三貂嶺 Sandiaoling → 侯硐 Houtong

11.11.2021

It's another weekend morning. I leave the house in my comfortable hiking wear and make my way to Banqiao station. The streets are less crowded, and the city feels more relaxed as I enjoy walking in the early morning sun.

A small breakfast and a black coffee later, I find myself in a comfortable corner seat of local train 4162 heading North. Yanis Varoufakis is talking to his daughter about the economy. Or rather, the voice actor recording his audiobook is talking to me through my headphones. I should take the chance to take a nap, but the book is too intriguing. “Goods != commodities”, I scribble in my notebook as I ponder the difference between experiential and exchange values.

I step out of the train in 三貂嶺 Sandiaoling, meeting my friend who suggested this hike. We soon walk along rivers and over suspension bridges and climb upwards through the forest to marvel at several small waterfalls. You cannot attach a price tag to days like this; the experience is priceless.

The North of Taiwan has a long history of mining. Copper, gold and silver were taken out of the Earth in the 金瓜石 Jinguashi mine in Ruifang. Today, we follow some of the traces of coal mining in Pingxi.

We can soon see 合谷瀑布 Hegu waterfall to our left. A relatively easy trail leads us further up to the 摩天 Motian and 枇杷洞 Pipadong waterfalls (瀑布). From here, we decide that it's still too early to turn around. Instead, we continue on a more challenging trail up to a small shrine and another 5 kilometres through the forrest back to 侯硐 Houtong. Ladders, ropes and a lot of stairs guide us upwards.

We pass the river that carries water downhill to the falls, and I can only imagine how much more adventurous this trail must get during the rainy season.

It's the last warm day before a cold front is supposed to hit Taiwan. We stroll through a beautiful forest in sunny weather, the conditions being perfect for hiking. Yet, for the most part, there's not a soul around. Everyone else seems to relax at the waterfalls, only a few venture out further.

Eventually, towards the trail's end, we meet a group of hikers resting at a pavilion. From here the trail leads up to 獅子嘴岩 Lion's Mouth Rock. I'm tempted to go, but, instead, we decide to head straight down to Houtong, a former mining village one stop up the train line.

Houtong is known as the Cat Village, with coy animals sitting and strolling around the streets and the train station. Kitchy 1950s pop music pours out of loudspeakers built into a suitcase outside 柴油機車庫 retro cafe next to the river. We taste ourselves through their large assortment of coffee beans. Finally, we end the day with a late lunch at 68小吃店 before another local train carries us back to Taipei, riding into a colourful Sunday sunset.