Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Day at Sun Link Sea, Taiwan

Yesterday Floyd and I and some friends drove up to the mountains to enjoy a day in a national park called Sun Link Sea. Why is it called that? I have no idea! Though it boasts of some beautiful waterfalls, flowerbeds, forested mountain peaks, and even snow at certain times of the year, there is nothing remotely resembling a sea for miles around.  Except maybe the sea of clouds visible when you look down from some of the viewpoints.

It took about two and a half hours to drive up from Taichung, counting a few pit stops and wrong turns. It was a beautiful blue sunny day, and we enjoyed some great mountain views along the way. It's always nice to get out of the smog and be reminded that there's more to Taiwan than city. For the last part of the journey, we drove through thick green forest, with strikingly bright poinsettias growing wild beside the road. Huge spider webs stretched from tree to tree or from branch to ground, but we saw no other wildlife.

Once we were up at our destination, we enjoyed a picnic lunch beside a slow green river, near a few restaurants, gift shops, cabins, and a tourist information center. From there we decided to hike to the "Blue Dragon Waterfall" a mile or two away. (I hesitate to even use the word "hike", since we were on a paved path the whole way, reminiscent of some of the so-called "hiking trails" I remember in Yosemite. But it was a pretty walk, in any case, with the river on one side and forest on the other.)
As we were walking, the mist started to blow in up the river. We were all surprised at how quickly it was moving in. Within a couple of minutes, the sky was no longer blue, and we couldn't see more than a few yards in any direction. It gave the forest a mysterious, spooky look, and as for the river, we could barely see it at all.


It was kind of fun walking through the misty woods. You can imagine our disappointment, though, when we got to the grand viewpoint, with the thunder of falling water all around, and were unable to get even the tiniest glimpse of the waterfall through the fog!

After walking back to where we'd started from, we decided to try to see another waterfall, but we were tired and unwilling to risk walking all the way only to be disappointed again. So we "cheated" and took a little tour bus a few miles upstream, where it dropped us off right by the other waterfall. There was less mist in this area, so we had a good view, and were able to walk right up to it. Once again, they had walkways all around, so it wasn't exactly wild and pristine, but it was beautiful nonetheless. We were even able to walk around behind the waterfall into a shallow cave, and look out at the river and the plunge pool from the other direction.

When we returned to base once again, we decided to enjoy the water for just a little longer before we had to leave. We rented two paddle boats for half an hour or so, and Floyd and three of the others had a great time pedaling up and down the river, racing each other, feeding the ducks, and switching boats mid-stream. I ran along the bank, meanwhile, and took pictures and video.

We had to hurry back home so as to be out of the mountains before it got dark. The mist was bad enough, but driving down that twisty road in the dark as well would have been a little too scary for some of us. We hated to leave such a scenic spot, but it was good to know we had discovered a place where we can go to retreat into nature again sometime.

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