If you’ve read part one then you know that my trip to Taiwan had a bit of a rocky start. If this had been a year ago then I would have been pretty upset that my trip’s plans had fallen apart. Fortunately, I have learned that travel is just like the rest of life and that plans fail. So, I had read a lot and had some great sleeps, but by day four of my trip I was very ready to get out of the city.
Thankfully, after a few days of listening to the wind howling and seeing the grey of the city against the grey backdrop of fog and cloud, I woke up on day four to sunshine and beautiful blue skies.
I headed to the bus station and caught a bus to Keelung, which is about 30 minutes Northeast of Taipei. Keelung is a port city and it smells like ocean. I headed to the information desk to ask which bus I needed to get to Bitou Cape. The staff at the information center were wonderful, even after I ended up going back two more times for clarifications. (The bus network in Taiwan is notoriously complicated.) Eventually I did make it onto the bus, one with a bus driver who –-miraculously– spoke English. I started to worry a little bit because my guidebook told me the bus trip would be about twenty minutes and after a half hour I still was not at my destination. My worry wasn’t too extreme though because the scenery was stunning. I figured that no matter where I exited the bus I would find something awesome. After about an hour the bus pulled over and the driver told me that this was where In wanted to be. He even gave me directions to the trailhead. I don’t think that I can describe how beautiful the hike was. Here are a few of the things I saw:
I was taking a break in one of the hilltop sun shelters, snaping some shots of the views, when I glanced down and froze. About a foot away from me was the biggest spider I had ever seen in my life. I know that this picture offers no frame of reference for size, but please believe me that it was significantly larger than my hand. I decided to leave the shelter and upon exiting I saw that there were at least two more of these giant spiders residing in the shelter. Eeek! I didn’t know this at the time, but apparently my new spider friends were a type of Nephila Maculata. They are among the largest spiders in the world, but they are also relatively harmless to humans.
The valleys were filled with butterflies. They were everywhere. I did a little photoshoot with some of these black and white butterflies; however, it turns out that butterflies are about as cooperative as puppies when it comes to staying still for photos. Oh well, here’s one shot:
After my hike I caught the bus back to Keelung. I wandered around the city for a bit. If my main complaint about Taipei was its greyness then Keelung was the perfect antidote. I walked through Keelung Miaokou, which is a night market but still has plenty of activity during the day. I also climbed up to Chungcheng Park, which overlooks the city.
It had been a hot day. The only thermometer that I saw was in the shade, but it read 33°C. I had been walking in the sun all day and I felt that I had earned a bit of time relaxing in the park. It was there, sitting in the park and overlooking the harbour at sunset, that I realized I was going to be the bus seat-mate whom I would normally avoid. I stank. It was with this bit of self reflection that I decided to head back to Taipei to shower and sleep. I still had one more day of adventure ahead of me and I wanted to be well rested.