Friday, February 15, 2008

The Hapen Trail: Wulai

Blogging has been light in recent months for a very good reason. After the last outing in Sanmin I came down with a tick-borne disease called scrub typhus.

Scrub typhus is an acute, febrile, infectious illness that was first described by the Chinese about 2000 years ago. This illness is caused by Orientia (formerly Rickettsia) tsutsugamushi. Humans are accidental hosts in this zoonotic disease.

The term scrub is used because of the type of vegetation (terrain between woods and clearings) that harbors the vector. Scrub typhus is endemic in regions of eastern Asia and the southwestern Pacific (Korea to Australia) and from Japan to India and Pakistan.

Patients most commonly present with high fever, severe headache, generalized myalgia, and malaise. The incubation period from the mite bite is 5-20 days following inoculation.
Toward the end of the first week, approximately 35% of patients develop a centrifugal macular rash on the trunk, which may become papular.

In other words, a red rash all over the torso and face. I looked like a spotted leopard as seen through infrared.

There were about 60 cases of tsustugamuchi in the last year in Taiwan, with one death just a week ago. You can get bitten anywhere on the island so cover up when you head out into the bush. If you find yourself with a high fever, swollen glands at the back of the head and neck, rash, and one telltale ulcerated wound (like a cigarette burn) get to a hospital.

Normal treatment is a week of antibiotics but it took two weeks for me to get on them as originally my doctor thought I had Dengue Fever, for which there is no treatment but rest. So overall, it was like 3 weeks with a sever flu. However, recovery is quick and I’m 100 percent again.

Which leads me to a recent hike on the ancient Hapen Trail:

Running from Wulai to Fushan is the 20-kilometer Hapen Trail, which was once known to the local Aborigines as the "wedding trail." Atayal of Wulai and their compatriots in the Ilan township of Tatung would often do business with each other, and intermarry, and the Hapen Trail was vital for this.

The scenery of the Hapen Trail is outstanding, and it is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. At dawn, kingfishers, grey-cheeked fulvettas, black-browed barbets, and brown dippers come out for breakfast, and sharp-eyed visitors may catch a glimpse of the Formosan macaque, Reeve's muntjac, or red-bellied tree squirrel. Also swimming around in the Hapen River is the Taiwan shovel jaw carp. At night, glowworms dot parts of the landscape. The whole area is like Taiwan's own Amazon.

The weather cooperated somewhat for this hike. It didn’t rain on us though cloud cover obscured all the nice views.

Hapen is part of the National Trail System and so has been gussied up a bit in recent years with maps and km markings along the way. The trail is wide and clear, feeling a bit more like a route through a national park back in Canada than most of the paths we go on.

But there are still a few rough parts that you sure wouldn’t find open to the public back home.

We only made it as far as the first stream crossing, before turning back at the threat of rain. No tsutsugamuchi but a lot of leeches. They seemed to be particular fond of Chris.

The drive to the trailhead from Wulai is a lush, wet, rugged one, high up the Nanshih River valley. Numerous high thin waterfalls tumble down from both sides of the valley and washouts of the road are common. Fushan Village, the last real settlement in the area, is cut off by landslides almost every summer after a major typhoon.

Every hike leads to more plans for hikes or other trips. This one was no different. At the very least I want to bike out here in summer and maybe ride and carry along the trail to the campsite at the end.


MJ Klein said...

good grief Robert! what hell you went through to recover! thanks for another fantastic article. we were just in Wulai a few weeks ago, and now i want to go back and hit the trail. take care.

Twoton said...

Hi Robert,

I love your blog and was wondering if you'd allow me to write about it/link to it on mine

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Grooving Fungus said...

Awesome shots...i'm inspired...if only the weather would clear up!

noncoupable said...

Hi there,
Could you share with me how you got to this trail? I am an avid runner and cyclist--I have biked to Wulai and back from Xindian and have run around Wulai and then back to Taipei (!) yes it was a 3 hour run... anyways, I went looking for some trails to run on and didn't find many long ones (4+ km) but I saw all the signs along the road to Fushan, went most of the way up there... but my knees hurt on the roads and I am looking for a trail to jog on.
Thanks! :) ~Amanda (

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Hi Amanda,

Oops, I usually give details about getting to places at the end. Well, this one is pretty easy. Just stay on the road south of Wulai (following the river valley) to Fushan and then at the village you need to turn left, and follow a side road about 1km. The trailhead is marked in English and obvious on the right.

A closer and better one would be the Red River Valley trail just before Wulai. I write about that in an earlier blog post Wulai to Sanxia, and give clear directions for getting here. That's where I'd go for jogging.

Actually, if you are jogging you would probably be best to start in Wulai. You know the bridge to the right just before the big parking lot in Wulai? Cross it and on the other side to the right (just where the road bends) is a 4km trail to Red River Valley. When you get to the end of that at the suspension bridge, head up the stairs and turn left. In 100m or so you'll get to a bridge. Turn left and you are on the 20km trail to Sanxia. Note the first .5km or so is cement.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks heaps for the advice you gave Amanda (noncoupable)about the 24km trail from Wulai down to Red River and over the mountain to Sanxia. Being in Taiwan for a few days on business and feeling out of shape I decided Wulai was the place for a Sunday hike, no matter the seasonal damp.
The weather started cloudy but dry and the trail down to Red River and up the slopes was splendid, lush rainforest. After the Wulai-Red River trail I didn't see a soul for an hour or so until I found some hardy locals drinking tea in a camp hut. They told me I should make haste if I wanted to reach Sanxia because we were now at 335m and I needed to climb to 900m, before descending, after which there was a river to cross...
The 600m climb certainly met my requirement for exercise. A little before the summit the path forked, with a right hand turn seemingly heading for a pass, but the locals and Pashan hadn't mentioned a junction so I headed straight, as this seemed the path more travelled. (It would have been handy to be able to read the Chinese characters marking the trails). More slog uphill and I was relieved to reach the summit. On the descent it began to rain heavily and the three crossings of the swollen river had to be conducted with a lot of care.
Having yearned to leave civilization for a while, I was pleased to rejoin it somewhere near the village of Songkong(?),which I found was about 40 minutes by bus from Sanxia.
A great way to see Taiwan, though I'm not sure where the right fork went?

louis said...

you always have here an interesting things about cameras though,i really appreciate that

sophie said...

I love hikings, especially to new places. But, hopefully, with a tour guide to tell me history and etc.:-)
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Cialis said...

This place looks amazing!

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