Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Day 7 walk

Day 7: Wed, Jan 31. Shenao to Bitoujiao. 4 hrs.
I had a bit of a rough time getting the right bus to my starting point. I had eyeballed a promising looking bus stop on the way back on day 6, but none of the busses that stopped were going the right way. Finally, I took one that I thought might be going the right way, but after being on it for five minutes it clearly was not. I had to get off, and take a taxi to the coast road, then wait a good 30 minutes for the right bus. But, eventually it came, and I got to my starting place about 1.30pm. Starting at Shenao was not terribly impressive, although there were some nice views of Keelung Mountain. The road at this point was usually the only reasonable option and it was obviously a busy truck route: and not small trucks either, but really big flatbeds and container trailers that zoomed along, often verging onto the shoulder. I passed a big oil storage facility, probably for the power plant, and then the road started hugging the NE side of Keelung Mountain, where it sloped down to the sea. The view of the sea was nice, but hardly a novelty at this point. The first point of interest was the outflow point for the massive drain the Taiwanese government has built to avoid flooding at Shijhih and other points along the Keelung River during typhoons. The drain goes from the Keelung River in the mountains not far from Keelung itself, and diverts a portion of the river underground to the ocean. The outflow point is big, but not huge. The next point of interest was the old Lile copper smelting facility at Chinkuashih, which really is a fascinating sight. The first interesting thing I noticed is the bay, which was discolored with a strong brown tint, which I could see from kilometers away. This tint got redder as I got closer. This strange area of water, with the brightly-tinted water contrasting with the dark blue of the Pacific, is often called the "Yinyang Sea". As I turned the corner into the bay, I saw strangely shaped mountaintops forming a near horizon, their tops twisted and deformed. There was a clear south view of Keelung Mountain, which I’d just come around; and on the slope leading down from the strange peaks to the reddish-brown bay was a huge old mine building. The building was seemingly covered in a thin layer of moss, so it was almost exactly the same gray-green color of the hillside. The land around was barren. The entire effect was quite striking, and had a slightly dream-like feeling. Onwards, after the bay, the twisting road became sandwiched between rocky cliffs and the stony seashore. From time to time, there were concrete shelters over the road, to protect it from falling rocks from the cliffs above. These were similar to avalanche shelters I’d seen in alpine areas of Canada. There were a few small parks and fish ports along this rugged route, ending in a very pretty one, Bitou Jiao, or “Nosehead Cape.” This is a quaint harbor, with a big hill protecting it from the ocean on one side. I climbed up the hill, then down to the shore, which was a wave-cut platform of exposed rock next to the sea. A sign said that this was some of the hardest limestone in Taiwan. I enjoyed walking along the simple fisherman’s trail along the platform, visible only because it was scuffed a bit whiter than the surrounding rock. Then, as always a long wait and return bus journey home.

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