( Sunrise from the bedroom. After I'm done with sunrise, I just fall back to catch up on lost sleep !! )
We woke up at 6.15am and sat in the comfort of the bed enjoying the sunrise. It would have been better if not for the fog. Still, the golden pillars beating down the hills before us is a welcome sign for the day.
Breakfast ( from 8-9am ) at Misting was buffet style. I recommend the cabbage dish, succulent and sweet. At 8.45am, Leo ( from http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/leo6991 , 2000 NT for half day tour without snow in the mountains, 3000 NT when it snows ) came to pick us for a half day tour of Hehuanshan. He comes highly recommended by Hong Kong travelers.
( Road to HeHuanshan. Pristine weather at 9am )
Our day trip started from Cingjing and stopped at 鳶峰 to acclimatise ourselves at 2500m. Any discomfort ( nausea, headache ) at this point means an about turn down to Cingjing because these are signs of altitude sickness. Apart from the bitter wind and extreme cold ( despite our full winter gear ), all felt fine at this stage. I was quite pleased at Leo's precautionary measures.
We went beyond the halfway point that demarcate the beginning of Taroko National Park and were introduced to the various peaks and mountains which I could barely remember in their Chinese names. Above most clouds, it was cold, sunny, windy and what caught my breath away was more than the scenery. My heart and lungs was at bursting stage ; I needed rest every step I took. These are signs that my body was complaining about the thin oxygen and believe me, I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
Looping back down, we stopped at 合歡山莊.松雪樓 for more photo shoots, while I struggled with breathing problems and worried about an impending heart attack. Our last stop was 武嶺 ( 3157 m ) a brief 10 minutes to capture the mountains and cold frigid air. By now, I discovered staying in the car could probably prolong my life than braving the elements. No kidding！
( Hehuanshan Taroko demarcation point. Note the nippy temperature. It went to -0.8C 2 days later )
We passed by windy maple avenues and noticed that traffic is building up because of tourists checking out of Cingjing. By about 12 noon, we reached Green Green pastures where I decided we would alight. The tour had been informative, slow and easy in a well maintained 4-well drive, snow chain ready, which I am very grateful. In fact, if I had known he would bring us over to Hualien for 5000 NT, fresh from Cingjing, I would not have arranged the Hualien driver to come over and pick us up.
( Cingjing Green Pasture is brown in winter. I had expected the place to be bigger )
We entered the pasture from the north gate and walked down towards the direction of Guomin Guesthouse via the 步步高升 trail, passing by food stalls at the end of south gate of the pasture and Cingjing farm where the 2nd part of the walk begin. Amazing the walk downhill took more than 2 hours. Thank goodness we started from the top of the hill.
We retreated to Misting at 3.30pm, utterly exhausted and aghast at our poor physical state. A short rest and at 4.30pm we set off for the sunset trait, starting from the back door of our minsu. The trail was unmarked, unlit, unpaved leaving us to figure out where to observe the sunset. 4.45pm and 3 choices of locations, we found the lookout point beside the telcom water tower and before a tiny veg strip, which was a cliff actually.
( Nothing more romantic than sharing the end of the day with your loved one at sunset trail )
Sunset was an emotionally event as the sky turned yellow, crimson and then vermilion. We were reminded of Thomas Dylan's "Do not go gentle into the good night" as we see the sun fight its last fight in the horizon with darkness. Touching!
Totally dark and without street light, we whipped out solar torches and after a wrong detour in the semi darkness, made it back to the minsu in 10 minutes. So for those trying this trail, bring torches or risk getting lost in the cold dark hills!
Dinner at Misting was home cooked Yunnan food, 600 NT set for 2 that was more like for 3 persons. I recommend dining here because the service could not be beat and food reminds me of mum.
( Yunnan dishes at the minsu. Recommended for taste, portion, price )
A day in the mountains, touched icicles and viewed the peaks, witnessed sunrise and sunset, what more could I ask?