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太魯閣: 錐麓古道 (Taroko valley: Zhui lu ancient trail)

posted by Martin Rubli at 13:59

Hiking in Taiwan always comes with a bit of suspense. There's the island climate, the unstable mountain weather, and then there are typhoons. Typhoons usually bring vast amounts of rain and because of the island's relatively loose mountains it often happens that hiking trails are damaged or roads get covered in landslides.

Three weeks ago we already had to change our travel route because the central cross-island highway was closed after a typhoon-induced landslide in Taroko valley. And while that road was reopened in time for this weekend's hiking trip, the ancient trail itself was damaged by another typhoon just a few days earlier.

So, instead of the full ten-point-something kilometers that the trail normally spans only the first 3.1 km were accessible. Luckily the first third includes one of the most impressive sections where the trail passes along a steep cliff and permits an amazing view of the valley and the highway down below. The trail is generally easy to walk, but nothing for those with fear of heights ...


Our bed & breakfast (or homestay, as they are called in Taiwan), the [http://www.wretch.cc/blog/maggiegarden 花漾花園民宿].

Our bed & breakfast (or homestay, as they are called in Taiwan), the 花漾花園民宿.

The view from near the homestay, towards the central mountain range.

The view from near the homestay, towards the central mountain range.

The Taroko Gorge seen from the lower 錐麓古道 (Zhui lu ancient trail) trail head.

The Taroko Gorge seen from the lower 錐麓古道 (Zhui lu ancient trail) trail head.

This bridge, the 錐麓吊橋 (Zhui lu suspension bridge), is the trail head.

This bridge, the 錐麓吊橋 (Zhui lu suspension bridge), is the trail head.

The view upstream from the 錐麓吊橋 (Zhui lu suspension bridge).

The view upstream from the 錐麓吊橋 (Zhui lu suspension bridge).

Even though the trail kept going up, for once the goal was not the top of the mountain. Only the first two kilometers are uphill, afterwards the trail levels out.

Even though the trail kept going up, for once the goal was not the top of the mountain. Only the first two kilometers are uphill, afterwards the trail levels out.

One of the many flowers along the way of which, as usual, I don't know the name.

One of the many flowers along the way of which, as usual, I don't know the name.

A butterfly couple chasing each other.

A butterfly couple chasing each other.

This trail in the cliff is the mountain road built in 1914 by the Japanese.

This trail in the cliff is the mountain road built in 1914 by the Japanese.

At the bottom of the valley you can see the [http://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-tw/中橫公路 中橫公路 (Central cross-island highway) that goes from 花蓮 (Hualian) on the east side via 合歡山 (He huan shan) to 台中 (Taizhong) on the west side.

At the bottom of the valley you can see the [http://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-tw/中橫公路 中橫公路 (Central cross-island highway) that goes from 花蓮 (Hualian) on the east side via 合歡山 (He huan shan) to 台中 (Taizhong) on the west side.

The entrance to one of several small tunnels along the trail.

The entrance to one of several small tunnels along the trail.

A tiny shrine inside the tunnel.

A tiny shrine inside the tunnel.

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The warning signs are plenty along the way. Narrow trails, falling rocks, steep cliffs, poisonous snakes, killer bees ... It's almost as if they didn't want you to hike here. :-)

The warning signs are plenty along the way. Narrow trails, falling rocks, steep cliffs, poisonous snakes, killer bees ... It's almost as if they didn't want you to hike here. :-)

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The rocks here are pretty lose, so people are encouraged to wear a helmet. I only saw two people with helmets, however, and they stopped wearing them too after the first few uphill meters.

The rocks here are pretty lose, so people are encouraged to wear a helmet. I only saw two people with helmets, however, and they stopped wearing them too after the first few uphill meters.

The highway down in the valley.

The highway down in the valley.

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A group shot in one of the few places that actually allow enough space for one.

A group shot in one of the few places that actually allow enough space for one.

Because only the first 3.1 km of the trail were open we even had some time left to see the other attractions, such as 燕子口 (Swallow Grotto), not far from the trail head.

Because only the first 3.1 km of the trail were open we even had some time left to see the other attractions, such as 燕子口 (Swallow Grotto), not far from the trail head.

Waterfalls are plenty in this part of Taiwan.

Waterfalls are plenty in this part of Taiwan.

The 長春祠 (Chang chun temple), closer to the entrance of the national park.

The 長春祠 (Chang chun temple), closer to the entrance of the national park.

A memorial shrine near 長春祠 (Chang chun temple).

A memorial shrine near 長春祠 (Chang chun temple).

The entrance of the path leading up to 長春祠 (Chang chun temple).

The entrance of the path leading up to 長春祠 (Chang chun temple).

Another view of the Taroko valley.

Another view of the Taroko valley.

The ocean view from 清水 (Qing shui), a beautiful spot with water access along the [http://zh.wikipedia.org/zh-tw/蘇花公路 蘇花公路 (Su hua highway)], a beautiful stretch of the East coast highway.

The ocean view from 清水 (Qing shui), a beautiful spot with water access along the 蘇花公路 (Su hua highway), a beautiful stretch of the East coast highway.

Those who still had energy to walk stairs ...

Those who still had energy to walk stairs ...

... went to the beach to enjoy the sand and the waves ...

... went to the beach to enjoy the sand and the waves ...

... whereas water-shy people like me prefer to point their camera at flowers conveniently growing nearby. :-)

... whereas water-shy people like me prefer to point their camera at flowers conveniently growing nearby. :-)


Getting rid of a hornet nest the Taiwanese way

posted by Martin Rubli at 12:42

Here's a good example of how efficiently some things are handled in Taiwan.

We discovered this little work of art on our balcony a while ago:

A hornet nest on our balcony at the end of June. Note the long entrance tube.

A hornet nest on our balcony at the end of June. Note the long entrance tube.

Two months later the entrance tube had broken off after a typhoon, but the hornets had fortified their nest.

Two months later the entrance tube had broken off after a typhoon, but the hornets had fortified their nest.

That left only one solution ... calling the fire department! Their way of getting rid of it was, I want to say, slightly unconventional. See for yourself:


A frog goes hiking: 雪山 (Xue shan) (Day 2)

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:35

The second day started with three hours of hiking in the dark. There's an obsession in Taiwan with watching the sunrise on mountain tops that I can't quite comprehend. For me the whole point of hiking is to enjoy the scenery while doing some slightly challenging exercise. Hiking at night takes that most important part away from that. Be that as it may, thanks to a final ten minute sprint we just made it to the top in time to see the red sun rise above the horizon.

Even the rising sun didn't help much with the temperature, though. It was rather cold at the top and I was seriously considering unpacking my down jacket. But the view could almost make you forget about the cold. The three-sixty view at the top is very impressive and you can even spot Taiwan's highest mountain, 玉山 (Yu shan) in the distance.

On the way down it got warm pretty quickly and by the first rest stop it was high time to put on sunscreen again.

Back at the 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut) we had an early lunch before we switched the light daypacks for our heavy backpacks again and started heading down. The weather held up very well the entire time and just like on the way up we could see the sea of clouds above the flatlands.

This post covers day 2. Back to day 1.


Overview

The red track is the first day, the green track is the first half of day two before returning along the red track.


(Click the image for a larger version.)


Altitude graph


(Click the image for a larger version.)

GPS track

Hiking log

(As always, the altitudes are approximate.)

0130: Wake up (no, the time is not a typo ...)
0240: Departure from 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut), 3140 m
0525: 雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak), 3886 m
0610: Descent
0855: Back at 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut), 3140 m
1005: Departure from 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut)
1040: 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak), 3201 m
1110: Arrival at 哭坡觀景台 (Ku po view platform), rest break, 2976 m
1150: Departure from 哭坡觀景台 (Ku po view platform)
1300: Arrival at 七卡山莊 (Qi ka mountain hut), break, 2506 m
1320: Departure from 七卡山莊 (Qi ka mountain hut)
1400: Arrival at trail head, 2139 m


Photos

Question: Is this a sunset or sunrise?

Answer: Okay, it was a trick question. It's neither. This photo was taken at 2 am and the red light are atmospheric reflections of the city lights. :-)

Question: Is this a sunset or sunrise?

Answer: Okay, it was a trick question. It's neither. This photo was taken at 2 am and the red light are atmospheric reflections of the city lights. :-)

北稜角 (Bei leng jiao), 雪山's little step brother. It's only a few meters shorter but didn't get the title of 百岳 ...

北稜角 (Bei leng jiao), 雪山's little step brother. It's only a few meters shorter but didn't get the title of 百岳 ...

雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak), 3886 meters above sea level, just before sunset.

雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak), 3886 meters above sea level, just before sunset.

Me at the top of 雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak), raising my usual 百岳 (Taiwan's 100 highest mountains) flag, wearing my usual frog-colored jacket. :-)

Me at the top of 雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak), raising my usual 百岳 (Taiwan's 100 highest mountains) flag, wearing my usual frog-colored jacket. :-)

大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) in the distance, but still clearer than [local:/blog/2012/06/01/a-frog-goes-hiking-big-failure-mountain-day-2/ when I actually went there last year].

大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) in the distance, but still clearer than when I actually went there last year.

The peak in the middle is 玉山 (Yu shan) and, ironically, also clearer than [local:/blog/2011/05/05/a-frog-goes-hiking-yu-shan-oneday-trip/ when I went there]!

The peak in the middle is 玉山 (Yu shan) and, ironically, also clearer than when I went there!

The view towards 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) and 品田山 (Pin tian shan).

The view towards 大霸尖山 (Da ba jian shan) and 品田山 (Pin tian shan).

This was quite an interesting sight with the mountains casting shadows at sunrise.

This was quite an interesting sight with the mountains casting shadows at sunrise.

The 樂山 (Le shan) radar station near 觀霧 (Guan wu).

The 樂山 (Le shan) radar station near 觀霧 (Guan wu).

About 50 meters away from the main peak somebody built a little stone heap.

About 50 meters away from the main peak somebody built a little stone heap.

Dead trees on the side of the path on the way down.

Dead trees on the side of the path on the way down.

Another look at 北稜角 (Bei leng jiao).

Another look at 北稜角 (Bei leng jiao).

The view back up towards 雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak). It's a shame that it doesn't quite look like a peak from this angle.

The view back up towards 雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak). It's a shame that it doesn't quite look like a peak from this angle.

Cliffs are visible from the 黑森林 (Black forest).

Cliffs are visible from the 黑森林 (Black forest).

The 黑森林 (Black forest), which is about as black as your run-of-the-mill forest. :-)

The 黑森林 (Black forest), which is about as black as your run-of-the-mill forest. :-)

As soon as you get out of the forest you can spot 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut) again.

As soon as you get out of the forest you can spot 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut) again.

This used to be forest many years ago but burned down in a large forest fire.

This used to be forest many years ago but burned down in a large forest fire.

三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut) on the way down.

三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut) on the way down.

And 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut) again, a little later from 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak). You can see the windy trail that leads up to the 黑森林 (Black forest) and 雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak).

And 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut) again, a little later from 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak). You can see the windy trail that leads up to the 黑森林 (Black forest) and 雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak).

Just like the day before you can see the sea of clouds covering the lower areas.

Just like the day before you can see the sea of clouds covering the lower areas.

The peak on the left is 雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak) where we had just been a few hours ago. The rocky peak (third one from the left) is 北稜角 (Bei leng jiao).

The peak on the left is 雪山主峰 (Xue shan main peak) where we had just been a few hours ago. The rocky peak (third one from the left) is 北稜角 (Bei leng jiao).

A few tired but happy members of our hiking group back down at the trail head. This picture was taken by the park ranger.

A few tired but happy members of our hiking group back down at the trail head. This picture was taken by the park ranger.

After he had taken our group shot he asked me if he could borrow my camera for a bit. So he went back to the normally inaccessible area behind the water tank and started shooting a few great pictures like this one. :-)

After he had taken our group shot he asked me if he could borrow my camera for a bit. So he went back to the normally inaccessible area behind the water tank and started shooting a few great pictures like this one. :-)


A frog goes hiking: 雪山 (Xue shan) (Day 1)

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:07

Apparently my 雨神 (rain god) spell has been lifted. This was the second hike in short succession that I had great weather on a multi-day hiking trip! And this wasn't just any mountain - it was 雪山 (Xue shan, or Snow mountain) which had been on my list for quite a while.

After gathering in Taipei on Friday night we drove to 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm) where we stayed in tents for the first night before starting the actual hike the next morning.

This was my first time joining a more organized hiking group. Now, if you know me you know that things can't be too organized for me, but on the mountains that's a whole different story. Hiking single file at snail's pace on a well-established trail isn't exactly exercise, so after a little back and forth with the guide we were finally able to walk at a more natural pace. That has the added benefit of being able to take photos anytime it's worth it without stopping the people behind you dead in their tracks. With the sunny weather and the awesome scenery that was most necessary.

The only goal of day 1 was to get to the 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut) where we would spend the night. On the way, however, you can already climb the first 百岳 (a name given to Taiwan's 100 highest mountains), namely 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak).

We had to get up super early the next morning (ordinarily I would call it "the same night"), so after dinner I went straight to bed to catch as much sleep as possible. If I've learned anything from the last hike it's that sleep is probably the most important thing while hiking, so I was equipped with my trusted inflatable sleeping mat and earplugs. Even the latter ones worked well this time, and while I didn't sleep quite as well as the first night (I blame the lack of a good pillow), I was comparably well-rested the next day.

This post covers day 1. Day 2 is here.


Overview

The red track is the first day, the green track is the first half of day two before returning along the red track.


(Click the image for a larger version.)


Altitude graph


(Click the image for a larger version.)

GPS track

Hiking log

(As always, the altitudes are approximate.)

0600: Wake up
0715: Departure by bus from 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm) to the trail head, coffee break near the campground
0750: Arrival at trail head
0840: Start hiking at trail head, 2139 m
0945: Arrival at 七卡山莊 (Qi ka mountain hut), 2506 m
1005: Departure from 七卡山莊 (Qi ka mountain hut)
1135: Arrival at 哭坡觀景台 (Ku po view platform), rest break, 2976 m
1205: Departure from 哭坡觀景台 (Ku po view platform)
1245: 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak), 3201 m
1435: Arrival at 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut), 3140 m


Photos

The night sky over 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm). Well, either that or maybe it's just sensor noise.

The night sky over 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm). Well, either that or maybe it's just sensor noise.

Tearing down our night camp in 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm).

Tearing down our night camp in 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm).

Bears welcoming visitors to the 雪霸國家公園 (Xue Ba National Park). In reality you're much more likely to ...

Bears welcoming visitors to the 雪霸國家公園 (Xue Ba National Park). In reality you're much more likely to ...

... encounter these little creatures.

... encounter these little creatures.

The campground in 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm).

The campground in 武陵農場 (Wu ling farm).

Preparing for the hike in front of the 雪山登山口 (Xue shan trail head) at 2140 m altitude.

Preparing for the hike in front of the 雪山登山口 (Xue shan trail head) at 2140 m altitude.

The view is already beautiful before you start hiking.

The view is already beautiful before you start hiking.

I actually thought this butterfly was fake but was reassured that it's really just asleep - and that it's a moth, not a butterfly.

I actually thought this butterfly was fake but was reassured that it's really just asleep - and that it's a moth, not a butterfly.

A water tank right at the trail head. This was previously used for watering the plantations in the area and is now one of the campground's water sources.

A water tank right at the trail head. This was previously used for watering the plantations in the area and is now one of the campground's water sources.

It's nice to see the sea of clouds coming in as long as you're on the upper side and not hiking down.

It's nice to see the sea of clouds coming in as long as you're on the upper side and not hiking down.

桃山 (Tao shan), another of Taiwan's highest peaks in the area.

桃山 (Tao shan), another of Taiwan's highest peaks in the area.

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The so-called 哭坡 (Ku po), freely translated the "Slope of pain".

The so-called 哭坡 (Ku po), freely translated the "Slope of pain".

But luckily walking up isn't half as bad as the name suggests. I am therefore renaming it the "Slope of slight discomfort".

But luckily walking up isn't half as bad as the name suggests. I am therefore renaming it the "Slope of slight discomfort".

The higher we climbed the better the view got.

The higher we climbed the better the view got.

The view back.

The view back.

雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak) is conveniently located along the trail. All it takes to reach the top is a 20 meter detour!

雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak) is conveniently located along the trail. All it takes to reach the top is a 20 meter detour!

And from the same point you can already see 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut).

And from the same point you can already see 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut).

Raising the Swiss flag at the top of 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak).

Raising the Swiss flag at the top of 雪山東峰 (Xue shan east peak).

But because I like Taiwan at least as much as Switzerland I always bring a Taiwanese flag too! :-)

But because I like Taiwan at least as much as Switzerland I always bring a Taiwanese flag too! :-)

三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut).

三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut).

The interior of 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut). Maybe somebody should carry up a new mirror one of these days, but then again, looks aren't the biggest of your worries when you haven't showered for a day or two.

The interior of 三六九山莊 (San liu jiu mountain hut). Maybe somebody should carry up a new mirror one of these days, but then again, looks aren't the biggest of your worries when you haven't showered for a day or two.

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能高越嶺古道 (Neng gao cross-ridge trail)

posted by Martin Rubli at 16:02

What I expected to be the next rainy opportunity to climb one or even two of Taiwan's highest mountains turned out to be quite the opposite; a sunny but sleep-deprived hiking trip with no peaks to bag.

Since my own company apparently mainly employs unhealthy and/or lazy people, and therefore lacks a hiking club, I once again joined another company's hiking trip. The goal was to climb 南華山 (Nan hua shan) after hiking the 能高越嶺古道 (Neng gao cross-ridge trail).

The weather was great and took my experience-based pessimism by surprise. My waterproof pants were overkill and my rain clothes and umbrella went unused. Unfortunately, so did my sleeping bag, unless you deem hours of lying awake at night an appropriate use of a sleeping bag.

With all the money the government spent on rebuilding the mountain hut they could have installed some slightly softer mats, so that bony people like me don't feel sore whichever way they try to lie down. On top of that the snoring of my fellow hikers was so loud that my earplugs failed to do their job. I know I won't leave the house again without my inflatable sleeping mat, no matter what the mountain hut advertises, but I'm still researching ways to beat the snoring. Ideas are welcome!

As a result I didn't exactly feel like getting up at 0330 to climb any peaks and stayed in the hut instead. (I was finally able to catch an hour or two of sleep after figuring out that putting my hands under my buttocks was slightly more comfortable than anything else I had tried up to that point.)

While I was lying awake at two in the morning I was frustratedly contemplating the end of my hiking career. A few hours later in the car back I already made plans for the next hike. And so, these photos are unlikely to be the last hiking photos you'll see from me.


The start of the 能高越嶺古道 (Neng gao cross-ridge trail), shortly after the 屯原 (Tun yuan) trail head.

The start of the 能高越嶺古道 (Neng gao cross-ridge trail), shortly after the 屯原 (Tun yuan) trail head.

The east-west power line for which the cross-ridge trail was developed by the Japanese occupation forces.

The east-west power line for which the cross-ridge trail was developed by the Japanese occupation forces.

A 金針花 (Jin zhen hua), a type of [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemerocallis_fulva Daylily].

A 金針花 (Jin zhen hua), a type of Daylily.

A beautiful tree in front of the 雲海保線所 (Yun hai line maintenance station).

A beautiful tree in front of the 雲海保線所 (Yun hai line maintenance station).

百子蓮 ([http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agapanthus Agapanthus) that were apparently planted near the maintenance station.

百子蓮 ([http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agapanthus Agapanthus) that were apparently planted near the maintenance station.

One of the rock slides along the trail.

One of the rock slides along the trail.

The view back.

The view back.

Another slide along the way. Just a few days after our trip a biker fell down in this area.

Another slide along the way. Just a few days after our trip a biker fell down in this area.

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The view towards 能高主峰 (Neng gao main peak).

The view towards 能高主峰 (Neng gao main peak).

The 能高瀑布 (Neng gao waterfall) shortly before the mountain hut.

The 能高瀑布 (Neng gao waterfall) shortly before the mountain hut.

Finally arrived at the 天池山莊 (Tian chi mountain hut) which has just been rebuilt from the ground up.

Finally arrived at the 天池山莊 (Tian chi mountain hut) which has just been rebuilt from the ground up.

The common room of the 天池山莊 (Tian chi mountain hut).

The common room of the 天池山莊 (Tian chi mountain hut).

View from 光被八表 (Guang pi ba biao) towards 花蓮 (Hua lian).

View from 光被八表 (Guang pi ba biao) towards 花蓮 (Hua lian).

The 光被八表 (Guang pi ba biao) monument which was erected after completion of the east-west power line.

The 光被八表 (Guang pi ba biao) monument which was erected after completion of the east-west power line.

南華山 (Nan hua shan).

南華山 (Nan hua shan).

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The beautiful view from the mountain hut.

The beautiful view from the mountain hut.

Twilight at the 天池山莊 (Tian chi mountain hut).

Twilight at the 天池山莊 (Tian chi mountain hut).

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Below are the GPS logs for the three segments of the trip:

屯原登山口-天池山莊 (Neng gao ridge trail: Tun yuan entrance - Tian chi mountain hut)

Distance: ca. 13.5 km
Time: 5:50

天池山莊-光被八表 (Neng gao ridge trail: Tian chi mountain hut - Guang pi ba biao)

Distance: 5.4 km
Time: 1:45

天池山莊-屯原登山口 (Neng gao ridge trail: Tian chi mountain hut - Tun yuan entrance)

Distance: ca. 13.5 km
Time: 3:50


Typhoon Soulik

posted by Martin Rubli at 05:27

This weekend we got hit by the first typhoon of the 2013 season. Unfortunately the timing was once again such that the typhoon vacation fell on a Saturday.

Below are a few photos I took this morning after the worst had passed.


You'd think the security guards would have enough job dedication (or at least common sense) to walk around the building before the typhoon and move loose things to safety, but apparently that's too much to ask for $1400/month/apartment.

You'd think the security guards would have enough job dedication (or at least common sense) to walk around the building before the typhoon and move loose things to safety, but apparently that's too much to ask for $1400/month/apartment.

And that's why the whole swimming pool is littered with paper, buckets, and chairs.

And that's why the whole swimming pool is littered with paper, buckets, and chairs.

The people who (re)stabilized the trees after the last typhoon apparently didn't learn much, so the the trees in front of our house got uprooted again.

The people who (re)stabilized the trees after the last typhoon apparently didn't learn much, so the the trees in front of our house got uprooted again.

If scooters routinely get blown over by the wind then parking your bike outside is a long shot.

If scooters routinely get blown over by the wind then parking your bike outside is a long shot.

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This hairdresser's shop sign came down completely.

This hairdresser's shop sign came down completely.

I'd feel sorry for the owner of this new scooter, but you can estimate his IQ from the fact that he removed the rearview mirrors.

I'd feel sorry for the owner of this new scooter, but you can estimate his IQ from the fact that he removed the rearview mirrors.

This shop's sign also came off and got blown all the way to the other side of the street.

This shop's sign also came off and got blown all the way to the other side of the street.

Typhoon day is always payback day for those riders who inconsiderately park their scooters on the side stand, thereby making it harder for people on their left to get in or out.

Typhoon day is always payback day for those riders who inconsiderately park their scooters on the side stand, thereby making it harder for people on their left to get in or out.

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Verkehrshaus Luzern

posted by Martin Rubli at 15:37

The Verkehrshaus (Museum of Transport) in Lucerne is one of my favorite museums in Switzerland. It's so big that you can only get through about half the exhibition halls in a day. And it's constantly updated with new exhibits from the Swiss world of transport.


The Lake Lucerne near Vitznau.

The Lake Lucerne near Vitznau.

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The drill head of the tunnel boring machine used to drill the Gotthard tunnel. The piece is 9.43 meters high and 225 tons heavy.

The drill head of the tunnel boring machine used to drill the Gotthard tunnel. The piece is 9.43 meters high and 225 tons heavy.

The fancy projector at the "Planetarium" which projects the sky and videos onto the spherical ceiling.

The fancy projector at the "Planetarium" which projects the sky and videos onto the spherical ceiling.

The collection of small planes.

The collection of small planes.

The original [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Retrievable_Carrier EURECA] satellite that spent over 11 months in space circling the earth.

The original EURECA satellite that spent over 11 months in space circling the earth.

Space toilet.

Space toilet.

The missing Wright sister.

The missing Wright sister.

A giant miniature train system modeled after the [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotthard_railway#Northern_ramp.2C_Erstfeld_-_G.C3.B6schenen Northern ramp of the Gotthard railway] including a number of underground spirals.

A giant miniature train system modeled after the Northern ramp of the Gotthard railway including a number of underground spirals.

As always with labeling things that predate my own existence I'll go out on a limb here and declare this a steam locomotive.

As always with labeling things that predate my own existence I'll go out on a limb here and declare this a steam locomotive.

The famous (in Switzerland anyway) Migros Bus, which is a supermarket on wheels for villages that lack a supermarket. I always found it fascinating to go shopping there as a kid.

The famous (in Switzerland anyway) Migros Bus, which is a supermarket on wheels for villages that lack a supermarket. I always found it fascinating to go shopping there as a kid.

This hall houses a giant satellite image of Switzerland. It is so big that you can actually find your own house in millimeter size.

This hall houses a giant satellite image of Switzerland. It is so big that you can actually find your own house in millimeter size.

Ivy standing on the city of Chur.

Ivy standing on the city of Chur.

A functioning model of the old Titlis cable car.

A functioning model of the old Titlis cable car.

The automobile exhibition hall, completely covered in Swiss street signs.

The automobile exhibition hall, completely covered in Swiss street signs.


Swiss birds

posted by Martin Rubli at 14:55

Winter can be hard on animals in Switzerland, so we have a long-standing tradition of feeding them. In return they (unknowingly) agree to pose in front of the camera. I didn't have my 300 mm lens with me (why again?), so my universal lens followed by cropping had to do. Still, these few photos should be good enough for you to appreciate the beauty of these birds.

If you're Taiwanese you might want to notice the color diversity in our birds. I like to joke that Taiwanese birds only come in gray tones because every specimen that was cocky enough to sport colors either got eaten or stuffed. However, very recently I was lucky enough to spot a beautiful Black-browed Barbet and a Kingfisher on the same weekend. I guess that proves me wrong and I'll just have to start looking more closely. :-)


Blue Tit (Blaumeise)

Blue Tit (Blaumeise)

Bullfinch (Gimpel)

Bullfinch (Gimpel)

Blue Tit (Blaumeise)

Blue Tit (Blaumeise)

Long-tailed Bushtit (Schwanzmeise, Aegithalos caudatus europaeus). Apparently its head isn't quite pure white enough to be a Aegithalos caudatus caudatus, the Northern European group.

Long-tailed Bushtit (Schwanzmeise, Aegithalos caudatus europaeus). Apparently its head isn't quite pure white enough to be a Aegithalos caudatus caudatus, the Northern European group.

Long-tailed Bushtit (Schwanzmeise)

Long-tailed Bushtit (Schwanzmeise)

Greenfinch (Grünfink)

Greenfinch (Grünfink)

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Buntspecht)

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Buntspecht)


Switzerland 2013: Sapuen

posted by Martin Rubli at 15:33

Riding a sled is one of the simpler winter sports. Besides a sled that you can easily borrow you only need shoes that won't let the snow spray up your pant legs. (Note to self: Buy shoes that won't let the snow spray up my pant legs.)

It's also the kind of thing you can pick up well enough in the first ten minutes, so that you have fun in the remaining ten minutes of the downhill ride.

Here are a few pictures from the Sapün, a little side-valley between Chur and Arosa.


The beginning (if you're walking, that is) of the sled run leading through the Sapün valley.

The beginning (if you're walking, that is) of the sled run leading through the Sapün valley.

The snow was just hard enough to walk and just soft enough to get (re)acquainted with downhill sled riding.

The snow was just hard enough to walk and just soft enough to get (re)acquainted with downhill sled riding.

Icicles come in all kinds of shapes, including kitchen spatulas!

Icicles come in all kinds of shapes, including kitchen spatulas!

An old wooden covered bridge and the new one next to it. Getting yanked off the sled would really take all the fun out of it, something that the local forefathers failed to consider. :-)

An old wooden covered bridge and the new one next to it. Getting yanked off the sled would really take all the fun out of it, something that the local forefathers failed to consider. :-)

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The lazy way of doing it: Hire the snowmobile to the top, so that the exercise is safely constrained to the cheek muscles chewing your lunch.

The lazy way of doing it: Hire the snowmobile to the top, so that the exercise is safely constrained to the cheek muscles chewing your lunch.

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The view back.

The view back.

Ice climbing, anyone?

Ice climbing, anyone?

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Life's good when you're being pulled by a horse. The horseshoes' soles would later crumble and leave little rubber pieces all over Switzerland – perhaps something to do with this strenuous task?

Life's good when you're being pulled by a horse. The horseshoes' soles would later crumble and leave little rubber pieces all over Switzerland – perhaps something to do with this strenuous task?

Finally! After a well-deserved and delicious lunch at the [http://www.heimeli.com/ Heimeli] it's time for the fun part!

Finally! After a well-deserved and delicious lunch at the Heimeli it's time for the fun part!


Switzerland 2013: Arosa in winter (a.k.a. the silence of the squirrels)

posted by Martin Rubli at 11:38

The second installment in the White Switzerland 2013 series. We figured we'd go feed some squirrels along the Eichhörnliweg (squirrel trail) in Arosa, but either the squirrels had gone south for the winter or been (over)fed by tourists in the few days before. While we did see a handful of deers from afar not a single squirrel showed up, so there was really nothing left to do but point the lens at the snow.


The cable car to the Weisshorn.

The cable car to the Weisshorn.

The view towards the Weissflue and Chüpfenflue.

The view towards the Weissflue and Chüpfenflue.

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The Swiss answer to cold weather isn't to stay inside with the baby, but to strap a pair of runners to your baby cart.

The Swiss answer to cold weather isn't to stay inside with the baby, but to strap a pair of runners to your baby cart.

This is what happens when squirrels are hiding, leaving photographers bored ...

This is what happens when squirrels are hiding, leaving photographers bored ...

... and this.

... and this.

Waste sorting Arosa-style. A dedicated container for horse manure.

Waste sorting Arosa-style. A dedicated container for horse manure.

The upper lake in Arosa which is the course of the annual horse race. This year, however, the ice was a bit to thin, so the event was canceled.

The upper lake in Arosa which is the course of the annual horse race. This year, however, the ice was a bit to thin, so the event was canceled.

We came all the way from Asia to see ... Mandarin ducks. :-)

We came all the way from Asia to see ... Mandarin ducks. :-)

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