Taiwan: Typhoon Day #2, Losing Elephant Mt. Trail

LOSING ELEPHANT MOUNTAIN TRAIL
(Xiang Shan Trail)

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Despite the typhoon rain raging outside our front door, in true Black Family style, we’re embracing nature and heading out to find one of Taipei’s mountain trails: Elephant Mountain Trail. We’ve been warned, berated, and ridiculed, and yet when we set out the door there is a bewildered sense of surprise when we are almost immediately soaked to the skin… Fancy that!

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We rush to OK! Mart to buy 39NT plastic rain-proof onsies and gingerly pull them jerkily up over sticky skin; the coats immediately fill with steam off our sopping clothes, it feels like a small, localised sauna, we look ridiculous and the wetness is both inside and out. Excellent. Thoroughly wetted, we squelch towards the bus stop to catch a No. 1 to Wuxing Elementary School stop – many strange looks as we sniff onto the bus and swipe our metro cards. After being chilled nearly to the bone in the fierce No. 1 bus air-con, we decide to stay on just one more stop to avoid the rain. Good idea?

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As we step of the bus, we wander around and generally, upwards, looking for obviously signs of paths – and we find some concrete paths by allotments! Onwards and upwards. It’s very slippy, the path is swamped with leaves and debris, and more interestingly, there seems to be a small downwards stream flowing over our shoes. Nevertheless, we continue some twenty minutes upwards, wandering past small temples, traversing steep concrete steps, and skippity hopping past angry guard dogs wondering why Taipei’s dogs all seem to be either incredibly angry or ridiculously small. And then…

We hit a dead end.
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We’re wet, puffing, and hot – and quite frankly, while I’m sad to have reached the peak of Elephant mountain after our rainy day troubles, my thighs are happy to turn around and go downhill. Dad and one brother are determined to find the real trail; my youngest brother and I are determined to catch a ride home, and as we head down towards the main road we catch a glimpse of this sign….

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And the embarressing news is, there are lots more of these lining the walkway from the Wuxing Elementary School stop.

Ah well! The good news is I managed to get these amazing shots of the residential areas of Taipei; they’re so completely alien to the two-storey, detached-houses-with-garden set-up of Ireland.

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Despite our difficulties, the rain and the warnings it’s a fun day out in the rain!

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Beijing, TUESC: Camp does the Great Wall

The Great Wall

Mu Tian Yu

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Hot. Misty. Muggy.

The wall is a restored section.

We decided to walk up.

These are all bad things.

However there’s a donkey on the wall! He’s not looking particularly happy with his Great Wall of China experience, and to be honest, neither am I. Probably not the best day for it, but I’m paradoxically enjoying being mildly grumpy and too hot to be comfortable. Grateful, none the less, that the Summer Camp has organised our trip to the world-renowned Great Wall! The entire camp of volunteers and teachers, split up into several luxury coaches have been schlepped up to the base camp of the Wall and left to wander for three hours.

We decide to walk up, for the full experience –  one which I don’t regret in hindsight, but relished little on the uphill. I’m not that unfit, but have a tendency to turn a spectacular colour of scarlet in heat.

And it was hot.

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The weather, and by weather I mean perpetual overcast with cloud, means that we can’t see very far from the Wall itself. But it does give – the less tourist crowed areas of the wall –  a touch of the mysterious. And certainly this section, restored to its full glory is nothing short of stunningly impressive; our climb up proves what a powerful and seemingly impregnable boarder the wall provided. Even more so in it’s contextual era. I’ve heard great stories of climbing unrestored sections and camping on the wall (all of course, not strictly allowed) and would definitely recommend second-hand to other adventurous travellers with more time to spare.

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I’m pretty happy to get this muggy wall experience checked off, and clamber back in the air-conditioned coaches.

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