The natural world contains innumerable different treasures. All of them are special, from the highest mountains right down to the seashore with its ocean sounds, beaches, and cliffs. My favorite places in nature though, are rivers, and rugged, boulder-strewn rivers at that.
I like them so much because, to me, they have everything. The banks of the river provide natural homes to the scores of animals, birds, and insects attracted to the area. The rocks and boulders that litter the river bed and its flood plain make for the perfect playground; if you’ve never jumped up and climbed over riverside boulders, then you really should give it a try. If you do prefer something more relaxed though, the rocks also make for a great picnicking spot. What makes mountain rivers so fascinating though, is the fact that they constantly evolving. With each heavy rainfall, boulders and logs are moved, washed in, or washed away, and the environment never looks the same from one year to the next. If all that isn’t enough for you, the scenery is usually pretty good too.
Meishan, The Great Gorge梅山大峽谷 is a quiet and out of the way destination in Chiayi County. It contains nearly everything I love about nature, and is certainly one of my favorite places to visit. The sandstone walls of the gorge are contoured with years of heavy erosion. They are beautiful when seen from afar, but when you get close and look at the lines and patterns running through the rock, they really come alive.
In various places, streams running down from the surrounding hills, pour over the rocks and down into the river. Some of the water collects in small pools which become a real haven for all forms of animal life. Tadpoles or frogs, along with crabs and snails can be seen in the water. Marvelously skittish dragonflies in shades of electric blue or bright scarlet fly and buzz above the surface. There are also a wide variety of colorful birds that bob, dip, and swoop through the gorge.
Getting down to the river’s edge is fairly easy, and from there you can walk along the sands of the riverbank, and see you the chasm in all its glory.
To get to Meishan, The Great Gorge, leave Meishan town on the 162 road. Drive past Taiping太平, stay on the 162, and head on towards Rueifong瑞峰. About 9km after Taiping you’ll come to a sign advertising The Great Gorge. From there, simply follow the sign down the side road. You’ll arrive at a small holiday resort which marks the entrance to the gorge. The resort is home to a few very charming cottages which would be ideal for families or couples. Children will also enjoy the on-site butterfly and insect farm.
It will take you about 3 hours to get to the gorge from Meishan, so it’s quite a long drive, but it’s also spectacular. The views of the Central Mountain Range are amongst the best that I have ever seen.