My friend Dawei and I had driven down the night before, and stayed at a small hotel in Hengchun. Then, bright and early the next day, we drove his car to Jaleshui, after first arranging for a driver to take us from there to Joupeng.
When we parked at Jaleshui, next to a surfer hotel called Winson House, I suddenly had to take a crap. This was full on la du zi, and waiting was not an option. I ran up to the hotels, and looked into one. It was empty. I called “Hello!” several times, but there was no answer. I found a toilet in the back and used it, leaving it as clean as when I came.
But when I exited the hotel, a surprise was waiting for me: the owner was there, looking totally pissed off that I had used the facilities without permission! He wasn’t a big guy, but had one damaged eye, which made him look a bit sinister. And he was absolutely furious! “What are you doing?? This is a private house! It’s private, you can’t just go in!” I looked around. It was a small hotel lobby of sorts, with a desk, bulletin board, and seating area. I said, “But it’s a hotel!” He responsed: “I don’t care!” I explained: “Look, I tried to find somebody but I couldn’t, and I had la du zi!” But he refused to believe me. He stayed angry and vaguely threatening. Eventually, we moved the car out of fear that he would vandalize it.
Our driver showed up and drove us to the drop off point, a pleasant 30-minute country drive. Soon, we were back in cow country!
We walked south along the small road, noticing signs of abandoned houses. We soon came to a small village, where we asked the local police officer for information on the trail. We got a strange answer: “You are not allowed on that trail,” he said. We protested, but he insisted: “I am sure! You are not allowed. So, I cannot explain the route to you.”
My Taiwanese friend caught the subtle hint, and said, “Let’s go!” to me. The cop turned his back and didn’t follow out movements.
This mean, it was explained to me, that we weren’t allowed, so he couldn’t tell us “OK,” but he wasn’t going to stop us!
We found the trailhead just past the fish port. What started as a track rapidly degenerated into basically a line well above the high-tide mark where beach rocks had been compacted by foot, bicycle and motorcycle.
We shlepped along for a while. For such a forbidden beach, it wasn’t actually a big deal. It was beautiful, but unfortunately covered in garbage. It looked like debris from fishing boats: floats, nets, and water bottles. The brands and Chinese characters on the bottles clearly indicated that they were Taiwanese ones, too, despite things I’d heard from my Taiwanese friends about the garbage coming from countries like the Philippines!
There were some very nice green hills to our right, covered in stubbly bushes and grass. An old fisher dude on a motorbike passed us. We came to a stream that had a small fishing camp at it. It clearly looked as if someone stayed over night there sometimes, under a tarp, with blankets and other stuff. The stream seemed pristine – except for the garbage in it!
After this point, the path disappeared. Basically, the jumble of larger rocks left no one obvious route to be smoothed down into a trail. We made our way at half speed. It was neither easy nor really hard. To our left there were some lovely rock formations sloping down in clear-cut lines into the bright blue surf. Later on, there was a point that was made of wind-shaped sandstone. There, the wind was really intense. It seemed that when we reached it, we were abandoning the protection that the southern peninsula offered from the open wind of the Bashi Strait. We stopped for lunch there, huddled out of the wind. It was a fascinating area: there were interesting rock formations, a view south to the radar station at Longpan, and large rusted ochre segments of a modern ship that had run aground there years ago. It might well have been what’s left of the Amorgos, a Greek freighter that had run aground off Kending in January 2001.
After that, it was a pretty straightforward slog down the beach. We passed a pair of guys with bicycles. That seemed pretty strange, as it was pretty clear that this was not a great trail for bikes. It would be painfully slow and inconvenient over about half of the distance, as you’d have to carry the bikes while hopping on and off car-sized boulders!
As we got closer to Jaleshui, the car-sized boulders became truck-sized, and progress was often made by scrambling and low-grade climbing. But all told, no big deal. We passed by some sort of police outpost, no doubt designed to prevent access to the trail, and got stared suspiciously at. In the small beach near the post, which was serviced by a small road, there were families out harvesting shellfish, or clearing the scooter trail near the beach. And then, a long-awaited milestone for me and my little pocket-sized adventure, Jaleshui! Getting there represented the end of the difficult part and the beginning of the easier, although doubtless longer and less interesting one!
Dawei and I walked back past all the famous Jaleshui rocks, which quite honestly were nothing special compared to what we had seen that day on the “forbidden” section. We got to his car, drove into Kending, got a hotel room, pigged out at Amy’s Pizza, and then got drunk on the beach. Ahhhhhhh…burp!