Sunday, August 21, 2011

The day I climbed to the clouds

Yesterday I climbed Mt. Qixing. Now, for most people, mountains might not be a big deal but, to a Florida girl like me, mountains will always be something awesome and foreign. I mean sand dunes are about the closest thing Florida has to hills, never mind mountains.
So my day stated with a very early (but still not quite as early as we had intended) bus ride to Taipei, where we met up with Stephanie and then hopped on another bus to Yangmingshan National Park.
When we got there, we had to hike .6 kilometers from the public bus stop up to the park visitor's center. Little did we know when we arrived all sweaty (Taiwan is very hot and humid in the summer) at the top that that was only the first and easiest of our trecks for the day. Since the park is huge, we had planned on taking the shuttle bus around the park all day but when the buses that drove by were all too full to even bother stopping, we decided that perhaps we should just hike where we wanted to go. 
A display at the visitor's center
We all wanted to climb to the top of Mt. Qixing but we had planned to take the bus to Mt. Qixing park (a little over halfway up) and then hike to the top. When it became clear that that was not an option, we decided that the best plan of action was to just climb the whole darn thing. No sweat, right?
The view from the bottom
Looking beautiful (and, okay, a little moist) at the midway point
By the time we reached the midway point, we were out of breath and water. So we made a pit stop at the scenic Mt. Qixing park for lunch (peanut butter and jelly, of course) and made a few new friends.
Christine + these dogs = BFFs
Then, after a much needed break, it was back to the trail and to the top!
加油 Christine! We can do it!
While the first 1.2 km of the hike had a lot of stairs, the last 1 km was pretty much all stairs. Big, mossy, somewhat uneven stairs. Not gonna lie, it was rough. But it was totally worth the rivers of sweat running down our legs when the tree canopy opened up and we realized we were quite literally hiking in the clouds.
Even so, we were all relieved when we finally reached that all important trail marker telling us we were almost there!
All smiles with .2 km to go
Okay, this is how we really felt
Triumph and relief! I've finally made it to the peak!
The top of Mt. Qixing was like another world! It was so beautiful up there! Not to mention that this may be the only time in my life I can say I was literally getting hit in the face with clouds. It didn't even lessen our sense of accomplishment (much) that the four of us arrived at the top huffing and puffing and covered in sweat after being passed left and right by packs of retired Taiwanese people the whole way up. We made it and that's what counts!
We went back down the other side of the mountain, which is covered in volcanic steam vents. (Note: the walk down was also significantly faster than the walk up)
One of the vents on the path
The huge steam vent at the bottom of the mountain
From the parking lot at the bottom, we finally managed to find a shuttle bus with (barely) enough standing room to cram us on and proceeded to have the most terrifying ride ever to get back down to the park entrance. The bus driver was happily cruising along all those curvy mountain roads at speeds that, judging from the number of times we almost hit the guard rails and other vehicles, could not have been safe. My hand went numb halfway through from gripping the overhead handhold so hard.

But we're survivors, so we made it out of the park and, eventually, to Danshui (an old fishing village that's now a sea-side district of Taipei) for dinner. We went to snack street and tried all the local specialties: fish ball soup, 阿給 (a-gei: tofu packets stuffed with vermicelli noodles and covered in seafood/tomato sauce), and really tall ice cream cones! Then, just for fun, I had some squid balls. It was all delicious.
Mango/green tea swirl ice cream and friends, always a good way to end the day!

1 comment:

  1. This is incredibly impressive, Gabrielle. So excited to see you taking advantage of your time there and seeing the local sights. Love your pictures. The blog is awesome! Feel like I'm there with you!