Saturday, May 9, 2015

An Easter Monday Hike - conquering 茶壺山 and 扳平山

  I love these people. Thank you all for "saying yes".  Fearless. Awesome. 

It's amazing how many hours updating a blog can eat up. I don't mind, don't have anything planned until later tonight, but I definitely had to make a run back to my apartment to grab my laptop charger to finish this post up here. I'd love to get paid for this- writing. Maybe someday... 

Sitting here on a Saturday morning/afternoon in a Cama coffee shop near my apartment. It's May. The weather is turning swiftly from spring to summer here in Taipei. I've had my air conditioning on, on several different occasions now at my apartment. Shorts and flip flops are back to being the daily "uniform" of choice when heading out. No lychees in sight... yet, but mangos have begun to make an appearance at the little local markets and bigger supermarkets like Jason's. 

In one of my last blog posts, I think it was one after the Chinese New Year, I made a little list, commenting on some small goals that I wanted to accomplish over the next year.  ONE of them, my FIRST goal on the list, included more hiking- specifically Teapot Mountain and Mount Jade. I'm happy to report that, less than one month after putting that goal in writing.... I conquered Teapot Mountain! 茶壺山 "chahu shan" and it's lovely neighbor-friend Banping Mountain 扳平山 "banping shan". 

Hiking Mount Jade requires a little more prior planning than simply praying for gorgeous weather and remembering to wake up and pack water, good shoes, etc.--  specifically you have to apply for hiking permits. BUT, as one of my Taiwanese friends has said on several occasions, foreigners here have the "white magic". He meant that, if we apply for the permits for our hiking group ( that *could* include a mix of foreigners AND locals ;) ) we're more likely to get them before Taiwanese people.... because the government "thinks" that foreigners are here temporarily I guess.

So, Mount Jade- coming soon.  But that day, Easter Monday (as luck had it, it was also the "Tomb Sweeping Festival" holiday weekend here in Taiwan. So, we were off from work. Here's a pretty good, local post I found about it - from a waiguoren commenting on traveling to his girlfriend's hometown   ) Teapot Mountain was waiting for us with sunshine on her shoulders, the bluest skies bowing down to meet the bluest waters of the North Coast of Taiwan, the fluffiest clouds outlining her borders, and a mix of STAIRS ( always stairs.... lol... oh, Taiwanese mountains. I love you), ROPES to climb up, and ROCKS--those "avalanche-consistency kind of rocks" (that didn't result in an avalanche- PTL). 

Honestly, the Monday that we picked, April 6th, 2015 the Monday after Easter, we could not have had better weather. Mostly sunshine and clear skies with the faintest breeze about 80 degrees F. I am going to completely, unabashedly, shamlessly gloat here in saying that our pictures - that my friends and I took- mostly now on our Facebook profiles, my other friend who blogs hasn't posted them to her blog yet- are THE MOST gorgeous of Teapot Mountain/Banping Mountain that I've seen on the web ....yet. Neil Wade's  are the only other's that could rival ours.茶壺山/  . Most other blog posts, except for Neil's, that I've found online have complained how "foggy/cold" it was when they hiked Teapot Mountain. But we didn't find ANY of that. Before organizing this hike ( with the help of my friend, Leo) I actually contacted Neil and asked him if his group was doing any hikes to Teapot. I've been hiking with him twice before and he knows the ropes ( and rocks ;) ) of Taiwan and her mountains very well. Sadly, he said no :( BUT as luck would have it, my ready-for-anything, energetic, happy-go-lucky merry band of friends from FRIENDSHIP church were ready (and crazy to be willing to-)  to follow me.... into the unknown. 

At the time, I was forgetting that I had the BEST resource at my disposal, my friend and very local ( originally from Keelung) Taiwan hiking guru, Leo Lin. Honestly, I've told him that he should moonlight a a hiking guide because he knows all of the mountains in Taiwan - he could probably walk them blind at this point. Not only that, but he has stories and is just so enthusiastic about hiking in general. Almost mere seconds after the words were out of my mouth wanting to do this hike, he had sent Facebook messages and LINE messages and FPC FB Group messages to all of our friends and contacts that he thought might be interested. I lined up the time, date, meeting place, details and just hoped that people would come and told everyone to pray for good weather. Despite having hiked in Taiwan several times, this time, I was a little.... scared. I was "leading" this hike ( as Leo continued to remind me over and over), and only maybe two weeks earlier there had been a pretty big accident -someone had DIED hiking the exact trail that we were taking. The person didn't die of a heart attack or stroke or any natural causes, they died because they slipped and FELL off of the mountain. From what I've gathered the person was older - 65 or 70 or so ( maybe it is uncommon in the US, but it's really not uncommon for older Taiwanese people to be hiking - usually out in groups of 3-4 people at least - in Taiwan... at all. Pretty regularly. I've seen small groups of them up on mountains smiling with thumbs up, telling me to "Jaiyou!" all the time (One time a group of friends and I ran into the former mayor of Taipei, Mayor Hau (郝龍斌) with a small group up on Yangmingshan). But this time, for whatever reason, this person who died on Teapot was out hiking when it was foggy/wet/rainy, NOT the best conditions to be hiking in at all.  This brings into question their mental state- was there alcohol/drugs involved? We don't know.... but still, it made me pause ( if only for 5 minutes) and think and pray that.... I could "lead OUR flock" on a gorgeous hike without anyone tumbling to their death.  

Here is a link to the "accident article" It's all in Traditional Chinese, but anyone with access to Google Translate, or another more reliable translation device can get the gist of the article. Needless to say, at least one Taiwanese person scheduled to travel with our group had seen this article and was worried. She ended up being late and not coming with us.

HOW TO GET TO TEAPOT MOUNTAIN: We took Bus #1062 from outside of the Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT Station (Exit 1) to the Jinguashi stop. The hike/trail begins at Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park.  

Teapot and Banping mountains are, combined, about 11km , so that's almost 7 miles of hiking -- with a pretty steep elevation. It took about 6 hours in total to complete. Seeing Teapot Mountain in the distance, on our way there, it reminded me more of a "Minnie Mouse face" or a "Thanksgiving Turkey sitting on a plate". But, squinting more, I could also make out the "Teapot" resemblance too.  

We were planning on going into Jiufen for dinner afterwards but resigned ourselves to taking the bus back to Taipei because we were so tired by that point. We all collapsed into our seats on the bus and I think, after a full, beautiful day, were content with our decision. Dinner in Jiufen can ( and will) happen ( in sunny or foggy weather) at some point. It's easy to get there from Taipei. 

Teapot Mountain in the distance reminded me personally more of a "Minnie Mouse side-profile face" or a "Thanksgiving Turkey sitting on a plate". But I could also see the "teapot" resemblance too. :) 
茶壺山 Teapot Mountain

"Dragon's Tail" - we hiked this thin outlined route you can kind of see here up toward it and to the right a bit. We did not ride the whole tail, but we slithered along a portion anyway (singing merrily as we went. :) ) More to conquer next time.  

"The Beginning". Before all of the the sweat led to sunscreen in our eyes, there were..... STAIRS.

A rainbow colored phoenix rising from the "ashes" ( roof of a temple along the way) has GOT to be a good omen for survival..... right??

A photo shoot that we stumbled upon and subsequently made no secret of taking photos of. "I just got a hot pic of the model!" - exclaimed *someone with an "Irish whisper" to one of her friends. The model smiled and giggled behind her shades. The person with the Irish whisper failing to realize that....many people speak English. I suppose even an English teacher is prone to.... forget. ;)

"Blurred Lines" - the sky kissing the sea. I can't tell where one ends and the other begins....

DEAD. and barely halfway there. LOL.

The view from inside the teapot. SO cool! We're inside! We made it!!!

Sar, reminding me of Indiana Jones, climbing up and out. Conquering the tomb (teapot) like a boss.  


Hahaha. We're so Taiwanese! ( well, all of us except for Leo, who looks puzzled. lol) "Asian peace" forever.

What we were up against. Straddling the side of the mountain. 
I mean...... speechless. <3

The city of Jiufen leaves her lights on for us as we descend. Nightfall, coming down from Banping. Our journey is over. We have  "risen from the tomb". Happy Easter. :) 

I am SO glad that everything came together so seamlessly with this little day trip.

As far as any future "group trip plans" -- I still want to plan a hike to Mount Jade ("permits permitting"), a camping trip to Smangus, and a very belated birthday dinner and KTV night at Partyworld in Ximending for my birthday- real date coming up on May 20th.... but any bday party plans will probably be pushed back to June - ( I'm thinking either Sat June 13th or Sat June 20th -depending on when Dragon Boat Festival is) because everyone/everything is busy in May- school graduation is happening, etc. plus a few friends here will be out of the country.

I KNOW that I've been slacking with blog posts. My 4 yr anniversary in Asia has come and gone (April 3rd). Mink's ( my cat's) 7th birthday ( April 8th) has come and gone. My trip home for Joy's wedding and reconnecting with Amy has come and gone ( April 17th to around the 25th) I've been SUPER busy getting ready for Graduation and "the end of the year" at school.... so blame it on that. AND my home visit -- 9 days between New York and Maryland and a little jet lag. All have knocked me off my "blogging every two weeks" schedule. But I'm feeling a little more balanced and will work my hardest to make sure I blog again before the next two weeks are up!!

until then.....


Tomb Sweeping Festival - 清明節   Qīngmíng jié

Bus - 公車  gōngchē.

Asia - 亞洲 Yàzhōu

Sunrise - 日出 rì chū.

Sunset - 日落 Rì luò

Happy - 開心 kāixīn 


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