Long and cold walk to Chilan

Trip Start Nov 06, 2006
Trip End Dec 31, 2008

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Flag of Taiwan  ,
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Route: Baling - Mingchih - Chilan - Yulau
Total Distance: 40 km
Altitude up: 700m
Altitude down: 900m

A look out of the window confirms the worst. It is still raining and the wind blows strongly. A walk onto the street makes us shiver as it is even colder than yesterday. To go or not to go - this is here the question? After a few yes and no and yes it stays with Yes. There are two reasons for it: One is that I want to finish at least this section and the second that the weather report does not give any hope of improvement for the next days.  The staff looks with disbelieve when we step out fully packed. I am still only wearing my fast dry T-shirt and rain jacket backwards - this time its just not enough. I wrapp an old newspaper, I brought from the hotel for this purpose ( and TsaiChin's suggestion ), around my torso like a haring on a fish market to protect against the wind and suck up the sweat.  It works pretty Ok. Tsai Chin who knows she will only walk for 1 or 2 days and knowing it would be cold has brought enough warm cloths. What helps to keep us warm is that we have to walk up about 600 meters, which keeps our body engine running. It still rains and we use the umbrellas, only providing limited protection as wind gusts blow the rain sidewards. Water is running off the rock wall on the side onto the road and many stones are lying scattered in our way - hope none will fall on us. It shows how dangerous it is to use the mountain roads in heavy or after long time rain. We stop at a ranger station at about 1140m and talk to a worker briefly. He seems surpised to see two walkers in such weather and perhaps because of this forgets to invite us in. So we move on quickly as standing in the wind is despite being wrapped in newspaper too cold. When leaving we see a thermometer on the building wall and can't believe our eyes: 4C, close to freezing. 4C, wet from rain and strong wind, what stronger motivation does it need to make us move even faster. A relative short distance from the station is a hidden trail about 200m down to a natural hot spring in a river valley. We pass by this time for obvious reasons. Finally at 12:30 pm we arrive in Mingchih - now do not expect Mingchih to be village, it's just famous for its prestine forrest, small lake, a quite big hotel with wooden huts, a lot of fog and rain and lower temperatures in summer - but who the hack needs all this NOW ?! Except for the hotel. We enter the restaurant and beside two staff only one couple with two kids are in there. They are curious what we are doing - they seem to have seen some ghosts. But after they have understood, pity sets in and we get served fried rice, cabbage, a very tasty chicken soup and water melon for pretty little money. By the way, if you imagine a western mountain hut with open fire or a heater, think again - nothing at all, and that's pretty usual in Taiwan. Inside and outside is almost the same temperature minus the wind and rain. So the hot chicken soup came in really handy. People in the houses just wear many layers of cloths. We sit in a sort of attached glass house with forest view - a kind if winter garden, but this comparison is now really not funny.

As this hotel is quite expensive ( but also very nice ) we decide to walk on to Chilan, another 18 km. We thank them for the great meal, which provided us with new strength and fresh spirit. One employee gives us a package of six self-made cookies - very, very nice and as we later find out they are also very tasty. The next 8 km are flat or go sligtly down. Tsai Chin gets somewhat tired and hitch hikes on the back of a flat-bed transporter. We meet about 5 km down the road again at another, larger forest station. This station is beside a forest road No. 100, which leads to big trees and the Mandarin Duck lake. But without pre-registration it's not allowed to go in. She asks me if I could agree to stay at the station for the night as one employee must have offered her. I agree as it would be another experience, but when we both ask again the boss decides otherwise - reason not asked. By the way the thermometer at this station shows 7 C, already on lower altitude. We walk the remaining 11 km,which then will make it 40 km for the day. My legs also feel meanwhile pretty sore and Tsai Chin gets another ride with a young aboriginal family - my mission is to walk, so I walk. It is now downhill all the time, that is tough on the legs, feet and hips - I feel pretty sore and more cold as walking down does not generate as much heat. I can see the Yilan/Chilan valley, but the road keeps on winding down, it seems never ending and I begin the regret my decision not to have taken the ride. At 5:45 pm I can see the crossing of the road I walk on and the one running in the valley. A small bus passes by me and I can see how Tsai Chin stops the bus. I begin to run as good as I can with my sore legs and a backpack. The bus takes us to a village Yulan, about which Tsai Chin has read of some places to stay. The bus by the way is not a public bus, but only serves the villagers in the mountains. We do not have to pay and thank again. I will walk this section on my next section into the mountains, so I have no problem with the bus ride and anyhow it gets already dark. Unluckily the places to stay we call either do not answer or are closed or are peparing for the upcoming holiday. We walk by several places and find one pretty nice hotel-like homestay with a tong pu for 1300 NTD the room, no power to look further, we are now on our feet for 10.5 hours, rien ne va plus, nichts geht mehr. When I unwrap myself from the newspaper I look like having a full body tatoo with text and pictures printing ink. Luckily it comes off in the hot shower, the best shower for a long time - finally warm again..

Sleep, just s l e ep...
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