Liouguei, Kaohsiung (1) Nature promenade in the country roads

Written and photographed / Hsieh Chung Li   As one travels along No. 28 provincial highway (formerly No. 184 county highway), turn east and head north, one will enter Liouguei, a township inhabited by Hakka and Fukienese. Hakka live mostly in Hsinwei at the boundary of Meinung. Though this graceful country highway is now upgraded to provincial status, it remains tranquil and serene with rural scenery. One will arrive at Hsinwei after leaving Meinung. The nursery on the highland used to be property of the forestry department - a favorite spot for romantics. After ascending a steep slope, visitors will find themselves flanked by tall trees on both sides. Soon, one arrives at a front gate with rows of mahogany. The left roads are paved with pitch while soil roads remain on the right, leaving a rustic touch.   This dense row of “mahogany tree road” is about 400-meter long. The elegant mahogany trees remind one of European countrysides. In summer, the sinking sun paints a waning glow over the entire landscape. Should one visit the place in late winter and early spring, the place will be all covered up with fallen yellow leaves. No wonder the newly-weds love to have their wedding pictures taken here.   As one look beyond No. 27 provincial highway at the distant Launung Creek, one sees the jagged ridge of Liouguei Fire Mountain (also noted as 18 Buddha Mountain), the most prominent landmark of Liouguei. One has to be there in person to experience the splendor of these colossal rocks. About 54 kilometers away, receding hill sides begin to emerge, and a Chinese pavilion styled “Liouguei Service Center” provides respite for visitors. Continuing southward, the vegetation changes from coconut trees to Chinese rosebuds.   This used to be formerly a part of no. 184 county highway. In order to transverse the rocky landscape of 18 Buddha Mountain, a tunnel of about 2 to 3 kilometers is drilled. From the south of No. 184 county highway at about the 54.5 km road mark, one can turns into the old roads, which are respectively: No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 and the distance between road No. 3 and No 4 is of the widest. At the bank of the stream, there are wooden stairways and rest stations for visitors to take pictures. Right next to the mountain cliff, the rugged landscape is breath-taking while falling boulders constantly pose a danger to passer-bys.   The tunnels, evidently drilled during Japanese occupation, has thick vegetations on both sides. The middle section of “No 13 Kaohsiung country road”, located between Liouguei street area and Hsinfa Bridge, was once habitat to the famous Liouguei rainbow butterfly. After much effort by conservationists, the butterflies are returning once again to the valley. The month of July is the best time to view these lovely butterfly.   Viewers should resist going amongst the fluttering butterflies. They are more fragile than commonly perceive. The butterflies disappeared from the valley once because of human negligence. Fortunately, the Bombay blackwood forest provides shelter for the larvae of the yellow butterflies. The larvae could also feed on the nectar of the Lantana flowers. Of late, there were several reports of butterfly sightings. As a matter of fact, the presence of the butterflies in Red Water Creek is rather extensive: research shows that in the 11 valleys covering 400 hectares, there are as many as 250 types of butterflies and insects. Should mankind be more ecologically responsible, the chances of the Liouguei rainbow butterflies revival would be higher.   The road leads to Liouguei Village and Kwenlun Bridge, with clear road signs. Though one is unlikely to come cross the wonder of the butterflies, there are other types of butterflies such as yellow butterfly, phoenix butterfly, and spotted butterfly dancing in various colors and shapes. They are found usually in groups of tens. Lovely as the forest may be, avoid venturing too deep within without a guide as one can easily lose his way.   As one heads north one should not miss Bulau spring. Move on to Liouguei Lover’s Tree, and then to Baulai Spring and Southern Horizontal Highway. If one visit Liouguei, one can go on No. 3 national highway and turns to No. 10 national highway. Stop at Chiwei interchange which links to No. 28 provincial highway. Passing by Meinung, one can visit the scenic spots of Hsinwei nursery and Liouguei tunnel from south to north. For one to get to Liouguei, one can take bus at Kaohsiung, Chishan, and Meinung.