Thursday, July 9, 2009

Day 40; April 12th: Gangzai to Joupeng + Road hike to Hsin Chuang in Pingdong

I was on the road just a whisper after dawn, and enjoyed the fine morning air and light. I crossed the beach in front of the large dunes, and on the other side came to the small road going south. But I was not to take that road further south today, as some friends had said they wanted to do that final section leading to Jaleshui with me.

Sand dunes on the beach

This was my last shot of the day as my camera battery died!

I couldn't continue south today, so instead I decided to test myself. I intended to hike as long and as far as I could and only stop when I started to feel really bad. I would follow Highway 200 to Hengchun, and from there could easily make my way home.

The first part of the journey was through Joupeng. This is a really small, farmy little community in a valley that mainly seems to subsist from cattle farming. There were cows and scatological evidence of their existence everywhere, with beasts meandering along the road and even grazing on the sports field at the elementary school! (Well, no sense wasting good grass now, is there?)

There was some tourism but it didn’t overwhelm the place. There was lots of local character, including groups of women chewing bin lang outside their homes and gossiping!

Then I was through it and following Highway 200 up gently sweeping hills. They were very lush, and there were dead snakes on the road and monkeys hooting in the trees. Below, I could see one huge rice farm that snaked up a green valley like a fat, emerald-coloured python.

After about 4 hours of walking, my feet started to hurt. This was after 30km with a medium pack the day before, and only light boots. I kept at it. Hours went by, and everything was great – the view, the temperature, my being on schedule, my overall energy level, my motivation – except my feet!

It wasn’t my arches, and blisters weren’t the main problem: it was just the whole front part of the foot felt sore to the bone! When I stopped to take a break, it felt much worse for a few minutes after I got started again.After 6 1/2 hours of walking and about 35km, mostly on hard pavement, I had had enough. My dogs were barkin’!

I stopped at a bus stop, in the town of Hsin Chuang, and thinking that it read “no afternoon bus except on Wednesday”, but being unsure, I asked a soldier carting boxes of water to read it for me. He confirmed what I thought. It turned out he was from Singapore, here on training. They don’t have a lot of mountains and jungle in Singapore for their soldiers to train in, so they often come to Taiwan. That explained the odd convoy of right-hand drive jeeps that had passed me earlier.

I got a drive back with an unlicensed cab, and the driver confirmed that it was quite common to see the Singaporeans in the area. We passed a few squads of the Singaporean soldiers out on a hike, mostly Chinese with a few Indian dudes thrown in. Then to Hengchun, and bus, TRA, HSR, MRT, home!

When I got home my feet ached and were slightly swollen for a few days.

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