FYI SOUTH Magazine, December 2005

Kaohsiung 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 Mud Ponds.