I really thought I was going to cry when my scooter died in the middle of the steep, one lane, mud & fog covered mountain road.
But instead, I put on my big girl pants, ignored the freezing cold and persistent rain, walked my scooter up hill & out of the mud and tried the ignition again.
I looked at my friend, who had pulled over while I dealt with my little crisis, and then nodded. So on we continued towards the peak of Sheipa National Park's Guanwu Recreation Area, located in central Taiwan.
By this point in time, we had been scooting for more than 2 hours, and at least one of those hours along Dula Forest Road, the rugged 3-meter wide road that rises 6,500 feet in elevation to the top of the national park.
Having done no research whatsoever, I was completely caught off guard by the dilapidated state of the road, which while always bad was actually badder than bad due to the recent landslides and flooding it experienced thanks to Typhoon Dujuan, which blew through the country two weeks ago.
Looking back, I don't really know what I expected. Perhaps I thought that because I had successfully scooted through the mountains of Taiwan on numerous occasions, this would be no different.
But what I absolutely failed to consider, which is silly considering I come from the Pacific Northwest, is that not all mountains are made equal. Some, like the ones I live next to along the west coast, are gentle rolling hills. Others, like the ones in Sheipa National Park, are steep, jagged, rugged peaks-- the very backbone of the entire country, actually.
I really should have at least consulted the national park's website before leaving, which includes this pretty detailed warning:
If I had done so, I probably would have waited to go on a day it was not raining. I probably would have chosen to take my husband's much more powerful scooter rather than my cute little one, which I really thought I would have to abandon on the side of the mountain. I also would have brought warmer clothes and gloves.
The weather in mountain areas is changeable and road conditions are poor. For your own safety, visitors are requested to plan your trip carefully and leave the recreation area before dark. Please note: After Wufeng there are no gas stations on the road to Guanwu. Drivers should fill their tank in Zhudong or Wufeng! The Guanwu area is in a restricted mountain area. According to the National Security Law visitors must apply for a mountain entry permit at Yunshan Police Station, Wufeng Township (Dalu Forest Road 15K point). The permit can be obtained on the spot upon presentation of ID documents. The Guanwu area’s accommodation and restaurants are limited in number. Please do not remain in the mountain area if you have not booked a room (Dalu Forest Road has guest houses and places to eat at the 15K and 21.5K point) The mountains can be very cold. Visitors should bring a warm coat and never walk alone. Only a few of the homestays in the Guanwu area provide food. Visitors are advised to bring along dry foods. The area is often covered in thick fog in the afternoon and at night. Visibility can be poor so drivers should take extra care. According to the National Park Act, lighting fires and cooking in the Guanwu Recreation Area are prohibited. Dabajian Mountain climbing trail is in an ecological reserve. Visitors wanting to climb the mountain should apply to the Conservation Division of Shei-Pa National Park Headquarters for a park entry permit at least seven days before the date of entry (Dalu Forest Trail east route leading to the Dabajian Mountain trailhead has now been designated a trail).
This scoot adventure pulled me far, far outside of my comfort zone. I was actually really nervous and unsure about pushing forward, and probably would have turned around if it weren't for my friend.
Scooting along a narrow, high road that was recently washed out in a massive landslide is scary. Scooting into thick fog on a single lane road with cars coming at you and a cliff on the other side of you is scary. Seeing a small river form in the road from the deluge and having to scoot through it while uncertain of how deep it is is scary.
But, despite all of it, I am still glad we went.
And while it is debatable whether going to Sheipa National Park on the day we did was a good & safe idea, it is unquestionable that it was an epic adventure and a chance to be brave-- and completely and mindbogglingly blown away by the beauty of my host country.
The journey down felt perilous, and I inched along. I turned on my brights and honked my horn and erred on the side of caution & safety as I took each blind corner ridiculously slow. But we made it home after a wild adventure, and I have a feeling this trip created a monster.
Now that I know I can handle tough terrain and six hours on my scooter in one day, the radius of possible scoot adventure destinations has widened immensely. It also means that circumnavigating the island on my scooter may be an actual possibility rather than just a fantasy.
In the meantime, I cannot wait to get back on my (husband's) scooter and put on my big girl pants and take off with a friend on another long distance adventure before winter settles in.
But next time, I will wait for a clear day.
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