Monday, February 18, 2013

Chinese New Year Episode II

By the fourth day my Chinese New Year plans veered away from beach, sun, art and carefree living, when my friend Ted and I took off on his scooter to meet some friends at the Lisong Hot Springs, the most remote and hard to reach hot springs in all of Taiwan.  Discovered in 2002 by Aboriginal hunters.  

We began the 2.5-hour journey going the wrong way for about an hour, making it more of a 4.5-hour journey.  It was no problem though, I am always happy on a scooter in the sunshine, and the scenery was breathtaking.  A place where the mountains meet the sea is always a good place to be.  When we were on the right path growing closer and closer to the mountains, it dawned on me that I was not at all prepared for this impromptu change of pace to hike a hot spring.  In fact, all I had brought with me was what I was wearing: a swimsuit, a dress, and a pair of Tom’s.  Over my arm was a straw beach bag with some notebooks, pens, makeup and a random pair of dinosaur socks.  As the mountain air grew colder it was decided it would be beneficial to pull over and purchase some warm clothes. 

On the right path, with our new warm clothes, we were ready to take on the mountain.  We scooted up the road through rock faces, caves and cliffs deeper and higher up, up, and up on our way to meet friends at the mouth of the path to the hot springs. 

It was more than half way up the mountain that Ted realized we were almost out of gas.  I had no idea what was going on at this point and was exhausted.  He stopped and spoke Chinese with a police officer for a while and was told to take the road leading left, because along that was an aboriginal village, where there would surely be petrol for our trusty stead. 

When we arrived to the village I was in awe.  It was so picturesque and different.   We were in another world on this road.  The people were so friendly and it seemed like such a happy place.  There were people outside and puppies frolicking around everywhere!  We spoke to a woman and she led us to a young big-bellied man who happily siphoned gasoline into our empty ride.  The people were so friendly and happy to help.  I was pleasantly pleased to be in the presence of these aboriginal peoples.  Then I heard a yelp and looked to my right to see a cute brown and white Taiwan dog being completely run over by the back left tire of an SUV.   “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!!!”  I gasped as I put my hand to my mouth and did everything I could not to cry in front of this ancient civilization.  As I am watching this dog squirm, and die, dragged to the side of the road, I look around to see the poor girl who lost her dog running to its aid.  However, there was no little girl, little boy, old lady or anyone who this dog belonged to.  He was just left on the side of the road.  Shocked, I tried to look anywhere but at man’s best friend dying in the dirt.  I looked away only to see a baby waddle out of its home and pop a squat in the front yard, peeing like it ain’t no thing.  “Where are we?” I thought.  Ted immediately just started laughing nervously and we decided to get the hell out of that time capsule.  In a strange daze, we slowly found our way back to the road leading to our friends. 

It was starting to get dark now and the clouds were beginning to descend on to the mountains.  The higher we climbed, the darker and thicker the misty mountains became.  Eventually, we found the trail marker.  We were close.  The path to the trail led us on a muddy, rocky journey to what was the beginning of a horror film.  Dogs viciously barked at us, chained to multiple wooden dog shacks along the chilling, dirt road.   

When we arrived to the trailhead, there was no trace of anyone.  We looked around and an old woman emerged from a small house surrounded by dark, ghostly mist.  She was small, and old and scary as hell.  She spoke in Taiwanese tongues and told us she had seen our friends.  Eventually, we were able to find a spot to get service and called our friends.  They were not on the trail or even near the trail.  They were down the mountain and had texted us earlier to tell us the locals said it would be crazy to drive up at this time of day.  Yeah it was crazy, but kind of fun at the same time. 

So we made our way slowly back down.  All that could be seen were the scooter lights for about two feet and the white lines on the side of the road.  As we made our way down the mist eventually cleared and we found our friends and feasted.

That night we found our way to some hot springs down the mountain where we hung with a rowdy bunch of Taiwanese people.  We drank beer, relaxed and thanked our lucky stars that we had made it out of this day alive. 

We all woke early the next day to take on the path to the most remote and hard to reach hot springs on the island.   Wearing only a dress, bathing suit, and ill-equipped shoes, I wrapped my mom’s old pink bandana around my head ready to take on this trek.  I led the way.   The hike began as a nice path with a few steep inclines, and poles and ropes to lead you.  Then the trail led to a 400-meter steep path straight down, complete with ropes used to repel.  So I took them in my hands and began to step down the face of the mountain into the gorge.  We slowly made our way, panting and sweating, when I heard the earth grumble above me.  “Helen!!! Move!!” “Helen, watch out!!”  The boys above me screamed.  I looked up and saw a large boulder coming my way.  After a second of hesitation, I angrily pushed off from one side of the rock face to the other.  I swung around Just in time for the gigantic stone to graze my elbow and lodge in a few rocks next to me.  In just this small second in time on a mountain, in Taiwan, I literally almost died, or lost a limb, or something.  Had it not been for the rocks it lodged in, if it wasn’t me, it surely would have been the old Chinese couple or their fat, annoying Chihuahua below.  I sat and waited as the people hopped up on adrenaline rehashed the tale above.  I was alive, and I was a Jedi, that much was clear. 

After my near death experience, we couldn’t wait to get into the gorge that housed the hot springs.  We made it down to the bank of the river and followed it to to our destination.  Here we sat in amazement that we were alive.  Damn, we deserved these waters.  It is said that each hot spring has something they are good for.  It could be skin, or health, or bones.  These were for healing and they did the job.   

Aboriginals gifting us gas.  SUV and perishing perro in the background.

Crazy dog attached to his house in the mist.

Creepiest tractor I ever did see.  

Beginning of the hike.

The boulder.

I call this: "Shit, I almost killed Helen."

Lovas in the Gorge. 

The beautiful Lisong Hot Springs.  Totally worth it. 



  1. Another Saturday morning and time for a great adventure.

    Very happy to see you made it out alive, we are.


  2. I love your waterfall pictures, it reminds me of Avatar.

    Tell those big rocks to go away go go.