Last summer we really got a taste for the joys of river tracing, so although tackling any streams in the Taipei area at the moment would quite possibly result in a nasty case of pneumonia, it’s great to discover that in southern Taiwan, winter is still a great time to be taking to the water. In fact it’s probably the safest time of the year, since the wet/dry season is far more pronounced down here than in the north, and during the May-September rainy season rivers and streams are often raging, while flash floods are a real hazard.
Anyway so far I know of three or four important streams for tracing down in the south, which I hope we’ll get to explore over the next months, and of course there must be loads of others, so it looks like we’ll be doing some more trips down south this winter!
As a bonus to our great Jiuhaocha aboriginal village hike last weekend, we tacked on a quick river trace to a place I first discovered back in March: Poseidon’s Palace (海神宮). This place is pretty popular with locals, although this time, just like last, they were all grouped around the lowest pools, well below the gorge where Poseidon’s Palace actually begins, and maybe didn’t even know about the far more impressive pools further up.
Due to a combination of laziness, bad communication and (my) shoddy map-reading, it was well after 4 pm before we pulled into the little parking place below Poseidon’s Palace, and, just a week shy of the year’s shortest day, the light was already beginning to fade. Despite the lateness of the hour, an old lady came out and demanded NT$100 ‘parking fee’ for the privilege of parking our two cars on the dirt verge (gotta love the south!), but we paid her off without argument, got waterproof bags and river tracing gear out quickly and headed upstream.
It’s a good ten minutes up to the entrance to the gorge at Poseidon’s Palace, past several large pools where a few locals were enjoying the last moments of their Sunday afternoon. The water was higher than on my March visit, which meant we had to wade part of the last stretch up to the entrance to the gorge. Once at the mouth of the rocky crevice though, the only way on is to swim, and the water is pretty deep. Surprisingly, considering it was mid December, dusk was quickly descending and I was exhausted after a fairly strenuous 2-day trek, the water temperature was really comfortable!
Swimming up through the first pool, it’s a very short but tricky scramble (I thought so, anyway) up a tiny water slide to the next pool above, as the smooth bedrock is slippery as noodles. Luckily I’d bought seven meters of webbing for this very eventuality, so while the four youngsters shot on ahead and were already out of sight, Onno (who, although older than me is, like most of the others in our group, much sportier than me, and got up unaided) threw down the rope and helped me haul myself up on my belly. After two of these surprisingly tricky little water slides, the going is easier, with several linked pools, and other little cascades that proved easy enough to climb through.
With dusk fast on the way, we had to stop exploration after only about 30 minutes of heading upstream – before the two waterfalls that are supposed to be on the stream, and way below Diana’s Pools, another formation somewhere further up, but we made it to two really large pools fed by attractive little waterfalls, each 3 or 4 meters high. It’s an easy climb up the rocks beside the first fall to the second, even bigger pool, which would be fantastic on a hot day. A more tricky climb with fixed rope leads onto the unseen gorge above the second pool, but that will have to wait for a return trip in warmer weather next spring. Instead we headed back down through the sequence of 8 or nine connected pools, jumping, water-sliding and swimming all the way.
Poseidon’s Palace, which looked very promising on my last visit, is a great place, scenically very special, not too challenging, and certainly somewhere for further exploration one day soon, when we have a bit more daylight to play with.