Friday, January 11, 2008

All for One, One for All


We left Tzu Chi University in Hualien and headed south, but didn't get far before we had to ask for directions. (How many times have I started this blog with something along the lines of "We're heading south..."?) The road diverges and there's two options. We wanted to go the coastal way, but we had walked towards the mountain road.

We turned back around, and it was already dark, so I called a Hualien contact my aunt had left me before we started walking.

Degrees of separation: my aunt's co-worker's son's friend.
People here are friendly. We met up and slept in their home for the night. After breakfast, he dropped us off at the city limits, the beginning of our next big stretch.

It was a 34 kilometer walking day from Hualien to somewhere above Jici. At that point, an artist by the name of William would pick us up and shuttle us 30 kilometers to just above Shihmen.

The road south from Hualien is mountainous and cliffside. The ocean reflects the sky, so on a good day, it's bright blue. There were a lot less cars and not many trucks at all. The coastline breeze and some rice wine kept us trekking.

Around lunch time we came upon a group of families that had gathered for a meal. They waved us down, so we stopped to say hello. We ate what was left over, mostly sticky rice, fish, shrimp, and chicken. We drank what they called "Taiwan Whiskey." The bottle said "Rice Wine."

The group was mostly people of the Amis Tribe, the largest aboriginal group in Taiwan. Today, they live mostly on the east coast of Taiwan. The talking and singing was great. Most spoke bits and pieces of English, so they would try to talk with Steve. Most of the food items on the table were great for sexual prowess, according to on one of the guys. After some songs, we hit the road (walking) a little tipsy from rice wine and a drink mix involving milk. Cool!

At that point, we decided to christen the almighty "The Cup" that we had been carrying in our packs for the past 4 days. It was time.

I think it was more rice wine, but I can't be certain. Either way, it made the walking a bit easier.

The coastal road went inland, and for dinner, we had noodles in the mountains. We trekked further as night fell. I told mother I wouldn't walk at night. Mother's usually right about things, but we had to do it anyway. The burn to walk was in us, and the walking was tense. We subconsciously worked out a system where Steve would walk up front and I would be behind. He'd have his flashlight out and ready if a car came from in front of us. My blinking headlamp would signal cars from behind. We made it most the way down the mountain this way until a van stopped in front of us.

We approached slowly and saw that it was a man offering us a ride. He secured his dogs in the back and we jumped in. His name was William, and he handed me a card when we stepped in and said in English, "Look at the card, and you'll know why I picked you up."

It said "All for One, One for All." He explained that he was a backpacker too, and that if every traveler helped one another, than the traveling world would be a lot more at ease. I agreed. A long story short, William was awesome, a bit quirky, and as Steve put it, a bit like an Asian Woody Allen. He pointed out some good destinations for us, and dropped us off at a good sleeping spot.

We're sleeping on a pier tonight.


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