An Unexpected Day with Mike
Oh, I love days like this, when nothing goes to plan! We had decided to go to Chuhuo with Mike. Did we go? No, plans change. But, after a lovely day together, how were we going to get back to Hengchun now we've missed the bus? All part of #grownuptravellers journey!
We arranged to meet Mike at the South Gate. Twenty minutes after he let us know he was on his way, there was no sign of him. How strange. A further ten minutes we went for a coffee and pinged him our location. And another 10 minutes he finally arrived. He was waiting for us at the West Gate by mistake.
We sat, enjoying our coffee and Mike generously gave us both a bottle cooler, some onions and chilli, the latter being extra veg given to him by a market stall owner. How kind, on both accounts.
Collectively we agreed to leave visiting Chuhuo as we had all been advised that morning from various sources that the evening is a better time to visit. What to do instead?
Longluan Lake, just outside the town, was the consensus, but not before having a bite to eat. Tim recommended a vegetarian buffet restaurant he found the other day while I was busy writing, and it was only a minute walk. The food was varied, delicious and cheap, what more could we ask for.
Rather than walk in the heat of the day, we caught a taxi to the Nature Centre by the lake. As we walked to the building, we noticed a sign informing us to watch out for poisonous insects, snakes and stray dogs - gulp! A little while later, a couple of visitors coming towards us shielded themselves from us using their sun umbrella. Oh dear, do we look poisonous?
We arrived at the grey modern building on the edge of the lake, learning that it is Taiwan’s largest freshwater lake. This reservoir was built in 1948 as frequent monsoon floods were causing heavy losses to local farmers. In turn, due to the geographical location and environment, migrating birds arrived, and now, many twitchers come here to view the birdlife.
The Centre provides telescopes for visitors to use through the wide glass window, so it doesn’t matter if it rains or shines. These telescopes are fixed, focussing on a narrow strip of rock with tree stumps for birds to rest. There we could see an Osprey, some Eastern Spot-Billed Ducks, Eurasian Coots, two Grey Herons and one Great Egret. We are getting like our good friend Sue spotting birds these days!
Sadly we forgot to bring our compact Canon with its 40x zoom, so I tried to capture a photo, not very successfully, using my mobile through the lens of the telescope. I wanted one of the Osprey together with two gold domes I spotted on the other side of the lake. How weird, I wonder what they are.
The three of us were expecting to have a nice relaxing walk around the lake, and then walk back to Hengchun, but there was no access or pathway. How were we going to get back? The road journey from the Centre was not very nice along a speedy dual carriage.
Mike suggested that instead, we could walk to Hongchaikeng where there was a Fishing Harbour. Yes, it was further away from town, but we could stop there for a drink and then get a taxi back to Hengchun.
Our walk was a good 30 minutes. Tim strolled up ahead while Mike and I sauntered, chatting away about him retiring from his kitchen and bathroom fitment company to come out to be with Audrey, who he met online three years ago.
We enjoying the countryside, passing by paddy fields, a neat stone wall along a creek which must have taken, a temple and beautifully painted electric boxes.
The small fishing village was quiet apart from the gentle lapping of the waves. We found a place to get a drink and sat on some plastic chairs outside, enjoying the gentle breeze and the flow of conversation.
The sun was dipping, so it was time we made our way back, but no signs of any taxis. The shop keeper kindly “offered” to drive us back to Hengchun but at four times the price of our journey to Longluan Lake, which wasn’t that far away. We declined.
Mike was getting fidgety and needed his cigarette fix. He asked a few people where he could buy a packet, but the answers were unclear. Tim went off to establish where the bus stop was, while Mike continued his search. A lady took him down the road, opened the door which looked like someone’s home, and there to his delight was a tiny shop selling nicotine.
We found Tim and walked to the bus stop. It seemed as if we had missed the last bus. Mike looked forlorn, but I reassured him that this kind of thing was all part of being a GrownUpTraveller and someway we’ll get back ok.
We saw a family walk on the other side of the road, so I went to speak with them. Using our trusted friend Google Translate, eventually, they kindly phoned a taxi for us. We thanked them profusely, waved goodbye and then sat and waited…and waited. The sun was dipping further down; it was starting to get dark.
A dog arrived and took a liking to Tim. While he was busy walking with the dog, I shared some of our similar exploits with Mike and how we always found a solution. Seeing Tim and I so relaxed, I think that comforted him, he may not have noticed I had my fingers crossed!
Gratefully, we saw the family return, and at the same time, they pointed to a car that had just arrived behind us – our taxi. Phew! Another GrownUpTraveller’s unexpected day!