Sakura, peach blossoms, and the Syakaro Historic Trail 櫻花、桃花與霞喀羅古道

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For the first time in six years, I went back home in Taipei for the Lunar New Year! Typically the northeast monsoon brings gloomy rainy days to the northern Taiwan in winter. The weather is usually bad during the Lunar New Year which falls in late January or February. Luckily it was mostly sunny and 80F/27C during the Lunar New Year vacation this time! Many people seized this opportunity to go out and see cherry blossoms.

六年來第一次回家過年,運氣很好,過年連假幾乎都是27度又晴天的好天氣,好多人跑去賞花。

Sakura near Taipei 101. 信義國小前面的...寒櫻??

Sakura near Taipei 101. 信義國小前面的…寒櫻??

Cherry blossoms in the rain in Yangmingshan National Park in Taipei. 陽明山雨中櫻花

Cherry blossoms in the rain in Yangmingshan National Park in Taipei. 陽明山雨中櫻花

Depend on the weather and elevation, the cherry blossom season in Taiwan is from January to March. The scenery is not as astonishing as many places known for “hanami” (flower viewing) in Japan, and it does not have iconic landmark to go with the blossom like Washington, D.C. But the mountains in Taiwan are absolutely beautiful and you can’t beat that accessibility.

About five different varieties of cherry blossoms are very commonly seen. During this season, peach blossoms and plum blossoms are also blooming. I often have trouble naming them.

台灣賞櫻雖然沒有日本有名的「花見」景點來得驚人,也沒有華府那種經典地標當背景,但台灣高山的景色和可以迅速上山下海的方便別處沒得比。只不過每年這個時候同時有櫻花桃花李花,櫻花光是常見的就有吉野櫻、八重櫻、山櫻花、寒櫻、昭和櫻,我常常隨便亂叫,完全認不出來。

This picture above was taken with my phone at a peach orchard in Hsinchu between two tribal villages, San-Guang (三光) and Ma-Mei (麻美). Locals told us the peak this year was going to be February 5.

上面這張照片是用手機在新竹三光和馬美部落之間的一片桃花園,當地人說桃花會在二月五號盛開。

We stopped by this peach orchard after a hike along the Syakaro Historic Trail (霞喀羅古道). This trail is by no means a must-see if you are visiting Taiwan for five days. If you are here for an extended period of time, the Syakaro trail is very much worth visiting.

The trail was built back in the days by aboriginal Atayal people. During the Japanese colonization, the Japanese fixed the original trail to build a road for police and military use, intending to conquer the Atayal tribes. They called it a road for suppressing barbarians with armed forces (蕃地膺懲道路). This trail was not well known until 1994 after a girl nicknamed kikika from the National Tsing Hua University published an article online about her three-day hike of the Syakaro trail with a backpack, ropes and a knife. The trail is now known for the fall colors of maple leafs. Syakaro in Atayal means a specific type of tree, Formosan Michelia (烏心石).

The entire trail is 21-23 km. We took an easy hike of 10 km round-trip from Yoro (養老) to Mawan (馬鞍) and back. If you have time, and typhoon and landslides did not destroy the trail, it would be nice to double the hike and walk to the Baishi suspension bridge (白石吊橋) ahead. Prepping food and water is important. There are no shops or vendors along the drive once you enter the mountains. What I love the most about this trail is the drastic change of vegetation within a short walk. There was at first a typical mid-elevation forest with a cherry blossom farm in the middle and then a tall bamboo forest along the trail.

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會經過這片桃花園是因為我們早上去爬了新竹霧峰和尖石這邊的霞喀羅古道,這條步道是早年泰雅族原住民用的路,日據時期日本人為了「理蕃」,翻修這條路來做為「蕃地膺懲道路」,征討當地泰雅族人。本來這條路默默無名,一直到1994年BBS上暱稱kikika雪山飛狐的清大登山社女生花三天三夜從清泉走到秀巒,回來貼了一篇文章,霞喀羅古道才慢慢為人所知,近年來是著名的賞楓景點。霞喀羅在泰雅族語是烏心石木的意思。

整條古道大概21、23公里,我們走了起頭輕鬆段從養老到馬鞍,單程五公里,有時間、步道又沒被颱風土石流摧毀的話,可以走單程九公里到白石吊橋。爬這段要帶吃的,入山之後一路開上來都沒有任何商店。就算不是楓紅季節,這條步道還是很漂亮,短短一段路,從一開始的樹林到桃花到中間的高聳竹林,林相十分多樣化。

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