Sun, Sulphur and Surprises
Days 905 – 908
We are coming to the end of our month in Toucheng, we have been relaxing mainly but on Saturday we had a day of glorious sun, sulphur and surprises!
We are off travelling around Taiwan tomorrow for our last month here, so I thought I’d better catch up on writing. Oh dear, I’ve been getting out of the habit of my daily writing – my French Duolingo seems to have taken over my morning routine!
Day 906 was a highlight for us, the other days we have been mooching around. And what a day Saturday was from start to finish.
Claudia kindly came and picked us up and dropped us at the harbour as she’d booked a boat trip for us to Guishan Island, the one that we can see from our apartment.
The day was hot and humid, so the sea breeze was refreshing along the 12km journey offshore. We arrived at the island and hopped off, following our guide. Not that we took much notice of him. Sadly our Chinese is not very extensive, so we couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Luckily there were a few signs in English, and also we met Clooney, a delightful man and his young family, who kindly explained a few things as we walked around.
This beautiful place known as Turtle Island used to be home to 700 people, mainly fishermen and their families. Sadly, in 1977 the islanders were relocated off the island, they had just experienced a bad typhoon which left them struggling for food. I suppose the weather was too severe for them to fish, it seems such a shame that they couldn’t have a sustainable life here, especially as there is a large freshwater lake teeming with fish.
After the inhabitants left the island, the military moved in as it is a strategic point with views of the Pacific Ocean. Call me cynical, but I do wonder whether the islanders had a choice about leaving.
After we wandered past the abandoned village and around the beautiful lake at the tail end of the island, we were taken down a long military tunnel under the 401m high summit which is the only active volcano in Taiwan. At the other end was an opening giving a broad view of the ocean and a huge US-made M1A1 anti-aircraft gun which was obtained in the 1950s.
The military gradually left the island, and it is now protected for environmental reasons. The number of tourists is limited to 1,800 at the weekend, not that this is an issue currently, but last year people would have been disappointed if they hadn’t pre-booked well in advance.
Nestling between the lake and mountain was a tall statue of the Goddess of Mercy with a colourful dragon protecting her. Clooney informed us that the soldiers had moved the temple that was once stood there and subsequently, several bad instances occurred. They believed that the Gods were unhappy about this, so built the statue to appease them.
It was time to get onto the boat and make our way out to sea. As we curved around the island, we could clearly see how it got its name of Turtle Island.
Suddenly there was an awful smell in the air. Urgh – rotten eggs. On the head side of the island, the water was an incredible turquoise colour formed from the geothermal sulphuric hot spring bubbling to the surface. I remember reading in the nearby museum that hermit crabs amazingly survive in this boiling water.
As we were sailing further out into the Pacific Ocean, people started to look over the side of the boat. A flying fish was skimming above the waves for at least 5 seconds, but not long enough for Tim nor me to fumble with our cameras and capture a photo. Mind you, the chances of getting a good shot was as slim as the fish.
A short while later someone noticed a fin sticking out of the water. Was it a dolphin? The captain curved the boat around to get nearer. Ah, it was a Mola, or better known as an ocean sunfish.
But where were the dolphins? There were a few other boats out at sea connected by radio to share any sightings of these graceful and friendly creatures. Time was ticking, Tim had a little snooze, I read my book, were we going to be unlucky? Not the #Grownuptravellers.
True to form our luck kicked in. As we were on our way back to the harbour, a call came in that three dolphins had been spotted. A 180 degree turn and within a few minutes, we cheered as three fins soared out of the water. Everyone on the boat had big grins on their faces. There really is something magical seeing these wonderful creatures.
I thought I had my video on but must have not pressed the on button correctly and missed a golden photo opportunity when one of the dolphins pirouetted out of the water – damn! I just captured the splash at the end. Not so lucky this time.
We reached the harbour, saying farewell to Clooney and made our way to Claudia and Celso’s apartment. It is his birthday tomorrow and Claudia put on a surprise gathering for him.
Not long after we arrived, the doorbell rang and four other friends of theirs arrived. Ricardo (Mexican) and his Russian wife Julia who was blooming and about to give birth any moment, Roxanne (another Russian lady) and Rui from Mozambique. Thankfully they all spoke English. (It puts us to shame.)
Delicious food was shared, conversation flowed, and not only were there hoots of laughter but also some deep philosophical chats. What lovely people, what a perfect time, and it ended with the best chocolate birthday cake ever!