Exhaustion, Joy and Romance
Our day was planned. We decided to hire a car for the day. Car hire in Taiwan is usually quite expensive, but luckily Tim tracked one for a bargain £30. What I wasn’t expecting was such a range of emotions. Exhaustion, Joy and Romance and in that order!
We were itching to be in the countryside. Looking on the map we found some trails just 30 minutes out of the city. The Dakeng Scenic Area has ten trails ranging from easy to hard. As my lower abdomen was still a bit tender, we opted for two easy routes, numbers 9 and 10. OMG, I am glad we did!
We walked up to the start of the two trails; 9 to the left and 10 to the right. Luckily we opted to turn left, and you’ll find out why we were lucky later.
The first 20 minutes was on a steep, hot concrete slope. Phew, I struggled. How is this the easy path?
My feeling of exhaustion took me back to early in our relationship when we went skiing for the first time together. I had only been skiing once, so a novice. Tim, on the other hand, was a fit and avid skier. I remember getting upset and crying to him “I don’t know why you are with me, you should be with someone athletic!” Those feelings of holding Tim back and being useless reared up again, but not for long. I am a bit older and wiser now.
While I recovered, Tim found a tree dripping like me, but from lychees rather than sweat! He handed me a few; they were so sweet and succulent, just what I needed.
We rested, enjoying the views of the sprawling city stretched before us like a metallic jungle—such a vastly different environment to the lush green spine of the island. We carried on, and the climb changed from concrete to sandy loam to wooden steps. Up and up we went, with Tim patiently waiting from me as I frequently rested. Somehow I found some energy and persevered.
We’d reached the pinnacle, or so I had thought, we started descending but was dismayed to see more steps going up. When will it end? Up and down, up and down. The scenery was wonderful, though, which made all the effort worth it.
A lady coming the other way looked like how I felt. I smiled sympathetically, and she stopped to chat. Nina said that due to the Covid 19, she was now working a three day week. She worked for a company that makes and exports machines internationally.
70% of total GDP in Taiwan is from exports with 98% being industrial goods. We hadn’t realised the extent, despite no lockdown here, of the knock-on effect from the rest of the world.
We chatted for some time, Nina was so friendly and welcoming. However, both of us were being bitten by tiny mosquitoes. The conversation kept moving from one topic to another, but I was itching, in more ways than one, to move on!
Finally, we reached our last flight of stairs which were extremely steep and not of equal length or height, making it more challenging to descend. I counted the steps – 227. Wow, we were so glad that we chose the best way around. I don’t think I would have survived if I climbed up these stairs first – not in this heat and humidity anyhow.
Next on our agenda, our emotions changed to pure joy. Imagine being aged 86. You have lived in a close-knit community, but gradually all your neighbours are moving out. The government wants to demolish your home. You find yourself alone; every one has gone. What would you do?
This is what happened to Huang Yung-fu. He had received a letter informing him that he needed to vacate the village by the summer. For some reason, perhaps through boredom, he picked up a paintbrush and started to paint in his tiny two-roomed apartment. First, a little bird, then cats and people and it continued, not just in his home, but on the outside walls, then his neighbours until 11 buildings and surrounding floors were covered with brightly coloured interpretations of Huang’s memory as a boy. It was such a joy to wander around and admire his fabulous creations.
One day a student came across this area, and word got out. He started a fundraising campaign to purchase paint for Huang, now know as “Grandpa Rainbow” so he could continue painting. I did find it amusing that the paint brand is called Rainbow – well, there couldn’t be a better name.
Also, the student launched a petition to stop the demolition. News of Grandpa Rainbow reached the entire country and beyond. Even the BBC did an article about him! In October 2010 the area was saved and turned into a public park called Rainbow Village.
Grandpa Rainbow is now 98 years old and still paints. We learnt that he wakes up well before dawn and gets his paint pots and brushes out.
“Adding a little colour can turn something old into something beautiful,” he said. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to meet him. He probably was dozing, out of the heat of the sun.
What an inspiring story, what a legacy. We were grinning from ear to ear, and my exhaustion was quickly replaced with joie de vivre! My favourite is the mother and the baby as it reminds me of our niece, Abi, who is about to give birth any day now!
Our third and final place for the day was on the west coast – The Gaomei Wetlands. I had heard about this place, and when Marco and Melinda, who we met in Hengchun, showed us their photos, this was a place we definitely wanted to visit.
We arrived at an hour before sunset – perfect timing.
The Gaomei Wetland Centre was just about to close, but I managed to capture a photo of the fabulous mosaic giant fiddler crab in the grounds. At the side were 14 elegant wind turbines social distancing from one another.
I know that there is quite a bit of controversy about wind turbines. Migrating birds can get killed as they tend to focus on the ground or to their sides and don’t notice the enormous turning blades in front of them…and then smack, they’ve decapitated themselves. Not great. But these giants do make a beautiful picture, especially at the different times of the sun setting.
While we were walking, we noticed a few photographers who were using more than just their mobile phones. With tripods, wide-angle lenses and even some black card, I’m sure some of their snaps were amazing. But we were pretty pleased with ours. We did nearly miss the point when the sun disappeared beyond the horizon when we were trying to take a selfie!
Afterwards, we wandered down to the 800 m long boardwalk, a recent addition to the area to protect the sedge grassland.
We stood for some time enjoying watching young families, friends and lovers having fun in the water, as well as watching the change of colour in the sky. Vibrant oranges and sunshine yellows intermingled under the indigo night sky. Oooh, it felt quite romantic as we stood holding hands. We must be getting soft in our old age!