Three tunnels along an abandoned road on Shibaluohanshan (Eighteen Arhats Mountain, 十八羅漢山) in Kaohsiung that was once a key route for the camphor oil trade are now popular tourist attractions, and are expected to draw a lot of visitors over the Lunar New Year holiday.
One of the Liouguei Tunnels (六龜隧道) in Liouguei District (六龜) is inhabited by hundreds of Taiwanese leaf-nosed bats, while another is home to a large number of Pacific swallows, all of whom took up residence in the tunnels after 1992, when the road through them that was built in 1936 was replaced by one that bypasses the mountain.
Liouguei District is between the Pingtung Plain and the Central Mountain Range, and its forests, at 800m above sea level, were perfect for camphor trees, said local tour guide Chang Yun-cheng (張運正), whose family has lived in the area for several generations.
During the Japanese colonial era from 1895 to 1945, Liouguei was known for its output of camphor oil, which was a key ingredient in insect repellents as well as smokeless powder used in the production of bullets and artillery shells, Chang said.
The lucrativeness of the camphor trade led the Japanese colonial government to construct a route through Shibaluohanshan in the 1930s to facilitate the transport of camphor and logs.
The Japanese drilled six tunnels with a total length of 792m along the route, Chang said.
However, the importance of the tunnels as an economic and strategic lifeline gradually faded after Japan withdrew from Taiwan in 1945.
However, the increase in traffic in the 1980s, with a heavy volume of vehicles carrying visitors to Shibaluohanshan and other forested sites in Liouguei and neighboring Meinong District (美濃) led to the construction of Taiwan Provincial Highway 27A, which opened in 1992. At the same time, Shibaluohanshan was designated as part of a nature reserve, which left the tunnels to wildlife.
The Forestry Bureau reopened three of the tunnels to visitors in September last year, and hired guides to provide tours of their ecological and cultural features.LiougueiTunnelsprovepopularvisitorattraction