Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day 36: December 14th, From Taimali town center to Jinluen.

After a good sleep, I set off again. I followed the road out of town, looking for my way down to the ocean. I spotted a promising route, and followed it past a military base. Oh my God! I thought, as I saw the base. That’s strange! Wow! That’s really intriguing! But, unfortunately, I cannot say why, as it might constitute a legal offence to some boneheaded prosecutor. Sorry! If you want to know, go check it out yourself!

Past the base was the beach. There was nobody on the beach, and it felt strange and lonely. A river joined the sea here, and it joined at an angle, as it first cut right and followed a channel parallel to the coastline for a few tens of meters before joining it. The sea and river were separated by a band of gravel. Waves were crashing really hard on the band, making a terrific roar, and then sometimes spilling over the gravel and running into the river for a short ride back to the sea.

The Jones's from down the road, Austronesian style

It was an overcast day, and somehow the grayness of the sky and rocks, the fierce crashing of the waves, and the loneliness of the beach gave me a strange otherworldly feeling, like I had stumbled back to another time. It was of course merely a subjective experience. But it reminded me of how our sense of normality is so well maintained. We reinforce it as much as possible, to give us security. But how different our ideas, impressions and feelings can be if we are taken away from all that is familiar. Or, in this case, shaken into a slightly more sensitive state by a night in a shitty hotel in a slightly odd town, plus seeing the odd thing I can’t talk about, and then experiencing a raw and powerful beach alone. I think that it’s that novelty of inner experience that brought me to Taiwan in the first place; and that led me to take my long walk around the island when my day-to-day life had become too familiar.

The lonely beach in the distance
But familiarity breeds security, as well as boredom.
Security on this project to me was all about route planning. Where could I get a train to where I wanted to go to transfer back to Taipei, at what time and were seats available?

After the beach I kept on, and found myself taking the highway because the beach route looked tricky: lots of rocky points and cliffs, with no guarantee that I’d be able to pass all the way to the next access out. There were also rising tides and rogue waves to consider. Maybe it was doable but I couldn’t be sure. It goes into the “make up bin” of odd little bits of coast I’ll have to make up before I officially finish, if I discover that they were doable.
Teeming with life

Roadkill reptile

I walked along the road, dodging massive trucks, as the route climbed up on the cliffs again, as the terrain became reminiscent of the Su-Hua highway. In time, it rounded a corner to the small aboriginal town of Jinluen. It was a quaint little place, with a train station and a 7-Eleven.
My plan was to get back to Taipei by taking the Southern Link railway from Taidong to Kaohsiung and then transferring to the High Speed Rail. Because of this, I stopped at mid-day so I could get back no problem and figure out the timing for future trips. After I got my ticket, I had some food and beer at the 7-Eleven. It was amazing how much more confident I felt in the 7-Eleven than in a small place with a red mouthed local guy saying “Hi man, check it out!” and then laughing at his own intense wittiness. I was back on the grid: I had a train ticket, was at 7-Eleven, and had figured out the next few hikes on the map. I was back in my route security happy place!


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