I wanted to create a post with all kinds of neat pictures - today's topic is really better described with visual aids - but at the moment I'm using dial-up, and apparently dial-up internet and blogger.com are at war with one another. Blogger.com has imposed sanctions upon said dial-up internet, disallowing the uploading of any cool pictures taken deep in the jugles of Isla Formosa or elsewhere.
So, at least for the moment, you'll have to use your imagination. I hope that isn't too painful for some of you; I know there are at least a few engineers and computer programmers who read this on occasion, and we all know what happens to them when they use their imaginations too much.
And, having thusly warned my readers, I shall hereby continue with the theme for the day. One of the cool things about Taipei is its close proximity to some very large and very forested mountains, making it a great place to live if you like to hike. Hiking here is a unique experience too. Never before in my hiking career have I encountered old men hiking barefoot while singing old folk songs in Taiwanese. Not to my recollection have I seen altars to the Virgin Mary and to Buddha standing side-by-side on a sheer rock face on the side of a next-to-abandoned path, cigarettes propped up on sticks burning quite literally as offerings below them. And I do not recall having ever before seen - not even in California! - any signs warning hikers to beware of the monkeys.
On Saturday my friend Jeff and I took our most recent excursion, to a mountain out of town at a place called Wulai. It was a rather long trek, interspersed with random staircases carved out of the rock face on the side of the mountain and bridges made quite literally of twigs that had been nailed together, some of which were already snapped in two. After a couple of hours we were tired and extremely hot, so when we came across a river we decided to stop and dip our feet in the water, whereupon we were promptly attacked by psycho man-eating shrimp.
The tiny river shrimp literally descended upon us en masse, nibbling on our toes and nipping the arches of our feet with their little pinchers. Never one to be enamoured by slimy things, I retreated to dry land (where I was not entirely safe, I might add; a dragonfly did dive-bomb into my head). Jeff, on the other hand, took his revenge by capturing several of the larger shrimp and confining them to one of his empty water bottles. He packed them along with him, intending to relocate them to another river and thereby put an end to the insurgency*. A little further up the mountain, however, the path got quite steep, and became more of a mountain climb than a hike. Somewhere in the violent shuffle between man and nature the water bottle fell out of Jeff's backpack, and the poor little shrimp went plummeting several hundred feet. I'm certain they either died of shock or were boiled alive in their tiny plastic cage. It was really hot that day.
On the way back down the mountain we encountered an old man sitting under a tarp near a hut on the side of the path. He informed us that some men were bathing in the river, that they were naked, and that - because apparently we weren't aware of this - I am a girl.
"Is that ok?" Asked Jeff.
"Eh," I said. "I'm sure I've seen worse."**
The old man then said in broken English, "Wercum to here."
"Thank you," I said.
"Where you fum?"
"I'm from America," I said, and then added in Chinese, "You speak English very well."
He beamed. "Is becuz you ah so bootiful."
Unsure what my appearance had to do with his language skills but willing to take the compliment all the same, I thanked him and turned turned to follow Jeff down the path. We did come across a river, there were indeed men bathing in it, and they were, in fact, naked. When they saw me they stopped, blushed momentarily, and then made cat calls at me as I crossed a twig-bridge above their heads. After we had passed I could hear them behind us yelling, "Hey! Why didn't you warn us a girl was coming?!"
It was quite an adventure, what with all the naked butts and the murderous shrimp. When I got home that night I went to bed at 8:00 and slept for nearly twelve hours, and I'm actually still sore two days later. I'm pretty sure that entire hike was 500 miles, uphill the whole way. It's funny how you never remember the part of the hike where you actually got to go back down...
*I'm not entirely sure I understand the logic here, but I imagine he was thinking it was something akin to taking John Gotti away from the mob.