Camping at Wuling Farm
Dear Family and friends,
It’s spring break for Loren, so we decided to head into the centre of the island for some family camping and cycling adventures. Our first destination was Wuling Farm (pronounced “ooling”) where we just spent three nights camping, at over 2000 meters in elevation, in the mountains.
The drive from Hsinchu was pretty gorgeous! We had the option to cut our drive short by an
hour and go North and down via Yilan, but we decided to take the scenic route that weaved in and out of the mountains. It took us almost 5 hours to drive the 190 kms from Hsinchu! For most of that trips we were on windy roads, with steep drop offs that often became single lane. It was pretty intense driving!
Since we didn’t manage to leave Hsinchu until 2pm, it was dark when we arrived at 7pm. We couldn’t find our lantern, we had not yet eaten dinner and dark ominous rain clouds were looming. As you can imagine, this was a little stressful as we were also juggling two hungry little ones.
Below us, not even 20 feet away, was a group of 10 Taiwanese campers. As we’ve often seen here in Taiwan, these folks were doing what we would call “glamping” (glamourous camping) and I’ll admit… we were a little jealous. While Loren was out searching to buy a lantern and lighter, one of these neighbours brought up a lantern and motioned for us to come down. I thought I would wait since I wasn’t 100% sure that he was inviting us down, but then he kept coming up. So after his third visit – this was clearly an invitation – I decided to head down with the kids. We had tasty curry with rice, and smoked chicken and beer. It was delicious and so amazing to be fed after our late and frenzied arrival. Not one person from this group spoke English, yet they were so kind and generous. We communicated via Google translate. The whole experience was lovely!
A cold night of camping (there were actually three!)
Being at this elevation, however, meant that it got pretty cold at night. We definitely needed winter jackets. Come time to go to bed, we layered up, crawled into our Quechua sleeping bags that ensured us warmth between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius and tried to sleep. It was colder than 5C! It was a horrible night! I was constantly waking up to check on the kids and to add layers. Daphne, who still nursed at night, couldn’t get comfortable in the same sleeping bag as me, so I had her in a separate sleeping bag. Every time I had to nurse her, I was exposed to the cold air. Did I mention it was a horrible night?
Hiking in the Rain
The next day we had to find shelter near the office in order to cook our breakfast. You see,
we didn’t have a tarp. Even basic campers should own a tarp, but we have yet to buy one. We enjoyed our oatmeal and coffee and waited for the rain to slow down. Once it did, we decided to hike up to the Tao-Shan Waterfall (4.3kms).
The trail was wide and well-manicured, but it was a slow uphill. Theo, who’s now too heavy for a backpack, had to walk. Being our stubborn three and a half year old, sometimes he’s in the mood for something and other times he is not. Today, he was NOT in the mood for a hike. We were verbally dragging him up the hill and it was tiring. To make matters worse, soon into our hike, mist became rain.
We walked more than half way up when Loren and I decided that we didn’t need to prove anything to anyone and that we were going to turn back. Loren had been suggesting it for a while now, but part of me really wanted to have “a story” to tell. “Remember that day we hiked 8.6 kilometers to this beautiful waterfall and back in the rain with a baby and 3 year old?” How hard core would that story have been? But then I had this “a-hah!” moment where I realised that hiking with children is like doing art with children. The final product is not what’s important. It’s the process. Are my children getting fresh air? Check! Are they walking in nature? Check! Are they being curious and discovering new things? Check! Note to self: think about the PROCESS when parenting.
The car was the place to be…
When we returned to camp from our hike we were wet, it was cold, and we really didn’t have a place to hang out. For the next couple of hours, the car became our hang out and every once and awhile we would turn it on to get a boost of heat. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked. Again, we were envious of the glampers. Eventually another family invited us to hang out in their shelter and then later for dinner.
This family spoke some English and we had fun learning about each other over tasty food. We had this very unique Taiwanese soup chock-a-block full of flavour! When that was done, we ate rice and nori. Then we ate inari age (the tofu pockets) stuffed with rice. Next we ate fruit. Lastly we ate chips. The food was endless! Once that was done, the men drank Kaoliang liquor (Loren was happy) and the ladies drank homemade plum wine. Loren and I gave each other a look acknowledging this cultural difference.
Camping with the Monkeys
The following day was a sunny rain-free day. Finally we were able to truly appreciate the beauty around us. The scenery was gorgeous and reminded us a lot of Canada, with one major difference. There were monkeys! Yup, they were often just hanging out in this field 50 meters away. Sometimes they were on the roofs of the nearby cottages, or in trees or even trying to get into the communal compost bin despite there being a heavy rock sitting on the lid. Monkey watching was pretty neat. They became a staple feature for the rest of our trip and I soon learnt that they can be quite the pests!
We spent this day doing a couple easy walks and hanging out at the playground. Our first little walk was up the paved road towards the entrance of Mount Syueshan. There were tea plants and gorgeous views. Later that day we headed towards the visitor centre for a short kid friendly walk across the bridge. It was gorgeous!
Farewell Wuling Farm
The next day was our departure and we left earlier than planned. I woke up at 5:30 am feeling cold and completely OVER IT! The nights had been freezing. I know because I woke up once to get leggings out of the car for layers and the door was sealed shut from ice. Loren felt the same way, although (let’s be honest here…) he wasn’t as exposed to the elements as I was, due to breastfeeding. So at 5:45 in the morning, I huddled into the heated car with the children while Loren took down the rest of the camp. Thankfully we had done most of it the night before!
As parting words, I’ll admit that we were not prepared for camping in the mountains at this time of the year, being March. In retrospect I think Wuling farm is the kind of place that would be great to go to in the summer to escape the heat. Was it gorgeous? Yes! It was so beautiful, kid friendly and wild. I loved it!
Next up in our adventures is camping and cycling at Sun Moon Lake!