Revisiting Taichung's Toubienkeng Bat Cave
By Richard Saunders, Special to The China PostThe roof of the dark passage is so low that I have to bend almost double as I make slow and difficult progress along the tunnel. The floor of the claustrophobic passage is submerged under a centimeter or so of muddy water, which has already soaked my trainers and socks.
April 17, 2008, 12:00 am TWN
After a couple of minutes, a side junction on the right ends by punching a hole through the sheer cliff face into which the tunnel is cut, allowing the daylight to flood in briefly, and partially draining the tunnel via a delicate waterfall that emerges from the cliff and falls directly into the little river below.
Returning to pitch blackness after walking a few meters further down the tunnel, it’s a further couple of minutes’ paddling before sunlight begins to flood into the chamber once more; a few steps further, the cramped tunnel opens out into a far larger, natural cavern with a gaping mouth opening onto the Toubienkeng Stream below.
It was over a decade ago when I first visited the Bat Cave at Toubienkeng (頭汴坑蝙蝠洞) in Taichung (台中) County and ventured inside. This time the lack of a spare pair of dry shoes and socks to change into (and no flashlight) stopped me plunging into those muddy, wet and spooky depths to enjoy the experience once again, but even from the outside the Bat Cave is an impressive sight. Toubienkeng Bat Cave is a combination of natural caves and man-made tunnels bored through the rock during the Japanese occupation to channel water from the swiftly descending river to irrigate fields downstream. The cave once ranked among the official “top ten” natural sights in the Taichung area.
Its ranking has slipped somewhat since then — the bats have long since gone elsewhere (no doubt fleeing the assault of noisy, flashlight-toting adventurers that once thronged here each weekend) and the visitors who come here these days are mostly local, but the cave is still worth a visit. The entrance to the tunnel is a small black, rather uninviting slot in the cliff face, but 50 meters along the cliff to the right, the exit is via a gaping natural cavern which looks quite imposing, even from the nearby road.
Toubienkeng Bat Cave is just a short excursion from Taichung City, and there are even fairly regular buses (run by Fengyuan Bus Company) from a bus stop diagonally opposite Taichung train station to the cave, a 30-minute ride away, while visitors blessed with their own transport can make a day of the trip by including a few extra sights en route.
The exit of the Bat Cave is via the gaping mouth of a natural cavern. (By Richard Saunders, Special to The China Post)
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