Since Friday 10th October is a national holiday here on Taiwan, after work and school on Thursday we took the opportunity to have a night away from home and drove south from Hualien for about 80km to a town called Yuli. We stayed in our favourite B+B, 'Wisdom Garden', and were lucky enough to be greeted on Friday by a warm and bright morning. We had planned to visit a 'commercial' tourist spot called butterfly valley, but our hostess advised us that a walk on the Walami trail would most likely be more rewarding.
294 kilometres from Taipei on highway 9 is a turn west onto highway 20, which heads up a river valley into the mountains for about 10 kilometres before reaching a parking area and the start of the trail. By this point one has already passed the visitor centre and is well and truly inside the Yushan (Mount Jade) National Park. The Walami Trail continues up and over the central mountain range, passing close to the 3952-metre peak of Yushan before emerging at Dongpu in Nantou County. We walked only the first 5km of the route as after Chiasin it is only open to permit holders and most walkers prebook accomodation at mountain huts along the way.
Our walk may have been over a short distance, but it involved over 300 metres of ascent, and not only spectacular views down to the meandering LakuLaku River below, but also up to the surrounding peaks. We had hoped to see butterflies, and we were not disappointed - I gave up counting after about 15 species. Perhaps I have no stamina when it comes to counting, or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the UK boasts around 60 species of butterfly, whereas here there are over 400!
For me the highlight of our walk, which with lots of stops to look at insects, plants, fungi and views lasted for at least four hours, was happening upon a family of Taiwan Macaques. We were able to watch them without even stepping off the trail, as they were feeding in trees within 30 metres of us. They were shy, however, and constant alarm calls (from them, not from us!) signified they were not interested in getting any closer. We were lucky to see them - on our way back past the same spot an hour later there was no sign of them.
We also saw no sign of Taiwanese Black Bears in this part of the woods- picknicking or otherwise - though walkers who had done more of the route told us they had heard them. Perhaps I should correct myself here: we did actually see a sign of bears...