Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 25: Thursday, July 3rd, Fongbin to Shihtiping Fish Port, Hualien County

A day of amazing light, only hinted at in these photos.

Got the bus to Fongbin late on a bright and sunny morning and I was back on the move. The day was already hot – stupid idea for me to start at noon! The coastal scenery was nice, but not remarkably different than what I had seen before. The most significant thing about the day – other than the fact that walking under the hot sun with a backpack is a hell of a lot harder than walking on a cool day without one – was the light. It was not too humid and the sun was ablaze with light. The air itself seemed almost to glow with sunlight, as if it was resonating, saturated with it. The blue of the sky was a truly passionate colour. The ocean blue was such a deep, mysterious one. The green all around was really bright and joyful. The colours actually inspired feelings so strong they felt like physical sensations.

Time's Radiography

As the afternoon slowly drew on, the light became gentler and slightly more yellow. Whiter rocks were stained yellowish orange by the relaxing sun. Shadows were etched out of the mountains, first becoming definition, later shade. The ocean colour darkened as the light gently receded. Because we were on the east coast, with a high mountain ridge to the west, there was a false sunset, with the sun disappearing from view about 5pm, but only setting after 6.30. So, there was a lingering twilight, quite rare in my experience in Taiwan. That day’s route was mainly along a straight patch of coastline about 12km long. At the end was Shitiping fish port. There was a low headland, with white rock formations in the ocean. There was also an excellent camping area, but I ended up paying for a guesthouse before I found it. Good thing I lugged my tent all day! After showering, eating, re-hydrating and changing my clothes, I ventured out. It was still only 5pm.

Shihtiping Fish Port

Rocks in the ocean near Shihtiping

A long and gentle twilight

I wandered around on the rocks, where there were many campers and tourists checking out the tidal pools, and the sloshing and gurgling water of the surge channels. The water flow around some of the half or barely submerged rocks was extremely complex. I went inside to read my book for a while. Later, after a few beers, it had gotten truly dark. I went out and noticed that the stars were amazingly bright. The dry air, cloudlessness and lack of light pollution allowed me to see what is always hidden in Taipei. There were tens of thousands of stars. Every quarter of the sky was filled with bright constellations. Best of all, the Milky Way was visible, the first time I had seen it in Taiwan: two diaphanous veils of starlight arcing across the sky. I stared, gaga, at the sky for an hour. Then I went to bed.

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