Friday night… and a 3 cars of designer head for the hills to discover nature and camp. Not quite in the usual European way, but this was the joy of mayhem.
I was in the car with Cesare (a taiwanese designer) driving and Anke in the front and Michael and I in the back. Cesare is surely the most connected person I have ever met. He had one hand held GPS system in his hand that he is tracking our movements with (though he needs to hold it out of the window to get signal), a mobile phone in the other hand guiding the fleet of cars along, a USB cable draped over him from the window to allow Anke in the front access to a different external GPS aerial connected to a micro laptop running route finder software. At the same time the car has its own GPS system. SO, 3 GPS systems and one phone… we know EXACTLY where we are, but not a clue of where we are going!
Multiply that by 3 cars, all delegating and confirming and checking and cross referencing information, and you get a clue of the confusion. Extremely organised, military precision confusion.
So we get there 2 hours later than planned and begin to locate the river… now, rivers are found in the bottom of valleys (the same in europe) and we have all our equipment, tents and most importantly beer, and obviously we want to get from the top of the valley to the bottom to enjoy ourselves. Except it is pitch black, we have a set of 3 torches, the valley sides are STEEP and covered in roots and everything is slippery (see above notes about river). And we are carrying crates of beer. So, systems should have been put in place to get the team to the bottom of the hill, with the torches guiding the people with equipment (and most importantly beer) over the rocks and roots and past the springy hit-you-in-the-face branches. should.
I came close to death on several occasions and I can only blame the perfect counter-balancing effect of the beer crate I was carrying matching my ruck sack for having saved me. Thankyou Taiwan Beer company.
After getting to the bottom we all jumped in and sat chest deep drinking beers (the only way… the coolest bar in the world) and generally feeling pleased with ourselves. Fukang hunted fish in his white y-fronts, ass in the air (HE CAUGHT 3 FISH with his BARE HANDS!) … now we call him the ‘incredible fukang’ for obvious reasons.
We made camp back UP the slope after making the logical move of splitting the group in two (one with less torches) and we eventually made it back up. Although carrying less as a result of having drunk the beer, the obvious effect was having considerably reduced fine motor skills. So, this is the new sport: night time, blind drunk scrambling with packs.
But waking up to a rather beautuful vally made it all worth it. Taiwan really is a beautiful place. We sat by the river for what seemed like hours messing around in waterfalls, throwing stones and generally basking in the sun. Very successful.
And we met with the rest of the department in the afternoon for the BEST barbecue one could have built. The guys did stirling work and although the communal barbecue style (rather than alpha male cooking for tribe) was different and rather frustating at first it soon made sense and the natural order returned when you realised the incredible quantities of food available. Fresh shrimp was a highlight.
This intensity continued into the afternoon when we went to a set of hot springs nearby. Now this was an experience! Up the hill side were sets of baths. Hot ones nearest the hills and the source… cooler ones as you approached the river… and one 7 metre driving board for jumping into the freshwater after sitting in a natural steam room (a small tent up on the side of the hill). Old gents, young tykes and professional people all diving in… on a board fixed with 2 G clamps. wow. just added to the excitement!
One thing I found hilarious was that each hotel located on the opposite side of the valley had its own water connection to the other side via a hose pipe… and there are alot of hotels!
And then we went home and got dinner (THAI FOOD IS THE BEST IN THE WORLD) and went to a venue to watch some local bands… and this was all in 24 hours!
A nice prologue to all this is that I have my apartment sorted out and that is a GREAT feeling.