Monday, July 14, 2008

Wantan River Valley

Posting has been light of late as I've been in China (Hainan Island and Qinghai) for the past two months on LP work. I had hoped to make a few posts while I was away but for some very odd reason the Great Firewall of China had my blog blocked. Too subversive I suppose. Should call it hiking the mountains, valleys, rivers and jungles of the renegade province.

In any case, I'll post a report with lots of pics later but today I want to write about the first swim of the season in the pools that line a pretty section of the Wantan River Valley.

The Wantan River flows into the Beishi upriver from Pinglin and eventualy feeds into Taipei's Feicui reservior, our main source of water. Though only 30km or so as the crow flies it takes at least `1.5 hours to drive to the trailhead, as this is a mountainous region and the roads follow a tortuous route.

We arrived at the trailhead around noon. From there it was a short hike on a narrow trail through a jungle landscape.

And 15 minutes later we had arrived. Chris and I had found this spot about two years ago on a four day walk from Pingxi to the coast. The water is as warm as a bath on a hot day and there is a little beach area on the south shore and a clearing under a shady tree. It's a popular place to picnic and camp (as the litter remains testify) but we've never seen anyone else there on a Sunday afternoon.

The rest of the afternoon we spent swimming, sleeping, arguing Taiwanese politics, and exploring the two pools just slightly downstream.

I'll let the pictures do the talking:

There were an unusual number of butterflies about. At least half a dozen different species:

Later in the afternoon we explored the lower pools. I may like these even more than the upper one. Behind number two is a large grassy field perfect for camping.

On the way home the air was dry, a rarity in this part of the county. Some great views were offered from roadside of the mountains and teafields.

And that's it for today. Bye all.


A couple posters asked for directions so here they are, sort of.

First get to Pinglin. The easiest way is to drive on the No 9 highway (those of you coming from Holland need to fly into Taipei first). In Pinglin head toward the new No 5 freeway entrance and get onto the 42 heading east. The 42 rides high above the river. Just past the 13KM mark turn off to the right and follow the little wooden signs in Chinese to 黑龍潭 (Heilongtan). This is a great campsite right at the spot where the Wantan and Beishi rivers meet.

From here I can't explain as it's basically completely unsigned and even I turn down wrong roads and have to backtrack almost every time I go. But there are swimming holes as great as these at Heilongtan. If you want to get to the ones above just head upstream from the campground and where the rivers join follow the Wantan (the river to the right). The swimming holes are about 1km upstream. There's a path that starts off the road that starts to head uphill near the junction of the rivers.


Anonymous said...

In between phone calls to farmers and municipalities and council members and despairing, I just remembered you have a blog. Wish I didn't now, these photos are enough to make anyone jealous!

Those pools look lovely. And as for the 'tortuous route', well - you've been on the road between Xining and Yushu, right? :)

Excuse me while I dream away, waiting for someone from the county board to call me back...


Robert Scott Kelly said...

Hey, the Dutch have discovered my blog. Huanying guanglin.

HeiShouDang 黑手黨 said...

Any chance of some directions to that place? Looks too good to keep to yourself.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 黑手黨- your blog is great and I will certainly make an effort to visit a lot of the spots you mention. A few more clear directions would be the icing on the cake!



Anonymous said...

xiexie! x ~the dutch~

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Okay, I wrote out directions.

Anonymous said...

Great. Taking the kids tomorrow.


Robert Scott Kelly said...

So, Bart, did you get out to the area yesterday? Love to hear what you thought.

Anonymous said...

We did make it out to the area, I headed for the 張家 campsite (not far upstream from the 黑龍潭 campsite you mentioned) as my map indicated a walking trail (萬潭古道) running up the river from there which I thought looked worth checking out. Found the campsite but no sign of a walking trail so either I or my map got it wrong somewhere. I quite enjoyed picking my way up the river over the rocks and found some great wide/deep pools- can see why they call this the 萬潭 river- and after about a km, a nice big field covered in very long grass which would make for good camping. Going upriver over the rocks didn't suit my boys (5 and 6 y.o.) so they stayed back with mum and played in the water at the campsite. Next time I will head for 黑龍潭 and try to find the exact spot you wrote about!

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Ah, Bart, you were right there. The 張家 campground is where you need to go, though I didn't mention it ealier as it is tricky to get to.

When you get to that campground you head down through the gate and then follow the road to the right. At the split head right, going up. In about 200m or so as you go round a sharp bend you'll see ribbons marking a trail to the left. The trail starts up here, about 100m above the rievr, which is why you couldn't find it from river level.

You can park here (or just walk up from 張家). It's only about 20 minutes to the pools on the trail.

If you reached the big grassy field you were there. The big pool at this location is the lower pool I mention. The main one we go to is 150m upstream.

BTW, the Pingxi area I wrote about the other day is also great for little kids. Not the ridge of course but the main trails to the coal mining area and around. Lots of small clean streams to catch fish and frogs.

Anonymous said...

Aha! After looking around the campground we did actually drive up that right hand fork, but came back down as the road ended at someone's house and didn't notice the trail head. We then followed the left hand fork down to the river and I walked upriver from there- got as far as the big field before turning back. Now I know how to get to the trail, will do that next time.... is that trail suitable for little legs btw?

The campground was quite busy, with 3 or 4 largish groups and more cars arrived while we were there. It's a great spot for kids and nice to see some local people who actually let their kids in the "extremely deep and Weixian" water.

I saw your new post and plan to check that place out too :-) -thanks for the good leads. Will leave a comment there after our visit!

Robert Scott Kelly said...

Hi Bart,

The trail is easy; no problem for little kids.

The 張家 campground is decent but Helongtan is better, especially if you head to the far right of the campground, going upstream. There's a little wooded knoll you can camp quietly on, and there is a wide, deep pool behind you, though perhaps you don't want to be so close to the water with little ones.

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