When I started out from Lonchang on yet another fine morning, the lovely weather and beauty of the Taidong countryside was yet again a tonic for the soul. But the journey there had been a bit arduous. I had taken a late night train to Hualien, arriving at about 3 AM, then waited at the bus stop for two hours, in the company of some interesting characters: a man of the countryside sitting nearby, rather surprised to see me; a gaggle of bin lang chewing youths sprawled over their scooters in the parking lot chatting loudly, saying gan and ji bai with every breath; and an old man in a singlet and boxer shorts wandering around in the rain. In the fullness of time, the bus came and we set off, once again along the Highway 11 coastline that had become so familiar.
The bus only went as far as Chen Gong, but that was no problem, as an opportunistic cabbie waited for those heading further along the coast. He named a price, and I haggled with him a bit. He caved in at once, beaming and chuckling, seemingly delighted to come across a foreigner with the gall to haggle like a local! But he was an old softie: When we had almost arrived at Longchang, he made a pit stop: where a rough track left the highway, he stopped, took a bag of dog food out of the trunk, and called out. Within seconds, a pack of skinny and diseased strays materialized, and mobbed the kind guy with almost heartbreaking affection. He came back soon, and within minutes he had let me off and it was time to walk.
After a while, I returned to the highway, which now followed the coast closely. There was beach after beautiful beach, lovely sand, sparking blue ocean, rocky points, small fishing communities, temples, a fine breeze. It was fantastic…except for my feet! Those tough new European boots were starting to do a number on my pods. As they say in Texas, “My dogs were barkin’!” After four hours I had to take them off. My feel almost had an orgasm when I did. The only problem was that my only other shoes were Tefa sandals.
I trudged on, being sufficiently uncomfortable to skip “Water Running Uphill”, a kind of optical illusion tourist spot. On I went, overall having a good time as that area is really beautiful.
I came to Shuishan beach, not far north of Taidong, where I had camped with my wife-to-be many years ago. ACK! That lovely beach had been blemished with the Mother of all Garishly Inappropriate Hotels – an utterly tasteless monster.
Past that there was an odd touristy art-park rest-stop. That was OK, as the art was inspired by Formosan aboriginal themes and used natural materials.
I trudged on, my arches being encouraged to flatten in the unsupported sandals. I was tired from virtually no sleep and a long day hiking in the sun with a backpack. Never mind!
The next point of interest was Siao Yaliou, another collection of rather interesting rocks by the sea. I gave it only a brief inspection, as I’m no “looking at rocks by the sea” neophyte! It was cool though, despite the obnoxiously friendly bicycle group roughly insisting I sit with them.
What I did like however was finding a sneaky back way into Fu Gang harbour. I love fishing harbours, maybe a holdover form living in Nova Scotia as a child. There’s something about the old boats being repaired, the industrial and mechanical activities and equipment, the smells and feeling: oil, fish, nets, boats, purpose. Fu Gang was a fish port and a tourist harbour, as the marine transport hub to Green and Orchid islands. There were seafood restaurants a plenty. And, as it turned out, a nice little guesthouse.
Flop on the bed in the air con, take a long shower, pop, clean, sterilize and bandage my blood-infused blisters; do my yoga stretches, drink a shit load of water, dress in clean clothing, and set out again on shaky pins in search of COLD BEER!!
Then, I went to the sea wall with a few pops to enjoy the view of the ocean in the evening light, and watch the locals fishing from high up on the wall. It was 15 meters straight down to the dark ocean.
Then, a solo seafood feast, and a burpy journey off to bed. No trouble getting to sleep!