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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

alone in the mountains

Yesterday, I decided to do something I have never done before: scoot deep into the mountains of Taiwan all by myself to get lost.

I did this because I had the time to do so and the desire. You may wonder how on earth a woman on maternity leave with a 4.5 month old baby could say she has free time, but I do. Every Monday and Wednesday, our nanny comes from 9am-5pm, so I am free as a bird to have coffee, breakfast, or scoot adventures with friends-- and, originally, yesterday's scoot adventure into the mountains was supposed to include a friend, but her daughter had a hard time at preschool, so only I could go.

At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to go by myself.

The voices of so many other people ricocheted in my head saying: it's not safe to scoot into the mountains of a foreign country all by yourself, but I realized pretty darn quickly that if I was going to wait on other people to do the things I truly want to do, I may never actually do them.

We have lived in Taiwan for more than five years now. I have been scooting around Taiwan for more than four years now, and I have been zipping through its wondrous, glorious, lush mountains for more than two years now. So far, the scariest thing that has ever happened was being chased by a pack of rogue mountain dogs that scattered when I turned around and drove straight at them yelling and honking my scooter's pathetic horn.

Feeling like an adventure was in order, I packed my backpack with water, my cameras, and my cell, and then I drove out of town and towards a mysterious road I read about in Lonely Planet that connects Beipu to Nanzhuang:

"A few kilometers past the hot springs, the road splits again. Left takes you up a winding uninhabited road back to Beipu..."
That road called out to my spirit of adventure. I looked on Google Maps, and thought I located this "winding uninhabited road", which is actually called Daping Road. This road connected a waterfall I wanted to see in Nanzhuang with the cold springs I frequently visit in Beipu, so I decided to try to find Daping Road and drive down it as far as I could. I was not disappointed, although Lonely Planet is wrong because the road is inhabited by some homes, farms, and a strange Buddhist temple and its many chickens.

Daping Road is a true single lane road; sometimes its width didn't even seem wide enough to accommodate a car, and we are talking Taiwanese cars here, which are super tiny and clown looking. Daping Road took me past beautiful rivers, across single lane, shady looking bridges, and by green, tree covered mini mountains that looked close enough for me to reach out my arm and touch.

Eventually, the road forked and the only true way forward looked so narrow and overgrown I doubted it actually could connect to Nanzhuang (my Lonely Planet is six years old, after all, and Taiwan has been known to completely abandon roads-- even major ones like its central cross island highway-- that take too much maintenance). I decided to turn around and save any further exploration for a day out with friends in case my bike broke down on the bumpy, dilapidated road.
Since I still had some time on my hands and because it was a beautiful fall day, I thought I would drive to the top of Five Finger Mountain for the glorious views of the mountains tapering off as far as the eye could see. However, when I got to the fork in the road to go to Five Finger Mountain, I decided to turn left instead of right.

I had never been that way before, and I was curious what was around the bend in the road. I was not disappointed!

Turning left brought me behind Five Finger Mountain and gave me an incredible view of the range that I had never seen before. It also opened up into a great river valley. I drove down and down this road, which after consulting Google Maps, I discovered was Country Road 37-4. I drove past gazebos and beautiful vistas for 20 minutes, but then I had to turn back to go to the grocery store and feed Ruby. I am so eager to return to Country Road 37-4 to see what waits for me in the river valley.
I know how fortunate I am to have this time-- time to do more than survive the daily grind. It is my endeavor to make the most of this free time I have to do the things that bring me joy and make me feel alive. 

Because of that, I can assure you there will be many more adventures ahead-- with or without the company of friends. 

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