Shei-pa National Park

May 2-4, 2003

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     After living in Switzerland and spending lot's of time in the Rocky Mountains, you'd think Herbert and I wouldn't be so impressed anymore with 'one more mountain range'.  Not true.  We found the Shiueshan Mountains to be different then what we'd seen in the past and very special.

     The first thing that made it different wasn't so wonderful, but definitely stood out in my mind... the road you take to get to the area.  It's a winding road that hugs the side of the mountain as it slowly climbs it.  Okay, normal for a mountain road.  But what made it different was that it wasn't much wider than the width of one car.  It seemed like every time we approached a blind curve, another car would come racing around from the other direction.  Someone had to back up until an area of the road could be found where both cars could squeeze by each other.  It was a bit frightening and slowed us down so much that the 100 Km (60 miles) from Chungli to the mountains took about three hours, but James did a great job of maneuvering the car around the curves.

     But let's move on to the 'special' things.

     The area of the mountains where we were is in the Kuan-wu part of  the Shei-pa National Park and is a protected area.  There aren't many people and very few businesses.  Even though the park is a popular area for people from Taipei to go for fresh air and peace, I had the feeling that we were in a remote region with more nature than civilization. There was absolutely no commercialism. 

     The main attraction for people coming to the mountains is hiking, and this was perfect with me.  I was really missing my hikes in the forests around Oberwil and this particular weekend in the mountains was what I needed to fix that.  The air was unbelievably fresh.  We all just kept breathing deeply and saying things to each other like, "Can you believe that!"

     When I've been on vacations in the past with my mom, brother and sisters and all the their families, my brother Mike always encourages 'Mountain Hikes'.  I've always ignored them and avoided them.  Now I could slap myself.  I had no idea what I was missing.  My family would LOVE this mountain and it's miles and miles of very well maintained and mapped paths.

     We hiked both Saturday and Sunday and only saw a fraction of the area.

     The hotel where we stayed was a small hotel on the side of one of the mountains.  It only had ten guest rooms and on the first night we were the only guests.  The owners couldn't speak any English, but they were so friendly that it didn't matter.

     The only problem I had isn't really anyone's fault at all.  It was simply a nature thing.  It had to do with the the first night we were there.  Not long after Herbert and I had gone to bed, I remembered that I needed to take some medicine. I got up, turned on the light and went into the bathroom to get some water.  When I came back out to the room and looked at our bed, there was a HUGE black spider, on top of MY side of the blanket!  I freaked out, a bit.  I had some difficulty breathing until after Herbert flushed it down the toilet.  I tried to get back to sleep, but spent most of the night imagining that he must have had many little friends and in my mind, I could see them all over the bed and floor.  I was fine by the next day and told myself it's only nature.  I decided that it was a small price to pay for all of the beauty we saw on our hikes.

     I'll let the pictures speak for everything else...


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1 - Half way up the mountain, we stopped for lunch in a tiny little road-side restaurant.   2 - And after lunch, we went across the road to a tea house. James translated a few of the tea blends that were on the menu and when he mentioned one floral blend that he said was thought to make girls pretty, I knew what my order was.  This is how my order came.  It was so beautiful that I felt pretty as soon as I saw it.  The 'jelled tea' on the far left ended up being part of James order, but the rest of it was all mine and the price was about $1.50.   3 - Me, very happy to be drinking my pretty girl tea.  I didn't touch the cookies because of the whole Weight Watchers point thing, but the tea was so good, I didn't even feel cheated.
4 - Pretty Girl Carol, waiting for her tea.   5 - Carol and James' orange tea.   6 - Our tea table in the peaceful and relaxing setting of the tea house.
7 - The hotel we stayed at is owned by couple from Taipei.  The husband had owned a textile company and quit that a few years back to live on the mountain and make a fruit farm.  A year ago, he built this small hotel.  His wife comes for the weekends and they open it to guests.  This is the back side view of the hotel.  (The front is up against the mountainside.)   8 - This is where we ate our breakfast the first morning.  It's in the backyard of the hotel and overlooks the valley.   9 - The owners made our breakfast in their kitchen.  It consisted of an omelet thing, white bread rolls, peanuts, pickle relish, pickled peppers, 'pork fibers' and congee (a soupy rice thing.)
10 - On Saturday, we hiked along the mountain paths - across, up steps, down steps, across again - for about three hours.  It was wonderful and a beautiful way to get some exercise.  Here's Carol on the path.   11 - Herbert walked ahead of us so that we could get this photo showing some of the terrain.    12 - The mountains are in the clouds and the mist helps to give even more of a peaceful feeling. 
13 - We hiked down the mountain to see the 'five trees', five 'Taiwan Red False' trees that are a couple of thousand years old and very, very tall.   14 - Here's a view of the mountains in the clouds.   15 - As we made our way back from the five trees, the afternoon fog started to roll in the way it does every day in late afternoon.  We could barely see Carol and James coming towards us.
16 - Here's a photo we had taken along the way as we had begun our walk earlier that day...   17 - ... and the same view as the fog was coming in.   18 - This is one of mine and Herbert's favorite photos from the trip.  I stare at it and feel like I should be looking for fairies that should be dancing in the trees. 
19 - The park is called either 'see the fog' or 'sea of fog'.  I'm still not really clear on which it is, but 'sea of fog' seems to fit when you watch how fast the fog rolls in.  As Herbert said, this cloud acted very nervous.  It seemed like an angry ocean with waves shouting up at the sky.   20 - After our hike, we stopped at a picnic area next to one of the forests.  James and Carol had brought snacks, wine, beer and all the equipment to make Chinese tea.   21 - Here James is going through the process of preparing our cups for tea.
22 - This was the last shot we took as we got ready to head back to the hotel.  Blue is my favorite color and the shades of blue that hit the sky as evening rolled in were even more beautiful than this photo shows.   23 - Here we are in our room.  Herbert took this shot while I was trying to assign Weight Watchers points to what we had eaten that day.  It wasn't easy to guess the points of foods I didn't necessarily recognize, but I was determined.   24 - This is the lobby of the hotel where guests eat dinner and hang out drinking tea, watching TV and talking.  Us?  What else?  Jass - the Swiss card game we play everywhere we go!
25- On Sunday, we went for another hike.  This one was an hour and a half down a very steep slope to see a waterfall.  It's a very moist area, as you can see by the moss on the trees, and the rocks and tree roots were very slippery.  Climbing back up was actually easier and took us less than an hour .   26 - Here's the waterfall we went down the mountain to see.  There was something romantic about the pink flowers that hung over the pool of water at the bottom.  It mesmerized me.   27 - Here's an interesting plant.  It's a white flower that grows all over Taiwan.  It's poisonous - deadly actually.  If you simply touch the flower or the leaves, you will die. It even made me nervous to get up close enough to take this photo. It's along the sides of the road as you drive up. It's in the villages, by houses where children play.  I asked why they don't destroy them. Apparently it's because the flower is beautiful and everyone knows not to go near it. Children are taught at an early age not to touch it.  Ouch.  That wouldn't stop the kids I know and, by the way, I'd never heard about it.  Maybe we should have been told before we got off the plane in Taipei. Anyway, I don't know the English name of this plant, but if someone reads this and knows, please send me a note.
28- On our way back down the mountain to go home on Sunday, we stopped to take this photo.  You can see the road - it's the crease about half way up the mountain on the right side.   29 - We looked closer at the waterfall and saw that a car was upside down on the beach by the waterfall.  As we walked away, I was disturbed and had to tell myself that the people had gotten out and climbed to safety years ago and decided to leave the car where it was.  I said prayers the rest of the day as we finished driving down the mountain.   30 - Okay, happy note... this is a flower that James pointed out on one of our walks.  Again, I don't know the English name, but it looks like it may be in the orchid family.  James told us that it's only found in Taiwan.  It was hard to get in close enough, so the photo's a bit blurry.  But I still like it.


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