Thursday, June 25, 2009

Days 37 and 38. February 28 and March 1 2009. From Jinluen to Dawu town centre, and from Dawu town centre to Daren.

Day 37:
The first coastal hike of 2009! Chinese New Year would have been a good time to get some km under my belt, but I had gone to Mexico for a family wedding instead. In any case, now here I was, on the road again! …But only after the usual elaborate transportation arrangements: MRT from Danshui to Taipei Main Station, HSR to Zuoying, TRA to Jinluen. I finally started to walk at around 11.45, after changing into exercise clothes in the train station.

Right outside Jinluen train station, the road was flanked by walls covered in bas-relief painted sculptures with aboriginal themes: snakes, warriors, etc. There were also some cute kids riding around on bikes, very pleased to spot and talk with a foreigner!

Onto the road proper: winding up a cliff, then back down to flat coast-hugging. It was a gray day and although the scenery was OK, it wasn’t anything spectacular or new to me.

However, I did come across something that I found interesting: A crew was installing a new wave-barrier wall of concrete tetra-blocks. I had never seen this actually being done before. Flatbed trucks brought in the huge blocks, and a couple of guys helped put the cable around the top of the block. Then, a crane lifted them off the truck and swung them into position, with the guys guiding the swinging block precisely into place. They were seemingly oblivious of the risk of being between a massive moving block and a stationary block, as they kept squirming carelessly between the two large masses!

Next to the new wall I could see how eroded and covered in sand the last series of blocks had become.

Risky yes. But well worth 200 NT per hour.

I moved on: The fading light found me in Dawu. It had a lot of restaurants and shops, so I figured it would be a good place to spend the night. I found a really cheap hotel – 600NT – and was shown my room. Aaagh! There were fresh wet spots in the middle of the bed, nice shiny ones too! Gross! It seemed like the traveling salesman had had a quickie with the farmer’s daughter. I asked for another room and was shown one a bit better, which I accepted. But it turned out not to be so great either. One thing I hadn’t noticed before taking the room was that there was no light switch for the interior light inside the room. The switch was outside, so I had to reach outside my door to turn the light on and off! Another bad point was that the bed cover was a shiny artificial fabric that kept slipping along the bed. But the worst thing was the stinky pillow! It must have been about 50% mite feces, and had been well sweated into over the years.

I woke frequently throughout the night, each time feeling a wave of mild horror. Little did I know that this uncomfortable night’s sleep would lead to an interesting epiphany the following day….

(Day 38:)
The next day dawned in groaning, stinky-pillowed weariness. I felt like crap. A look in the mirror confirmed the sensation. I got dressed and packed, and went down to have some breakfast. Then, I started trudging dutifully out of town.

A km or so out, I felt the call of nature. Just ahead was a full-service CPC gas station, with toilets. Fortunately in Taiwan it’s rare for these to be enforced as “customer only”.

I found the men’s, located the door to the Western-style crapper stall and opened it up.

Hallelujah! Heavenly trumpets blared! I was instantly transported to a better world, a higher state of being. Inside the spacious, highly private stall, all was white, clean, new and gleaming. A window near the high ceiling let in air and sunshine, and the odor was of the great outdoors with a tiny bit of detergent. Compared to my hotel room, it was heaven! After making my deposit, I actually stayed on a bit longer, drank another small bottle of coffee and read the paper. When I emerged, it seemed as if the stain on my soul of the long dark night had been erased. I started laughing at how the toilet had cheered me up so much, and with that gentle self-mockery, the bad feelings of the previous night were swept away. Thank you CPC, for that wonderful experience!

As loyal as a dog, the East Coast never disappoints when it comes to beauty.

On down the road: In a few hours I came to Daren, where Highway 9 diverged from the coast to cross over the mountains into Pingdong. A small road, Highway 26, continued down the coastline. That would be my next route, for another day, as I guessed there was no bus service along this route. I was getting closer to the last bit of coastline in Taiwan with no road. In fact, the last two bits!

Sorry guys, but I think you got the swatikas the wrong way round!

Beautiful Daren township. The end of the main road for me.

A quiet sort of place.

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