Done almost all possible day hikes near Manila? Already been north in Benguet? Bagged your highest peaks down south in Mindanao? What’s next for you now, an adventure hiker looking for more?
It’s probably not in your hiking radar, but Taiwan is actually the perfect place to experience your first and second high-altitude hike.
The Nenggao Historical Trail (NHT)
Taiwan is a relatively short hop away. With a flight time of less than two hours, a straightforward and, dare I say, easy visa application, and a destination vastly more affordable than Japan, it’s a great travel destination. The island nation also boasts over a hundred peaks above 3,000 meters (or ten-thousand footers). For comparison, our Mount Apo touches the sky at just 2,956 meters above sea level.
This particular trail is famous among Taiwanese, but not at all that popular with foreigners. It’s a little bit far from the city, but it is this remoteness that ensures the trails are pristine.
The Itinerary and Experience
Our hiking team, Trail Adventours International, met up at a hostel in the busy Ximending area of Taipei. It was a fantastic location as the place is well known for shopping and street food. This was a free day, dedicated for the meet up as many of us came to Taipei through different flights. Personally, I was already in Taipei for about four days before day 1 to solo hike several trails.
Our team leaders, brothers Guido and Coby Sarreal, secured vehicles and local guides for the adventure. Our local guides did not speak much English, but their demeanor and company were incredible.
We drove for about five to six hours, putting us close to the Nenggao Historical Trail park entrance. Arriving just before midnight, we stayed at a very comfortable tourist inn, part of the Trail Adventours package.
It was an early day, and after a light breakfast, our vans took us to the actual jump off point for the NHT. Our guides then led the way, and we were off!
The Nenggao Historical Trail starts off easy, along a hot and humid mountainside footpath, but still demanded concentration. Recent earthquakes have destroyed parts of the trail and some suspension bridges; I was admittedly terrified at some of the sections. There were plenty of warnings along the trail, especially at a particularly large landslide portion. At nearly half a mile long, hikers are strongly advised to rush through the section, spaced 10-20 meters apart.
We would trek for several more hours aiming to reach the famous Tianchi Cabin by mid-afternoon to rest for the coming, long day.
I’m susceptible to AMS, or Acute Mountain Sickness, otherwise known as altitude sickness. As the team’s “altimeter” (I hate it, believe me), I started exhibiting signs of AMS at just 2,800 meters above sea level (MASL). Tianchi Cabin, at 2,860 MASL, seemed miles away, but in reality, it was under a kilometer at that point.
We took it slow from hereon, and finally reached the recently renovated Tianchi Cabin, which resembled more of a huge country house than its former life as a literal ‘cabin in the woods’.
It was here at Tianchi Cabin, at 2,860 MASL, that I also witnessed one of the most beautiful mountain sunsets I have ever seen.