Friday, November 14, 2014

Taipei- Day 3: River Tracing in Wulai

We had tentatively rescheduled our river tracing excursion for Monday- but I was EXHAUSTED! After 2 days of non-stop action, I wanted nothing more than to have a relaxing day seeing a few of the remaining sights from our bucket list before heading back to Fengyuan.

Part of my initial hesitation to go was because I didn't know exactly how to get to the Jia Jiu Liao stream. Besides mentioning the hike, the Lonley Planet book was almost completely worthless in terms of directions. In my preparations, I consulted several blogs for additional information and tried to piece as much information together as I could, but for the first time on the trip, I wasn't 100% confident on how to navigate us there.

After sitting in bed for 10-15 minutes, neither Cassidy, Heidi, or I, wanted to admit that we would rather stay in Taipei. I finally dug into the deep recesses of my motivation and decided to YOLO it. I decided that I would never regret an adventure (unless that adventure involves climbing down the face of the mountain).

It was actually MUCH easier to find the stream than I originally thought. After packing up our hostel, we said good-bye to the boys and went to the MRT station to store our bags. It was only 30NT per 6 hours- which turned out to be 30 cents each. We took the green line to the Xindian station, which also happened to be the end of the MRT line. We then waited in, what seemed like, a never ending line for the bus to Wulai.

Once on the bus, it was a steep, windey road and at one point a little girl threw up all over her mom's white shirt. I was a little shocked that the bus driver (and almost every other passenger on that bus) did absolutely nothing. I desperately wanted to help (after all it wouldn't be the first time I have had to clean up vomit), but I figured with the language barrier and my lack of tissues or wet wipes, I would actually be more of a nuisance. Instead what I got to witness was a sweet act of kindness- a complete stranger aided the mother by wiping up the vomit from the little girl, the mother's blouse, and floor.

I spent the rest of the bus ride a little bit nervous, the fate of our day rested on me being able to get off on the right bus stop- which was not that easy seeing all I had to go off of was the relative time frame it would take to get there, the knowledge that it would be around the 11.5 mile marker, and the name of the bus stop. (You would think it would be easy if I knew the name of the stop but unfortunately I have learned that you cannot always rely on the bus intercom system. After getting off at what I hoped was the Cheng Gong Village, the directions said to "continue walking downhill until you get to a red bridge." Well when we got off there were two downhill's we could go down, and nobody was around to ask. I decided to stay on the main road and after 10 minutes quickly realized that I had made a *huge mistake* (said in the best Gob voice I could muster). So I stopped to ask a man at a roadside fruit stand. Luckily pointing is a universal language. We ended up having to do the walk of shame as we turned around to head back down the other downhill. After about 15 minutes of walking I was relieved when this blessed bridge came into sight:

From here the directions were a little clearer, but not by much- besides turning prematurely into somebody's backyard we found the entrance to the stream with very little problems. True to their word, the scenery was breathtaking! It was so different than anything I have ever seen-the book wasn't lying when they said it looked like it should be part of a Tarzan's movie.

We started heading up the river and I realized one thing very quickly- the rocks were SO SLIPPERY. I wish I would have counted the number of times I fell, because saying "I fell a lot" is probably the understatement of the century. This is the first time in 7 years that I have ever been disappointed in my chacos.

Despite all the bumps and bruises from falling the day turned out to be pretty magical. I had created a secret bucket list for this vacation: I wanted to get invited to a family's BBQ, and I wanted to see fireworks. Well folks, Disneyland isn't the only place where dreams come true.

Apparently Wulai has so magic of it's own. About 10 minutes into our hike a family called us over to share their food (of course this was only after I fell right in front of them). Although their English was limited, and all I could say was "this food is good", "no thank you," and "we are full," it was such a neat experience. I did learn a few things- first as if moon cakes weren't bad enough, there are such things as "adult" moon cakes and second- even if you say no you are going to get some anyways. The mother kept giving us more and more food, some of it good, and some of it questionable. After telling them we were so full a million times, and taking a picture to commemorate the moment, they asked if we would sing Amazing Grace with them. So we sat there in this beautiful, amazing, place, singing Amazing Grace and having random strangers tell us "God Bless You". It was, hands down, one of the top 10 best moments of my life.

For the sake of my dignity (and perhaps your time) I will skip over most of my falls however there is one that deserves an honorable mention (because everybody loves to laugh at people falling, right?!?) Right after we left the family there was a cement barrier that we had to walk around to continue going up the river. Just as I was getting to the stairs, I slipped, but because of my placement on the rocks I could not seem to get up. Every time I would get on my hands and knees I would slip again, so I did what any self respecting person would do in this situation- I started laughing and exclaimed, "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!" Finally after about 5 minutes, I was finally able to compose myself enough to get my footing and go around the barrier.

The rest of the hike consisted of falling, getting up, falling again, posing for pictures, falling some more, getting up, falling again. I was humorously pissed (any one on Spring Summit would know this attribute). It can be really confusing for onlookers because I may appear ornery but really I am just frustrated in myself and the hysterical situations I always seem to find myself in.

There was also the time I banged my shin so hard on a rock I'm shocked it didn't break in half and protrude from the skin. I guess if anything this trip was another testament of the resilience of the human body.

When starting on the journey, our original goal was to get to the water slide at the end. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had a different  plan. About 10 minutes from the end we started to see lightning and hear thunder over head. I was nervous about the possibility of flash flooding (which the travel book warned us about), so we quickly turned around and got the hells out of there, of course not without falling another million times.

The 2nd most epic fall was probably when the universe decided I need to be humbled as I confidently started moving faster towards the end. Instead I slipped on a pretty smooth rock and landed straight onto my tailbone- I am shocked it didn't break but even 8 weeks later it still  hurts occasionally

Despite my initial reservations, I am so glad we decided to make the trek over to Wulai. It was a nice break from seeing the same architecture, same pictures, same signs, same scenery, etc.. (Can you tell I'm a little burnt out of sightseeing?) This is by far one of my favorite things I have done in Taiwan so far.

And as luck would have it my dreams of seeing fireworks were not dead. We saw a beautiful firework show from the comfort of the our bus seats- which I 've decided is the best way to see them. No crowds, no waiting in line, no being shoved by random Taiwanese people. It was magical- although not as magical as these seats from Disneyland last year.

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