of whether you want to walk through a park or continue down the road – the routes merge after 200m or so. We went through the park.

After passing a toilet block (and a drinks vending machine), we turned right over a bridge.

(It’s possible to continue down the road but it’s longer.)

Just beyond the bridge, the path takes a sharp left turn into what looks like private property.

The only thing which comforted me that we were on the right path was the big sign asking people not to steal the bamboo.

This path of the path was the smallest and narrowest of the whole day but it didn’t last long.

Shortly we found ourselves joining a paved track, (heading left – right goes towards an old house).

The track comes out at the end of a road next to a falling down traditional farmhouse which seems to be home to a large number of cats.

At the first junction we headed straight along the road.

There were actually quite a few old farmhouses and they all seemed pretty lived in, the sounds of people coming from inside and well-tended vegetable gardens in the surrounding land.

The the next junction we initially went right since the map indicated that there was a much shorter route but after nearly getting to where we wanted to be, the path disappeared and we stumbled across a bizarre abandoned temple and decided against bushwhacking any further.

So, actually the path here goes left.

From here is road walking all the way. At the next junction we kept heading straight.

At the next we took a sharp right – all the while following signs to Fulong.

Shortly the road hit the top edge of Fulong village and kept heading back towards the railway.

We crossed under the railway tracks to get back to the carpark and later made our way over to the beach for some relaxing and a refreshing dip.

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How to get there:

google maps address: Caoling Historic Trail, 261, Yilan County, Toucheng Township, 2118

GPS location: N24 58.246 E121 55.627

public transport: Public transportation is really easy for this trail. You can get a train going towards Yilan from any of the local rail stations in Taipei and get out at Dali station, (or Fulong if you plan to do it the other way). We drove here and parked at Fulong then caught the train through the hill so that we could walk back. Trains aren’t that regular so it’s worth checking here before you go.

My new words learnt on this hike:

  1. 走火入魔 zǒuhuǒ rùmó / obsessed
  2. 相信 xiāngxìn / believe and/or believe in as in 我相信你 I believe you and 我相信 Father Christmas I believe in Father Christmas.
  3. 害死人 / hài sǐrén / cause to kill people
  4. 你害我遲到了 nǐ hài wǒ chídàole / you made me late
  5. / huà / draw
  6. 這麼難得 / zhème nándé / wow or amazing or how rare – used as an expression of shock in situations when something out of the ordinary had occurred.
  7. 好奇 / hàoqí / curious – as in inquisitive, I don’t think it’s also used to mean bizarre or odd the same way it is in English.
  8. 挑釁 / tiǎoxìn / provoke
  9. 忘恩負義 / wàng’ēnfùyì / ungrateful – the way it was described to me was that it’s similar to just taking what you want and then going.
  10. / tǎng / lay or lay down
  11. 複雜 / fùzá / complicated
  12. 趨向 / qūxiàng / tend (to)
  13. 媽寶 / mā bǎo / mother’s boy – actually I’m not sure if there is any gender implied with this but it was used as a derogatory description of a man.
  14. 報復 / bàofù / retaliate or revenge – from how I heard it used, retaliate seems like a closer match.
  15. 矛盾 / máodùn / contradiction or contradictory

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