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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Trailblazing

Same planet, different worlds:

A female expat blogger posts on how wonderful (Western) women have it in Taiwan compared to some other places laorencha.blogspot.com/2011/08/on-traveling-solo-or-coupled.html, while the BBC ascribes Taiwan's unbelievably low birth rate to the problems local women face in a traditional society www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-14525525. You make the call.

Compass Magazine. Sometimes the brown-nosing editors, who are so adept at making silk purses out of sows' ears, will include a truly useful article on things to do in the T'aichung (Táizhōng) 台中 area, such as this one www.taiwanfun.com/central/taichung/articles/1103/1103coverstory.htm, which led me to check out the Nanliao Chuk'eng (Nánliáo zhúkēng) Old Path 南寮竹坑古道 this afternoon. OK, so the "vast oceans of grass" didn't really "seem to reach out to the heavens", and the directions for getting there weren't very helpful (my wife actually showed me the way a couple of weeks ago). Still, I wouldn't have known about this trail if it hadn't been for the magazine, so I thank the good folks at Compass for the informative article, and I hope to read more of the same in future issues. Less sycophancy, more information please!

The Nanliao Chuk'eng Old Path consists of four short trails (a main trail, plus an A, B and C - I walked them all today with the exception of the short B spur) which form a loop that takes a couple of hours to complete at an easy gait. The path here is hardly a "hike", but it does make for a nice stroll, and if the weather is good (like it was this afternoon), the views out to sea aren't bad. I started at the Nanliao Village end, where the route first makes its way past a cemetery:


Though it's right in the middle of Ghost Month 中元節, things were pretty dead here (rim shot), so I kept moving along on the main path. Down in the ravine to my left was Trail C, which I used on the return leg of my walk. This picture was taken looking down on a rest area by an old well (dating from 1746), which can't be seen in the upper-left corner:


Continuing down (and past a mountain that supposedly resembled a carp, though I missed the association at the time, and thus didn't take a good picture of it. Next time, I promise), the views out to sea were pretty good. If you don't mind the occasional power station, that is:


Trail A branches off from the main route, and leads to a lookout point. Here's another view of the power station, this time with the No. 3 Freeway 國道三號 in the foreground:



This is about as pretty as it gets on the heavily built-up, industrialized west coast of Taiwan, folks.

The main trail ends at a parking lot in Chuk'eng, right under the freeway:


It had taken me almost an hour to reach the end, though I did take my time, took a lot of pictures, and stopped to use my binoculars. From the parking lot, it was a short walk over to the start of Trail C, located at the bottom of the above-mentioned ravine. The grassland scenery brought to mind images of the American Midwest. For some reason, I also kept thinking of Roy Rogers and Apple Valley:


According to the sign in front, this is a Sacred Fig (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_fig), the same kind of tree the Buddha was sitting under when he had his "A ha!" moment:


Trail C ends in front of a wealthy family's ancestral temple, closed to the public...:

...but just a short walk back to my faithful scooter. A bus was also parked nearby. The very devout (or extremely superstitious) driver had enlisted the divine help of the deities Doraemon ドラえもん and Nobita-kun 野比のび太 in order to keep himself, and his passengers, safe from malevolent demons, such as the one visible in the reflection on the windshield:


The Nanliao Chuk'eng Old Path turned out to be an enjoyable couple of hours of walking. Hardly demanding, yes, but it would probably make for a good outing with the family. If you go on a sunny day such as today, be sure to apply the sunscreen, as there is very little shade along the route. I don't mind being brown, but you know how our Taiwanese relations and associates feel about these things.

Happy trails to you.


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