River-tracing Hualien

We didn’t know a whole lot about river-tracing, which, for whatever reason, didn’t much bother me.  Not all shared my nonchalant attitude towards an itinerary and timeline.

The next morning we hit the road 5AM with the chase car, and drove into a bed of clouds looming in the lush mountain lulls.  It was just like the Oriental art I’ve seen my entire life.  Winding the diesel VW up and up, we stopped to marvel at the sun’s blinding shimmer on the Pacific.   It wasn’t until the accosting horns of a passing truck that I realized the extended shoulders were for big trucks to make wide-turns, not for me to angle-park my van and stand on the roof for optimal photo-sessing, as I had so happily assumed.    Long, dark, tunnels pierced through the mountains.   In a coastal village we had a rest and breakfast.   A fella with a betel nut stained grill snapped our photo with an Aboriginal Warrior of Yilan County.  Milk tea and stuffed sticky bread.

We’d soon be chucked on the side of a Mountain.  We were set to trek, boulder, and swim our way up Three Levels River, into the Golden Gorge.   This is not often traversed.   I challenge you to find much record of it.   Lead by the descendants of aboriginals, we moved swiftly with our essentials up through the current, leaping from one boulder to the next.   The rain came and provided some relief from the stifling August swelters.

After three hours of forging deeper into the tropical forests, we made camp along the river in a relatively flat bed of sand.  We pitched tents and scoured the surroundings for firewood.    It was mostly the Z crew who’d supply the fire’s fuel.  Well, it was entirely the aboriginals, but as runner-ups.

Up the river, down the hatch.  Those who started drinking hard early, passed out hard early, and all for the best.  Survivor-like opinions and alliances formed.  It was natural western behavior, and I was not exempt from it.  We’re a strategic lot, we want to get what we want. Amazing how it’s all the same in the end.  We bathed in the river, shat in woods.   The aboriginals hosted a ritualistic thanking to the mountain Gods.   Nature’s nuances, a rising moon, a flowing river, it was all very zen.

The fire took nearly two hours to get roasting, we were limited to the soaked wood of wilderness.   Typhoon season just ended.   But, to our guide’s credit, succeed on to BBQ’d pork, that had a tantalizingly melty taste, seducing my tongue in a dumb-happy stupor, like a drunkard in an empty street on his way home to his love.   The meat tendered by the boar’s freedom to roam the mountains.   We passed a bottle Johnny Walker Black about and anxiously awaited the sausage.  At this point, I wasn’t hungry, so either the mind-bending deliciousness was a real, or a result of time/place.  Probably both.

The night narrowed.


Take on Taiwan

Carl and I were smothering our sobriety in the EVA air lounge, high off the adrenaline of an impending adventure.   I was attempting to get some contracts completed and out before the inevitable disconnect from The West.

We left shortly after 1AM, and chased the night around the world.  It was dark for almost all 15 hours of our flight, racing at 900KM/ hour, 36,000 feet in the air, covering 14,000 total KM.

Taiwan is a tropical island of beauty, cuisine and genuine hospitality.   The people’s care is superior and not by design, but virtue.  They don’t even realize how gracious they are, as the warmth is innate and unyielding, unless conflicted with the rules.  The Taiwanese people will truly go out of their way for you, as long as they do not have to break any rules.  Because, the rules are the rules and that is the end of it.

Breakfast for 6 fat American men, please. We were taken to the local spot around the corner by the half-sexy concierge. We ordered and ate breakfast sandwiches, rice squares and mystery wraps. Once finished we ordered another round.

We are on the other side f the world and seldom would such be forgotten.  Within the first twenty four hours we knocked out a world-famous Night Market, A Mega Club and world class bathhouse.  The night market was full of weird, stinky, and delicious foods.  I ate at a duck’s head, biting the meat directly off the neck, while his noggin bobbed beneath my chin.   My teeth tearing the gamey meat, like lame buffalo wings.  I think it’s supposed to be chopped up and used in a stew.   Stinky tofu is a tough sell, but worth a try.   The grilled meat and seafood at the night market, and throughout the trip was superior in tenderness and taste.   Bubble tea, and watermelon juice washed it down with sweet refreshment.  The only thing sweeter than the Taiwanese people was their beverages.

Mega Clubs thumped with all the gaudy glamour you’d expect.  If clubbing is your scene, these are bar-none.  A sea of people raise, shout, sing, grind and move to the thunderous rhythm of state-of-the-art sound systems, beneath a quarter million dollars worth of lighting.   MYST.

By the time we wanted to karaoke, K-TV was closed.   B and I hit the bathhouse across the way.   It rivaled the best in the world.  The first room provided all the washing amenities you could imagine.  The next was open and opulent with gold dragons and numerous pools, varying in temperature, depth and jetting.  The following provided all the primping and cosmetics any man could ever need.   Next was a massage room, or, through a secret passage was a special massage room.  Special = sex from prostitutes.  If you were not to detour, you’d next walk into a restaurant, carpeted with eastern designs, and royal decor.  Big fish swam in massive tanks – it was all very zen.   You could order food, drinks, or move on to gamble at the electronic slots.   By 7AM there was only me, B and several passed out dudes, all sleeping in I’m-too-drunk-to-move positions, bracing their heads in strange ways, with their weight collapsing on the seat however gravity chose.  The only other people around were the staff, who seemed unbothered by the unconscious crowd.

I walked outside and was blindsided by that dumb feeling of the sun’s rise before my fall.   Only then did I realize the repercussions lurking in the already arrived morning.    10AM I strapped up my trainers and popped in headphones, looking to get lost in the music while I sweated out the toxins and shame.   I ran along the river until lost in Taipei.   Drenched in sweat, it was time to take on Taiwan.