Me Ol' Bamboo, Me Ol' Bamboo
Days 916 – 917
Who knows where the song "Me Ol' Bamboo" originates from? Come on now, no cheating. (Answer at the bottom*). Of course, this blog isn't about a song, but being in a Bamboo forest - magical.
On Sunday, after seeing another sunrise (this is not going to become a habit, I can assure you!), and later breakfast and chatting to the farm animals, we drove up some more winding lanes.
We didn't want to drive far, so searched on the map and found that the Shizhuo Trails were nearby and looked amazing. We set off to the start of the Tea Trail.
The walk started up some wooden steps through a Bamboo Forest, with the sound of the long pipes creaking in the wind and birds flittering between the leaves. It was so peaceful, we hardly saw any other walkers, unlike our previous day at Alishan National Forest Recreation Area.
The trail took us up and down through the forest, changing between bamboo and cedars, then opening up to incredible vistas with tea plantations clinging to the sides. Suddenly we saw a giant black, red and white butterfly. Having researched since, I've learnt that it was a Common Mormon, a species of swallowtail butterfly; not common to us though! It was beautiful and generously stayed still for Tim to capture a photo of it.
The ground kindly flattened out for a while, and we noticed a note left under a rock. With the use of Google Translate, we found out that it read we were 1,699 m above sea level and on the Nine-Layer Longping Mountain.
Near the end of the trail was a large tea plantation. I wondered when the Tea Trail was going to validate its name. This area is renowned for producing some of the world's best Oolong tea.
We crossed the road to the Cloud Trail, which was definitely given the correct name. We eventually came to an opening and in the middle of a tea plantation was one lone tree standing in the dense mist. Within seconds the fog lifted; what a change of scene!
I felt full of gratitude standing in this beautiful place with trees all around us. I realised how blessed we are. We can have the freedom to travel around still. We could have easily decided to travel to a different country and experienced lockdown like the rest of the world.
As we returned to the car, we could hear some loud voices piercing the silence. Some elderly people were sitting on stones having a picnic and a jolly time together. As soon as they saw us, one lady held out a tin with cut guava and offered us some. Then she insisted that we put the remaining pieces in a bag and take them! How kind!
We finally returned from our Tea and Cloud Trails and had a well-deserved rest, eating our Onigiri and the rest of the Guava. My knees ached after the trek, so I went back to the car. At the same time, Tim walked down the Mist Trail, which was initially the Shizhuo Trail and used by the locals to transport their products they grew, including sweet potato, Chinese fan palm and bamboo shoots. He must have been quickly striding as it didn't seem long before he appeared at the car window.
From the look of his photos, there were some very neatly kept tea estates surrounded by fabulous stone walls and panoramic views. And I wonder who owned the car. I don't think that's going to go very far now.
The next day we packed up to return to Taichung. This time, unlike our drive from Sun Moon Lake, I did manage to navigate most of the journey avoiding the Tolls so that we could see some more of this magnificent countryside.
We noticed on the map that we were going to drive to Fenqihu, a popular tourist destination which, just outside of the small town has two Sacred Trees. The title "Sacred" is given to a few trees that are older than 1,000 years and often with unusual shapes. Both trees we were visiting were Flying Moth Trees which are a type of Acer and endemic to Taiwan.
The first to visit was the Luding Sacred Tree, on the Fenqi Trail. As we climbed up the very slippery mossy stairs, we came to the ruins of the Shinto Shrine, built by the Japanese to try and spread their religious practices amongst the Taiwanese people. The shrines were often located in places believed to have good Fengshui. We didn't bother to take a photo of the ruins as they were just mossy broken stone steps. However, interestingly, there were a few old blown-up photos displayed of days gone by. These were taken when the nearby railway was being built. The two young lads carrying the stone look so young, and the guy who is clinging to the side of the rockface is taking his life literally in his hands.
We reached the Luding Sacred Tree with its roots entwined with a huge rock. If you use your imagination, you might notice that the tree and rock together look like the Formosan Silk Deer. Well, that's what the notice said!
On to our next sacred tree; the track took us down The Glossy Green Bamboo Slopes with hundreds of Moso bamboos. It was magical. These bamboos were introduced here by the Chinese, and the tough stems are suitable for construction, and the tender new shoots are sweet and tasty to eat.
We finally reached the Fenqihu Sacred tree, and a sign informed us that "although it belongs to the maple family, its leaves do not turn red. With the cool, moist climate at Fenqihu and the unique features of the local terrain, the tree has become a home for epiphytic plants such as the bird-nest fern and Santa Rosa fern." And by the tree was the most exquisite orange flower. Does anyone know what it is, please?
*(Me Ol' Bamboo, Me Ol' Bamboo – is from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and sung when Caractacus (Dick Van Dyke) gets roped into a busking performance while running away from an angry customer.)