Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lanyu Island part 2

We awoke on Saturday morning to a world of promise. Here we were on a beautiful tropical island with the means to travel and a curiosity to drive us wherever we wanted to go. After the usual ablutions we mounted our rented scooter and headed southward in search of the beginning of the trail to Tienchi and Tashenshan. Tashenshan (Tashen Mountain) is the more southern of the two large mountains of the island; Tienchi (Heaven Lake) is a lake formed in the old volcanic crater near the summit of Tashenshan. John and the girls had decided to join an organised mountain hike that morning but organised, guided hikes just aren't our style.

We found the trailhead across the road from the island's garbage dump. Nice. There were already a lot of people waiting around for something. We supposed that they were all waiting for guides and for organised hikes to begin and so we rushed to get started, intending to put as much trail between us and them. We wanted to have the mountain to ourselves; selfish perhaps but we feel that some of the magic of a nature hike is lost when you are surrounded not only by the nature but by a hoard of other tourists chatting loudly, playing music, and so on. It is also quite painful to be stuck behind people moving more slowly than you want to be moving for long sections of trail.

At one point you descend into a rocky little ravine with ropes on either side to help you up and down. Andrea didn't need ropes; she had me.

Tienchi! Heaven Lake! Very nice but perhaps all a little too easy. We would have preferred a longer hike to a higher altitude I think. And we also suffered a little of that loss of potential magic I mentioned earlier, having to share the moment with an organised hiking group who happened to arrive at the same time as we did. Of course the group leader was bellowing information at everyone else including us and we decided to leave and circumnavigate the lake in search of a trail that would take us to the summit.

We never did find the summit although it was nice to be lost for a while in the jungle around the lake. As soon as we began the hike back along the trail on the return leg we bumped into John and the girls and received a negative report on the guided hiking experience. That made us feel good that we'd opted to go solo (if two people can go solo. Does that make sense?).

By the time we returned to the trailhead we still had plenty of energy in reserve and decided to continue exploring southwards on our scooter.

There are a few sandy beaches on the island but most of it is antithetical to sunbathing or playing beach volleyball. Here I am wandering alone (apart from Andrea who took the photo) across a barren landscape of craggy, unfriendly rocks that jut every which way desiring to open a vein and bleed you so that they can feed on your blood. Something like that. Maybe not so geologically conspiratorial.

Close to the southern tip of the island we found this beautiful crag jutting out from a lovely bit of grassy hillside. It really felt like Ireland although I must admit that I have never been to Ireland myself although I imagine that it feels just like this.

Here is Andrea standing amidst the very Irish-feeling location looking like... an Irish girl. There's just something about the way her hair is swaying in the wind. It reminds me of Ireland and Irishness.

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