June 14, 2014

Step by Step - the Ruili Youth Trail

If they point here, don't fall for it

The road leading down
I mean it, literally, do not fall.

Because if you do, it will be the last thing you do, most likely.

Ruili, high up in the Taiwanese mountains, is absolutely gorgeous, I have been here a couple of times and I adore the area, I can't get enough of it, how different it is from the busy Taichung, my "hometown", or Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. Ruili is almost empty, vibrantly green, and full of stunning hikes and rock formations, similar but yet different from Taroko, on the East Coast. Ruili is in Alishan, the Ali Mountain.

It's a beautiful area all together, very green, very lush, and with a different climate; the high altitude makes the nights more chilly, even when the days are warm, and the crops that grow up here are different from what you see closer to the sea.  Here I went hiking. With long trousers, as I am a mosquito magnet - others don't see a mosquito but they are all over me - with a top, and with plenty of water and mosquito spray, and with very good hiking boots. This is not an area for anything else but very good hiking boots; Leave the flip flops at home, and don't even dream about heels. There is nothing here that is flat...  And make sure you start the hike from the Yuantan Ecological Park side, close to the waterfall, not from the Ruili side, like I did; It takes you through beautiful green nature, and you will see the sights before you are right under them - this is the best way to experience the hike.

The Swallow Cliff - 燕子崖 (Yanzi Ya in Pinyin) in Ruili - 瑞里 - is a beautiful place. It's a piece of rock, a cliff that looks like it has been combed by a giant comb when it was shaped, before the rock became rock, the way you sometimes see children forming sand with their rakes. The horizontal stripes of rock forming an good base for swallows to build their nests on, or for the young swallows to start their flights from.

Walking through the bamboo forest to get there – magical; The hanging bridge you get to before you get to the cliff is stunning and being down here is serene, truly stunning. Directly connected with the Swallow Cliff, a strangely shaped rock, cliff full of holes – the Bat Caves, here the bats would camp. Take your time, sit down, enjoy the view, take photos. Don't be stressed - enjoy. 

And then take the same way you came down here back up. Don't continue further - at least not unless you really know what you are doing. 

The Youth Trail. Up up up...
Because after the Swallow Cliff, the Youth Trail starts. Some kilometres of pure suffering... The stairs that got its name because only the younger ones had the energy to do it; It is flight after flight after flight of stairs and (almost) nowhere to sit; Unless you sit down on the steps itself. And the stairs are steep; It takes a strong mind and a strong butt to get up here, and if you didn't have the strength, then you will, afterwards.

It it a beautiful track, I am sure. Except I didn't actually see much of it - you don't really have a chance to enjoy it, you have to focus on the stairs because if you lose balance, you will fall, and you will fall far. Also, it is so green that the green blocks most of the view; with all the walking you will come up on the other side and mainly remember having seen stairs. 

Skip it; You are much better off walking back where you came from. Or do it but do it as a challenge, and remember to carry water. I am glad I walked it. But I will not do it again. I don't need exercise that badly. I am already in a pretty good shape...

And I swear, the muscles in my legs were sore for days after...  And I swore when I climbed the stairs too, swore, and saved water, because there were a moment when I thought it would never end, I felt I was stuck in my own.

How to get there

Click on the map, and zoom out to see where in Taiwan Ruili is located, or read the previous post I wrote about it, you can come here by train.

To find out more about Alishan, the Ali mountains, follow this link to Alishan National Scenic Area website - they are experts on the area.



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