Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day 33: October 31st, 2008. Taidong to Taimali township.

This day started out with a late night journey to Taidong on a train that left Taipei Train Station at 11pm and arrived in Taidong at 6am. I’m OK at sleeping on trains, planes etc but needless to say it wasn’t a terribly restful night. It was a lovely morning that awaited me in Taidong city though. I took a cab and found a nice cheap traditional small hotel – which may have also functioned as a Love Hotel. At least, their blanket wrap concept seemed a bit erotic. Or was I missing my wife already?
I walked through the town to get to the Taidong Forest Park on the northern edge of town, right on the south bank of the Beinan river. It was pleasant enough, and had a long, shallow lake enjoyed by several swimmers despite the signs saying that it was of course INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS!!

Beinan River flowing under the Zhonghua Bridge

IDF training maneuvres

I went to where the Beinan river enters the ocean. At such places there is always a sandbar, and it’s interesting to watch the complex interaction between the river current and the waves: the current accentuating the surf, as it slips along its ever-changing path of least resistance.

Complex interaction of river and surf
After that, for most of the next four hours, it was a straight beach walk. Taidong has a great beach. It’s a bit rough and gravely for a swim in many places, but there were calmer spots. Loads of driftwood. There is also a lot of nice parkland right on the beach, some of it tarted up a bit for tourists.
The sun burned through thin clouds and I started to become very aware of its strength, but I had on enough 50SPF sun block to keep a vampire alive. It was sweaty work, and I drank about 4-500 mL of water per hour.

Framing the sky?

Past the town proper, the beach became wilder, but still easy to hike. I loved the visual effect of the bands of colour: dark cerulean sky, sparkling blue sea and silver-gray beach, brightly and warmly alive in the noonday sun.
I cut inland a bit on a farmers’ road that ran parallel to the beach. Although I’ve seen my fair share of farmland in Taiwan, there’s an intense vibrancy and fertility in the appearance of the rice and other plants in Taidong that I haven’t seen elsewhere. There were also loads of birds, reptiles and insects. Non-human life in general seemed more “full-of-beans” than anywhere else in Taiwan, whereas the human life seemed to move more slowly. I guess that’s a hallmark of the real tropics.

Traditional dwelling

Today is a good day to fish

Vibrant farmland

After alternating between beach and farm road, I finally cut back to the highway to get some food and liquids. I trundled along for an hour or so, and got to the end of Highway 11, where it intersects with and becomes Highway 9, in Taimali Township, just south east of Zhiben. Then, I waited at bin lang place with a wide room and tables where, the boss said, the bus would stop if I flagged it down. They sat me inside in the shade (I was in OK shape, but definitely a bit tired and sweaty) and I drank a couple of very cold bottles of Taiwan Beer. AHHHHH! As much as I love a pint of Guinness in a cozy pub with good company on a Saturday night, cold Taiwan Biru after a hot hike in a rural locale is still better.
Inside the large shack, flies buzzed around. Some old guys with badly bin lang-ed teeth shot the shit, while the younger owner and his wife rolled bin lang. A skinny, starey-eyed cat wandered around. Then, one of the guys suddenly offered me a ride to Taidong! Great!

Bands of colour

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