Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Li Shan Camping Trip

Last weekend Brett and I again headed out, disregarding certain girlfriends wishes, for some high country camping. For the record, the coming rainy season is, at this time of year (in Taiwan anyway), a great reason (or excuse depending on your point of view) to get out there, or even skip a good friends birthday party.

LiShan, or Pear Mountain, is in central Taiwan, about 110 km from Ilan county. Fortunately, or unfortunately, all 110 km are on a winding mountain road frequented by slumps and bulges and the occasional monster landslide. Great fun on a motorcycle. A big Typhoon in July washed out many a mountain road in northern Taiwan, and they just opened this particular road to traffic recently.

So, we spent the weekend camping among the orchards of Huan Shan. The climate in the Li Shan area is cool and dry due to the elevation (1600 meters), and cold weather fruit trees like apple and chinese pears cover every mountain side near the road. LiShan fruit is not exported, as the fruit fetches incredible prices on the local market. An apple from LiShan will start at about a dollar CDN, and can run up to 4 dollars. Chinese pears (which don't look or taste like Canadian pears) start at about 2 dollars a piece and up. And the tea! They say high mountain OoLong tea from Li Shan is the most expensive tea in the world, starting at about $300 CDN for 600 grams (1 jin).

Anyway, while it pissed warm rain in Ilan, we spent the Sunday in the cool sunny forest, reminiscent of Canada, hiking up a mountain (Mt. Sikayo, though I have no idea what language that is...) next to Xue Shan (Snow Mountain), the second tallest mountain in Taiwan and, in fact, all North-East Asia (over 3800 meters). Taiwan has some stupid rules, and one of these rules is that you can not trek above 3000 meters without a Class A mountain permit. No problem right? Just head to the cop shop and apply. But, alas, you have to have an accredited guide to obtain this miracle permit that assures the safety of those apparently dumb enough to venture over 3000. Brett and I started our hike with the goal of getting above 3000. I won't comment on our success or lack thereof, but I can say that we have some photographic GPS evidence for later verification.

Actually, for those interested, we talked to some hikers coming off XueShan, and they said we could climb the mountain as long as we were accompanied by an aboriginal. No permit, no guide required.

Although we ran out of water about half an hour in, it was a good climb. We did learn that, contrary to Brett and I's long held belief, optimism will not solve every problem. As much as we hoped and joked about every little valley, we didn't come across a single stream.

Finally, as we got back to the first stream after five hours of drinking cap fulls of water every half an hour, I heard an animal crashing through the trees and saw, for the first time, a bonifide Mountain Pig. But, cry as I did "MOUNTAIN PIG! MOUNTAIN PIG!" as the porker ran and fast as his ridiculously short legs would carry him, I was the only witness. Brett was alreadly gorging himself on unfiltered stream water. I soon followed.

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