Sunday, October 18, 2020

Xiao Liu Qiu, Part II

 (To read Part I of my adventures on this scenic little island, whose name is pronounced "shauw lee oh cho", click here.)

It's 6:00 a.m., and I'm sitting by a little pavilion on the island's east coast to watch the sunrise. There are clouds over the horizon, but a golden glow is flaming between them. A dozen or so other people have shown up in the last twenty minutes to this site advertised as the best spot for watching the sunrise, but I was here first.

My persnickety camera did manage to take this
sorta-decent sunrise picture before it decided not to
cooperate any longer.

The sun itself has finally shown its face between the strips of cloud. Everyone else is standing there taking pictures, but since my camera isn't cooperating this morning, I'm limited to the pictures I can produce with words. (Thank goodness I bought this notebook yesterday!) The sun is spilling golden light over the lower layer of cloud, turning its overly-hardboiled-egg-yolk-gray (wouldn't that be a great name for a crayon color?!) to a translucent pearly gleam. I can just make out the mountains of Taiwan below it, only their crisp upper edge visible through the cloud. The blue-gray ocean below glitters silver-yellow in wriggling wrinkles as diagonal shafts of sunlight stretch down toward it. 

The rhythmic pulse of the surf and the twitter and squawk of birds mostly cover the voices of the tourists not far away and the ticking of the newest-arrived scooter that a couple parked right by my bench. Now that the sun has fully ascended, most of the others have left. But this pair, munching their breakfast on the next bench, apparently didn't look up the time of the sunrise last night.

Speaking of last night, Janice and Kenny and I went out to dinner at a restaurant advertising mahi-mahi cheeseburgers. I'm not usually a big burger fan, but it was good! Afterward, we stopped at a tea shop, and I tried a "mango cheese tea". It came in three layers, with fruit and crushed ice on the bottom, sweet milky juice in the middle, and a foamy, salty froth of some sort of whipped cream cheese mixture on the top. It was strange but delicious, with the best results (in my opinion) coming when I mixed the top two layers.

We had signed up for a night-time scooter tour, so at 7:15, our hostess at our bed and breakfast took us to a place in town where a big group of people on scooters were waiting to meet the tour guide. He led us all first to a place where we all dismounted and looked at a tree with big, beautiful blossoms that apparently only bloom at night and for four hours at a time. He said a lot about these flowers in Chinese while we took pictures, and then we all got back on our scooters to go to the next tour stop.

Aren't all these flowers pretty?
Actually, they're all the same flower,
seen in our tour guide's different flashlight settings.
The top one is its original color.
Unfortunately, I had trouble getting my scooter started. Janice and Kenny were nice enough to wait for me, and by the time I realized to my embarrassment that I simply hadn't turned the key far enough in the dark, the rest of the group had gone. We took off after them as fast as we could, but when we came to a fork in the road, we had no way to tell which direction they'd taken. We picked one at random and hoped we'd catch up, but sadly, we never did. So the three of us ended up doing our own night-time scooter tour in the form of another circuit of the island (always fun) before returning to our B&B for the night.

As we got back, Kenny joked about getting up early to watch the sunrise, which inspired me. So here I am, still sitting by the coast, squinting while the now fully risen sun peers down intently to see what I'm writing about it.

Now I'm off to take the coastal road around the island again. I should just have time to make it back before our breakfast arrives at the B&B.

My writing spot in the Wild Boar Trench.

It's almost 9:30 a.m., and I'm sitting on a bench partway along the Wild Boar Ecological Trail in the Wild Boar Trench ("ravine" would be a more accurate word). It's the only one of Xiao Liu Qiu's three main scenic spots that I didn't get to yesterday. For some reason, I couldn't find it, although I realize now that I drove right by the trailhead at least twice.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to announce that a family of Taiwanese tourists just walked past me, the oldest son carrying their pet bird on a leash. Might as well bring the whole household when you go on vacation, right?!

Anyway, I feel as though I'm barely in Taiwan anymore. There's actually an option to step off the walkways with their pavement and handrails and onto - gasp! - DIRT trails!! Craggy cliffs loom all around, plastered with climbing plants. Spindly trees perch precariously at the top, their snake-like roots weaving their way clear to the bottom, clinging to the vertical rock face. Some don't even try to find a footing in the rock, but stretch through the air and plunge directly into the soil like freestanding pillars. Vines of several varieties twist their way down the cliff, decorating its surface like intertwining ribbons. Some dangle in midair like tangles of braided rope. Coral boulders lie tumbled here and there, surfaces dusted with bits of dead leaves, live vegetation peeking out their pores, hinting at long-ago earthquakes and landslides. (How did chunks of coral get hundreds of meters from the beach and dozens of meters above sea level, anyway?)

Some trees straddle the ravine, trunks and roots and stiff projecting vines splayed across the open space, clutching the rock on either side. Stringly vines dangle like lifelines, swaying in the faint breeze.

Shards of sunlit sky are visible between the tangle of trinks and branches and leaves directly overhead, but it's fairly dim here on the floor of the ravine. Insects peep and rattle around me, leaves rustle, and birds shrill from above. But it's peaceful here, though more humid than the surrounding rea. I feels as though I'm sitting in another world.

For now, I'm going to leave this one to the mosquitoes who are trying so valiantly to defend it, and move on.

I didn't see any wild boar (or any indication that they actually
live on Xiao Liu Qiu), but there were a lot of these little
cave mouths that probably lead to ideal homes for them.

10:40 a.m. I'm back in the B&B, waiting for the others to be ready to check out.

There are definitely more people visiting Xiao Liu Qiu today. (The island's name gets easier to write every time - just in time for us to leave. :-( ) Many of the roads are narrow, obviously designed only for 2-way scooter traffic. But you round a bend and suddenly a colorful, hulking bus is trundling toward you, stopping at every scenic spot to disgorge throngs of distracted tourists who stand around in the street as though it was made for that purpose. Or you see herds of matching scooters go zooming down the little highways, most with passengers calling to each other or pointing at things or holding Go-Pros. With tomorrow being a holiday (Ten Ten), I'm glad we're leaving today. It will only get more crowded.

Written from home later:

The line outside the restaurant after we left.

We fought with the crowds for the next few hours before our boat left. Janice, Kenny, and I decided to go out for an early lunch before the restaurants filled up, so we found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that someone had recommended. We got the last empty table and enjoyed our lunch there, but as we were leaving, we saw that the line to get in now stretched out of the door and down the street! 

Janice, Kenny, and me with our bings.

We wanted to get bings (tasty frozen desserts - Xiao Liu Qiu has a LOT of places that sell them) from another little restaurant that someone else recommended. Once again, we got the last available table. We ordered a mango bing and a caramel-cashew bing to share. (Both were delicious, though I liked the caramel-cashew one better.) Once again, there was a line out the door by the time we left. It seems the tourists were following us!

Yum, yum!

Behind the bing restaurant, we took a nature walk through a bamboo garden that had ponds full of turtles and fish (and a particularly pretty butterfly). Then it was time to catch our boat back to Taiwan. (It sounds odd to say that, since Xiao Liu Qiu does belong to Taiwan ... but I can't say "back to the mainland" either, since Taiwan is also an island, and the mainland is China.) 

A butterfly (or moth?) in the bamboo garden

This time I stood outside for the 20-minute voyage. The sea wasn't too rough, and it was windy and a really fun ride. Then we got on a shared taxi-van like the one we'd come out there on, followed by a train to Taichung, after which I took a taxi back to home sweet home. It was a great trip! I hope to go back to Xiao Liu Qiu again sometime with Floyd.

No comments: