Category Archives: Hiking
Once a year, all of the Junior high schools in my city (and maybe Japan) go hiking. A lot of schools do one of the popular hikes in the area, but because we are located in the middle of nowhere we did our own hike, cleverly coinciding with picking up the few pieces of rubbish in the surrouding area. The school was divided into four groups. My school is the smallest of the 18-something Junior High Schools in the city, so my group had 5 students, one other teacher, myself and the principal.
Most of the hike was more of a walk up a mountain on paved roads. We reached the summit. The views were beautiful.
It’s Golden Week here in Japan. Basically, that means there are abunch of public holidays all around the same date, so pretty much everyone in Japan picks up and travels.
I am really trying to save money, so have avoided travelling out of town for this Golden Week, and have instead decided to expore a bunch of the hiking trails in my local area. Today we explored a trail behind Arima Onsen, a resort town near to where I live.
Due to it being a resort town, and Golden Week, it was really crowded in Arima Onsen itself (well, its really crowded about 80% of the time). The trails, however, weren’t too bad. There were a few tour groups in super fancy hiking outfits, and the odd family, but everyone was really friendly.
We arrived at the station and headed toward the hike. Unfortunately my memory of how to get there served me slightly wrong, meaning we were lucky to see all sorts of non-touristy parts of Arima Onsen on the way. Unfortunately in this case, non-touristy means more streets of houses, car parks and backs of hotels, as opposed to wonderful, tucked away experiences and places off the beaten path.
Eventually, after following our instinct around the town, we finally found the entrance to the trail (and the road we should have gone down to get there) directly and easily. The trail started behind a shrine up a mountain. We got to the base of the mountain, and saw the steps up to the shrine. It didn’t look too bad.
Where we thought the stairs ended. Sigh.
Except that, unfortunately, the landing where we thought the shrine was turned out to be wrong. Quite wrong. We were probably only about 1/3 of the way there.
So we trudged on up, feeling very, very sorry for ourselves. Thankfully the temple at the top, whilst small and understated, was really pretty and had a great view.
The start of the official hiking trail.
We started along the trail, full of optimism. This soon dissipated. The trail was much harder than we anticipated – steep, with a lot of dirt and giant tree roots. After scrambling up it for about 15 minutes (which felt much, much longer), we eventually came to another trail. This was a much wider and smoother trail – the kind found more commonly in Japan.
Celebrating the wide, easy trail 😀
View from the (almost) top.
We turned around, and somehow merged with a group of engineering students from Osaka who spoke excellent English on the way down. We reached the bottom, left our new friends, and decided to actually go to the onsen, being that the entire town revolves around it (super logical, desu!)
These guys were waiting at the bottom. I’m rather fond.
We ended up having a very short bath in the onsen, as it was just too hot. We did enjoy the massage chairs afterward though. We went to the gold onsen. There are minerals in the water that turn the water a rusty golden colour. It’s so thick that the water is completely opaque.
We stumbled out of the onsen hungry and found ourselves in 7-11, where we bought amazing, soft, gooey chocolate-man buns.
Ridiculously good. Seriously.
And then, it was time to head home. But thankfully it’s only the beginning of Golden Week – there are many more adventures to come 🙂
Taroko Gorge is the one reason I was determined to visit Taiwan again. We didn’t get to do it the first time round (mid 2011) and have been itching to go back and see it ever since.
Amanda and I got up early, and bought tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus through the park. It was much cheaper than any of the tours we saw, and allowed us to go at hour own pace,, so completely worth it.
Our first stop was the Visitor Information Center. We figured we’d stop here, get our bearings and walk to the first trail. The area around the Visitos Center was extremely beautiful. Unfortunately, we soon discovered the most of the road to the first train was a never ending tunnel!
You know you’re going somewhere beautiful when it’s this beautiful before you even start. This area actually reminded me a lot of Arthur’s Pass in New Zealand.
We soon arrived at the first trail, the Shakadang Trail. It was a pretty walk. Most of the trail was paved – something Amanda and I found quite hard to deal with when we set out on a day’s hiking! Eventually, however, the trail turns into one that is indigenously owned. They we happy to let us continue down the unpaved part of the trail, and it was so much nicer to actually feel a part of things, and not just walk alongside on a paved trail. The walk lasted maybe 1 1/2 hours?
After walking the trail, we headed to the end of the gorge for lunch. The area was stunning.
There were monkeys. Chilling.
Finally, we went for a short walk through Swallow Grotto. It was nice, and there were amazing rock formations, and small holes in marble where swallows rested, but it was overrun with tour groups, and again we had barely any room to move.
Taroko Gorge is definately a highlight of Taiwan. I would go again, given the opportunity!