I had the opportunity to head back up into the mountains on Monday through Majia village to the Shalawan waterfall area with my fly rod in tow. Having seen several good 8-10" fish in this pool above the waterfall earlier in the season, I hoped to snag a bite or two, but the fish stayed at the bottom all afternoon. The water was incredibly clear and I could easily spot them on the bottom a good 15' down without sunglasses. It also didn't help to have two wild girls running through the water and climbing around on the edges of the pools, but then again, fishing was not the primary goal for the trip and the place is so spectacular it was hard to be too upset!
If you haven't made the trip to Shalawan, the drive alone is worth the time even without the short hike at the end. The access road climbs along the contours of the river valley below, snaking eastward and upward toward the northwestern flanks of Beidawushan北大武山 the southernmost 3000m peak on Taiwan. There are several good blog guides to the area. We used Taiwan's Waterfalls the first time we visited, but Follow Xiaofei also has some great photos and videos of the area. Incidentally, if there are any birders out there, I've seen and heard Plumbeous Redstarts around the pools above the waterfall every time I've been there (August & October 2015, March 2016).
Anna wanted to go swimming on her 7th birthday, so this morning we headed off into the mountains above Sandimen in Pingtung County in search of Shalawan waterfall (for the geographically-inclinded: 22°39'27.2"N 120°43'13.8"E). After a few wrong turns, guided by GoogleMaps and a great set of instructions, we arrived without incident and set off on the 1.5km hike.
Anna and Lucy did a great job on the hike in, which afforded us some amazing views. The series of waterfalls in the photo above descends 600m from a hanging valley high in the mountains, and I lost count of the number of waterfalls we saw on the drive in. 40? 50? For the most part, the trail to Shalawan was wide and well maintained. It looked like 4X4s actually used to drive in, however this landslide now prevents all but foot and scooter traffic.
But once we descended the 150m in elevation from the parking lot, we were rewarded with this view.
Imagine the volume of water it would have taken to destroy that suspension bridge! With the careful assistance of some adults, the kids crossed the stream at the rope and played in the pools next to the water, on the stone beach, and climbed around on the rocks. Anna made herself a stone knife and opened up shop teaching the other kids (and adults) how to break rocks to make stone tools. Lucy just loved the water.
We hear it's possible to trace the river upstream to the 160m Deer Creek waterfall. There is just SO MUCH to explore at this particular location. We didn't even make it to the big Shalawan waterfall downstream because the trail was steep and this particular spot was AMAZING. The hike back up to the parking lot was tiring for Anna's legs, but Lucy managed to run the entire way up the switchbacks.
The terrain here is just spectacular to me. I got lost clicking around the terrain level of GoogleMaps last night for a few hours (am I the only one who can get lost in GoogleMaps for hours?). We parked around 750m ASL and then descended to just below 600m. If you look up the valley the terrain quickly rises to the 3000m ridge that divides the eastern and western watershed on Taiwan, only about 4km to the east. We'll be back - there are so many cool things to explore here and it only took about 2 hours from walking out the door at home to swimming.
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