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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Typhoon? What typhoon?

It isn't even a typhoon, anymore - Nanmadol was downgraded to a tropical storm, and while it did dump a lot of water on the southern and eastern parts of the island (see BBC article here:, central Taiwan was spared. Typhoons being the unpredictable beasts that they are, however, the decision was made Sunday evening to close public schools in our area, which in turn led the owner of the cram school where I'm employed to close up shop today. So, while my wife had to work and Amber still went to her (private) kindergarten, I was free all this morning and afternoon.

Upon finding myself with some unexpected free time, and with the family car at my disposal (I'm usually the one stuck with the scooter), I decided to do the logical thing on this typhoon day - go for a hike. Arriving in the Tak'eng (Dàkēng) 大坑 area around ten a.m., I started up the No. 2 Trail, and almost immediately came across of a small troop of Formosan macaques 台灣獼猴. They were too far away, and were moving too quickly through the trees, for me to get a picture of them, but I took the sighting to be an auspicious sign. And it turned out to be as much on this three-hour hike, at least as far as the weather was concerned. With the exception of a few sprinkles at the beginning, the rain stayed away, and there were plenty of cool breezes as I made my way up the No. 2, across the No. 5 and down the No. 2 and back to the parked car. I still managed to sweat profusely, however.

I may not have been able to get any pictures of the monkeys, but I did get a shot of this colorful bird sitting all alone in a rest area atop the No. 2 Trail:

The bird made no attempt to flee, so I don't know if it was hurt, or just somebody's pet waiting for its master to return. In any event, it was nice to finally have one of these rest shacks to myself - they're usually commandeered by large groups of noisy picnickers, or nappers:

Considering the weather, and the fact that it was a Monday morning, there were more people out on the trails than I had expected. Still, most of the pavilions along the paths were empty, so I was able to stop and take in the view in places:

Looking toward the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 from the No. 5 Trail. Those mountains often act as a buffer between central Taiwan and the typhoons that frequently batter the east coast:

This small snake kindly paused long enough for me to take a picture:

At one point, as I was descending the No. 5 Trail, I encountered an unusual sight. A middle-aged woman and two middle-aged men, all three dressed in black and wearing white headbands, were standing in a clearing on the trail. The woman was chanting something, while the men stood behind her with hands clasped in prayer and holding banners with Chinese characters written in ink on them. Watching the proceedings was another obasan, this one in regular clothing. My wife thinks that someone may have met their untimely end in that particular location, and that the figures in black were attempting to call the soul back "home". I didn't feel that it would have been appropriate to have stopped and taken a picture, so I continued on my way past them. I don't like taking photographs of people without their permission, though in special circumstances like this one, I would have tried for a long-distance shot (the bend in the trail combined with the tree cover prevented me from doing so). The next time I'm on this trail I'll have to keep a watch out for ghosts!

Looking down on the town of Hsinshe (Xīn​shè) 新社:

I was told by another middle-aged woman standing nearby that this photo of an orb-weaver spider was "hen p'iaoliang" (hěn piào​liang) 很漂亮, or "very beautiful". I'm assuming she meant the spider, and not the quality of the photograph:

I generally don't enjoy "typhoon days". For someone like myself who is paid on an hourly basis, it can mean a loss of income for the day. Today, however, I was at least able to get out and get some exercise, which is much preferable to being stuck indoors waiting for a storm to blow through. Tomorrow is my usual hiking day, so we'll have to wait and see what Mother Nature has in store for Tuesday.

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