Shoushan – Kaohsiung's Backyard／壽山 高雄後花園
Shoushan – Kaohsiung's Backyard
◎English translation: Peng Hsin-yi
◎Photos by Pao Chung-hui
One of the perks of living in Kaohsiung is being in such close proximity to Shoushan National Nature Park. Located in Kaohsiung's southwest region, the 1,122 hectare park consists of four mountains (shan in Chinese): Shoushan, Banpingshan, Large and Small Gueishan and Cihoushan. These green areas give the people of Kaohsiung plenty of opportunity to interact with nature. At 928 hectares, Shoushan is the largest area in the park and welcomes 3.6 million visitors each year. It is truly the "Backyard of Kaohsiung".
Mr. Wang Kan is a volunteer and a guide in the park. He is an expert on the region and knows everything about the Northern part of Shoushan to the Southern part of Shoushan. When entering the Northern Shoushan Hiking Trail, visitors undoubtedly will see the resident Formosan Macaques. Mr. Wang recommends people calmly walk past the monkeys and do not bring plastic bags or food into the area, as they have been known to grab bags from tourists. In order to avoid being harassed, never feed or engage with the monkeys. These macaques were first recorded on Shoushan in 1862 by Robert Swinhoe, head of the British Consulate in Taiwan at the time.
The first stop on his tour is the coral reef limestone that can be found along the Shoushan trail. Another feature of the mountain is the Manila Champereia trees that are laden with fruits, which happens to be a favorite of the monkeys. Further along the trail is the Vine Tunnel. This was aptly named by hikers. Although the vines are brown and dry during the winter, they are luscious green during the summer. Mr. Wang pointed out Liriope graminifolia is the favorite food of the region's barking deer (Formosan Reeve Muntijac). There are about 138 deer in the park, which are another highlight to lookout for. In order to spot them, people must keep as quiet as possible and move slowly through the forest.
The Great Gorge of Shoushan is comprised of coral reef limestone and has been torn apart by shifting plates. Some of its gaps are narrow, but wide enough for hikers to walk through and enjoy its beautiful overhead. Mr. Wang pointed out that the sides of the gorge are usually green, but due to a current drought, they are monotone brown. The Great Gorge is truly breath taking and well worth the trip! The next attraction is the Thai Valley which is reached by following the walkway carved out the side of the mountain. Visitors will also find a group of banyan trees in the area, with the vines dangling into the valley like a curtain.
Shoushan is truly a treasure of Kaohsiung, with rare geographic features and unique eco-systems. Kind local people carry buckets of water uphill for hikers to enjoy at rest stops, exhibiting great hiker etiquette. A maximum of 15 people is required for formal guided Shoushan tours. Applications and guide appointments can be obtained at the Preparatory Office of Shoushan National Nature Park. Call (07) 262-0610 for more information about Shoushan and its flower and fauna.
Thos who are new to the area please note
||(1) Please follow the log-paved hiking trails.
(2) Do not explore unmarked area.
(3) Do not entre the mountain areas after dark.