Taiwan nature is not far from reach, if you live in Taichung.
Dakeng Hills are so beautiful and so close to the city. The forest that covers most of the area looks like a real jungle.
This is the place where we can immerse in the nature, just a few minutes drive from the city.
But, being Taiwan a large, almost tropical, island, not everything is “Hello Kitty” up there …
Taiwan Nature – the Beautiful
I often wondered which kind of trees where those elegant and slender ones, with long leaves, so common on these hills, especially on the ridges.
Well, thanks to Wikipedia now i know …. Those trees are called Taiwan Acacia (Acacia Confusa). They are very common in Taiwan lowland forest.
Impressive tree ferns – with a very weak trunk – can be seen in several areas in Dakeng. They really give a Jurassic Park feeling …
Taiwan Nature – the Scaring (but Harmless)
When you walk on the hills at the end of the summer, between September and October, you will spot a lot of huge spiders.
These spiders are called Giant Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila philipes).
Some scholars from Tunghai University described this spider also as “Giant Wood Spider“.
The spider is common in Taiwan and in all South East Asia. Different varieties are found from America to Australia to Southern Africa. The body reaches 5 cm, but with the legs are larger than your hand.
The Giant Wood Spider is able to weave an extremely strong web, with exceptional mechanical properties (currently some researchers are trying in different ways, such as spiders farming or using genetic engineering techniques, to produce viable quantities of this “silk” with astounding properties).
The Giant Wood Spider is almost harmless. Anyway an Australian guy commented that the Giant Wood Spider is
“Mostly harmless, but they have inadvertently killed some 20 people over the years. The people died either from fright or tripping over as they tried to avoid or escape from their rather strong webs.”
These spiders in Taiwanese are called Human Face Spiders – the white spot on the back resembles a human face with two eyes.
Here is the popular tabloid “Apple Daily”, apparently short of gossips that day, with striking pictures of a Giant Wood Spider eating a bat. Actually the Chinese Wikipedia mentions that they have been observed eating sparrows too!
Taiwan Nature – the Nasty
King Kong is the most notorious resident in Taichung eastern hills, anyway.
It is not the giant ape but an insect called “small King Kong” or “little black mosquito” by Taiwanese people.
Actually King Kong is not a mosquito but a tiny biting midge (Forcipomyia taiwana) that is only 1 mm long. It sucks the blood and, in doing this, causes intense itching that is much worse than any mosquito bite.
A few times I had to bear itching and swollen legs after a trip to Dakeng. These symptoms normally begin the day after the hiking and last one entire week.
A pharmacy in Dakeng recommended this ointment … I strongly advise to have something like this with you, if you are planning to have a walk on the hills.
King Kong midges have been studied already by Japanese scholars in 1913 but, until recent times, this pest was not so widespread.
In the 80’s this nasty bug invaded Dakeng, probably because of the fast developing betel nuts orchard in the area, and started to make headlines in Taiwan. King Kong recently have been recorded in many others lowland areas in Taiwan.
The King Kong, unlike real mosquitoes, is not active at night, but only in the day, especially in the late morning and noon. The most infested areas are the most humid, such as close to ditches and bamboo stands.
And we did not talk about snakes …