Another real adventure, right in front of the gates of Taipei City! Rivertracing and a little bit of involuntary bushwhacking – 3hrs up, 6hrs down. The latter in the dark, of course.
November 7. Kaiserwetter, almost 30°C. By taxi from JinShan (金山, Gold Mountain) to ZhuLi Er Jiao (竹里二橋), the 2nd Bamboo Village Bridge. There, we are gearing up: Wetsuit, climbing equipment, helmet and the notorious felt boots. We are about to trace the A Li Bang Xi, up to one of the tallest waterfalls in Taiwan. 3 hours climbing across boulders and an ascent of 400 meters in the riverbed are ahead of us.
Then we are heading into the forest, finding the trail back. A steep track at the right side of the waterfall is leading us further up. At a fork, a small sign gives directions to the upper edge of the waterfall, but we follow the other trail. 2 hours later we are still at the same elevation and our footpath has disappeared: No tags or signs and traces. Everything is overgrown. Fog is catching up, the dusk is setting in. Turning back won’t make much sense now. By chance, we have a short moment of data access (but no phone connection) we dispatch a message with our GPS coordinates, just in case, and that we probably won’t make it back to Taipei tonight. Not that somebody gets panic and alert the rescue: No panic, we have everything under control.
We think about setting up a biwak and are running out of drinking water. With GPS and in the light of our headlamps we are cutting through bushery and thorns towards an unknown stream we have located on the map. It also has been named ALiBang and it will meet „our“ ALiBang below the ZhuLinErJiao. The wetsuits are protecting us very well of scrches and bruises in the wild forest, even without a trail we advance rather quickly. Twice we meet bamboo snakes, but they are not much interested in us. Though one of them is hissing at us angrily, as we are passing it with due respect and distance. Anybody could come along and disturb snakes during the night’s rest.
We are climbing down the unknown stream: this fun is called night abseil. DC, AJS and I are a well-rehearsed team. A kingfisher is sitting on a branch over a pool: He does not fly away as we approach him in the shine of the headlights. I get close to him up to a few centimeters and I probably might pick it from its branch (but I don’t do it, the little guy might get a heart attack. It probably won’t close an eye for the rest of the night, after this scary encounter). At 9 pm we are finally reach the road. A car stops and asks if they could give us (us wet and filthy extraterrestrials with a diving suit, helmet, headlamp, backpack and harness) a ride. We politely refuse, as dirty as we are, but ask the driver to call our taxi as soon as he had reception. No taxi came, however. The taxi driver probably was already in his Saturday night’s rest and didn’t want to answer the phone. We tried ourselves later. Back to the bamboo bridge no. 2, we first change to our civilian clothes, which we were hiding there. If the taxi driver is not up to it, we just walk. It is only 5km and the air is warm.
In the next village nearby, we meet a couple on a motorbike. They actually would like to drive us happily down to JinShan, but unfortunately, they had had a few drinks too much, so they couldn’t. No problem! Don’t risk your license for us crazy guys! … Ten minutes later, a car is stopping next to us: The daddy has obliged his (sober) son to chauffeur those three ticked-offs. In the countryside, people are quite different from those in the hectic city, you really may lean a thing from them! Thankful (and also a bit glad) we accept the invitation. To reject so much help would have been more than rude, JinShan was not that far away anymore.
At 22.30 we finally arrive in JinShan an. The last bus to Taipei already has departed (of course). To take a taxi doesn’t make much sense, particularly, as I won’t get back home without taking another costly taxi. So we grab some food at McD (luckily, DC and AJS know how to order stuff there without completely confusing the staff and in that way, I get through my yearly compulsory visit). After that, we find a cheap motel room, even with a hot spring bathtub. The water has quite a metallic taste, but it is the perfect remedy against the approaching sore muscles.
Good night everybody!
GPS tracks by AJS (will open in a new window)
My video of the A Li Bang – trace.
Practicalities: Buses to JinShan (via KeeLung) depart from Taipei West Bus Station B (near the main station). You also may take a bus from TamShui MRT along the north coast. Then by taxi to ZhuLiErJiao. ALiBang itself seems to be known by taxi drivers, but not the bridge. You might have to ask locals on the way for directions or use GPS.
You only should do the ALiBang if you are an experienced river tracer and if you have climbing experience. Already the ascent is quite demanding. Appropriate gear (helmet, wetsuit, rivertracing boots, harness, >40m rope, rappelling device) is absolutely required, as headlights and possibly a GPS. Bringing a water filter and spare batteries / a power pack might be a good idea in case you should also get somewhat lost. The trail for returning through the forest is difficult to find (no official markings, only various tags, probably left by various hiking groups many years ago) and largely overgrown. Mostly no mobile phone reception at all, otherwise only ChungHwa Telecom. Alternative route for the way back: Tracing down the ALiBang back to the bridge.
Further information: A link to the ALiBang waterfall hike by Tony Huang.