Day 10. Wed, Feb 7th. Shihcheng to Toucheng. 6 hrs.
This was another day of walking with a limited diet, and again I found the effects were only subjective. That is, I felt tired, but made good time. On the painfully slow local train, I ate three sweet potatoes, which were deliciously sticky. Good energy food, if a bit messy. It was a day of mixed sun and cloud, neither warm nor cool. I got to Shihcheng at noon, and spent half an hour checking it out to make up for having been through in the dark two days earlier. At the fish port, there was a funny pair of guys talking. One was repairing a boat, and was super friendly. The other guy, mouth dark red from binlang, was sitting nearby. I said “hi” to both of them, but the binlang guy made a motion of shooting a gun, and said something in Taiwanese. He seemed to be saying he wanted to shoot me! I laughed it off. Then, I started out along the coast: The first point of interest was Dali: I checked out the Tien Gong temple, and noted the entrance to the Ciaoling Historical Trail. Then, another trail head further on, which led to a temple in the hills that I had noticed many times while hiking the Taoyuan Valley trail. It always had very loud Buddhist music emanating from it, which could be heard from kilometers away. It was a peaceful effect from a distance, but what would it be like if you were actually there? Then, on to Dashi. I had been there quite a few times before, but only to go to the beach and train station, usually for a beach party or after hiking the Taoyuan Valley trail, which is a much longer offshoot of the Ciaoling trail and terminates in Dashi.
This time, though, I actually saw the town. Dashi has quite an active fishing port. And on this occasion, I seemed to have arrived at the perfect time: ships and boats were coming in, docking, and hoisting cargoes of chilled seafood onto the quay, where vendors where grabbing them and setting up stalls. Coast guard guys in their trademark orange jumpsuits watched very carefully. Every port I’ve been in, no matter how small, has a coast-guard presence. But the people just ignored them: Buyers bought, people watched, people pushed through; some slipped a bit on the slimy floor. Men and women called out. There was noise and purpose, and an interesting variety of wares, including sharks and shark fins, and some attractive kinds of fish I’d never seen before. Some seafood (squid and something I didn’t recognize) was cooked right away in big pots and sold. A huge ice machine poured ice into the back of a truck. Boats came and went. It was great.
On I went, to the “famous” beach, which is actually no big deal as the sand is gray. It was quite quiet on this cloudy Wednesday afternoon. Around the corner and along the road, after a few km, I came to the Beiguan Tidal Park. I almost didn’t bother going in, as, after about 120 km or shoreline, I’d seen quite enough rocks by the sea, thank you very much. But then I thought “What the hell!” It’s a very pleasant little park, and free. There are some cool rocks, different than others I’d seen on this trip, and some old cannon. It also offers some good views of Turtle Island. Then, onwards: Through the long, stretched-out town of Waiao, at the end of which is a nice gray-sand beach. It’s really a long, safe-looking beach, but is surprisingly undeveloped. At the north end is a mysterious building, with distinctly Muslim architecture. It seems to be some kind of private resort or rich man’s getaway. At the other is the port of Wushe. This is a pretty big port, but not an international one. There were many different kinds of boat in the harbor, including sightseeing and other kinds of commercial craft, as well as the ubiquitous fishing boats. It was getting dark, so I skipped doing a thorough reconnaissance of the area, which, according to my rules of the road, I’d have to do next time.
An interesting thing about this area is that it marks a geographical transition. From Wushe to near Suao, the land is flat, as the mountains recede inland for a bit. It looks like the entire fertile area of Ilan is some kind of alluvial fan. As spectacular as the mountains and rocky coastlines had been, I was actually grateful to see the flat lands ahead. It was something different for a change. After a quick zip through Wushe, I slogged up the road to Toucheng, which is the main town in the township area. After asking about a bit, I found the train station, which thankfully was an important one with fast trains. Soon I was zooming back to Taipei, having walked about 20km, virtually the entire scenic area within Toucheng township