County's Mud Volcano
By Steven Crook Translated by Annie Liu
Photos by Steven Crook
Beneath the surface, Taiwan is seething. Geothermal
activity has given the island dozens of hot springs,
steam vents like those in Yangmingshan National Park,
and - strangest of all - a number of mud volcanoes.
Kaohsiung County's Yanchao Township
- inland of Gangshan - has one of these curiosities.
The 4.89-hectare Wushanding Mud Volcano Nature Reserve
is a little difficult to find, but makes for a good
countryside daytrip. The landscape around here is marked
by ridges of bare clay hillocks, and often likened to
the surface of the moon.
Despite the loud buzzing of cicadas, as soon as you
turn off your car or motorcycle's engine, you'll hear
the "gloop-gloop" bubbling of the mud volcano.
It's a very short walk from the entrance
of the nature reserve to the volcano itself. The cone
is as high as a man; the crater is about a meter in
diameter. Bubbles of gas erupt every few seconds - stand
close and your clothes might get spattered. A trickle
of mud winds it way down the side of the volcano, and
disappears into a hole in the ground. Surprisingly,
the liquid mud inside the crater is cool to the touch.
A few meters away there's another volcano
that has been extinct for a while. And elsewhere in
Jinshan Village there are the old and new Yangnyu Mud
Ponds - chocolate-colored pools which gargle constantly.
To the left of the entrance to the mud volcano reserve
is a track which leads downhill through forest and bamboo
groves to National Kaohsiung Normal University's new
campus. It's a 20-minute walk one way.
A trip to Wushanding can easily be
combined with a visit to Agongdian Reservoir, or Jiguanshan,
where there is a monastery. There's also a back road
from Jinshan Village to the town of Cishan.
Take the old freeway to the Gangshan Interchange, then
drive eastwards through Yanchao's small downtown. There
are bilingual road signs to mud volcano and the Yangnyu