Start Southern Cross highway 20-deep in Bunun land

Trip Start Nov 06, 2006
Trip End Dec 31, 2008

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Flag of Taiwan  ,
Monday, May 21, 2007

Route: Bulao - Baulai - Laonung river ( white water rafting ) - Gao Chung village - Taoyuan town - Chinhe village ( Chiao Nien Si Hot Spring ) 
Total Distance: 26 km
Altitude up: 300m
Altitude down: 100m

Waking up and seeing that the rain has stopped is encouraging.We buy some things for breakfast and have it on the veranda of the hut. Leaving just before 8:00 am we reach Baulai short past 9:00am. The traces of days of rain are everywhere to be seen - smaller rocks are scatterd all over the road and small mud slides form mini hills on the road. The area is also full of mango trees, unluckily not ripe yet. Baulai is a small village at the starting point of the No. 20 Southern Cross Highway, has several hot spring hotels and resorts ( one is vey nice and luxury, the other one is more for family vacation ) and the Laonung river with rafting activities. The family resort lies at a place where one river merges into the larger Laonung river, which also explains why after a typhoon 3 months later a major section of the resort's garden and a street were washed away - see photos, one taken by me and one from the newspaper later. You can imagine how surprised I was to see the same perspective of a place I took the photo of on a photo in a newpaper documenting the damage caused by the typhoon. What better way to demonstrate the power of nature. The Laonung rafting season will only begin a month later (  I will be rafting on the other rafting river Shioguluan Si between Taitung and Hualien a few days later ).

At 10:00am we continue our walk to Taoyuan. Tsai Chin calls the church to secure a place for the night. On the way we visit a very simple hot spring called Laolao ( double old, may be not the most attrative name for a rejuvinating hotspring ). The hot spring is marked with a painted signboard and is about 1 km off No. 20. On the way we meet a man with his daughter on an off-road tri-cycle. The place belongs to Bunun indiginous peoples. It is nicely located beside a river with individual basins behind rocks in the open - to cool down, please descent to the river below. A basin would cost 350 NTD. As we do not have much time we leave without a hot bath. In Gao Chung village I see an interesting house tugged away in a side road on the right side of No. 20. When we take a look a man comes out and invites us in. This man is the owner and artist and his name is La Fu La Se ( A-Guei ). He is a wood and stone sculpturist and film maker. He shows us around and on the second floor is an unused coffee shop. He had not been in his house for half a year because of a film project. On weekends he serves coffee on the second floor - go there, have a look and enjoy a coffee. He is a very interesting and hospitable man. He produces and directs films, mainly with an aboroginal background. One of his films was also shown on National Geography and others on local TV channels. We have a talk, admire his art works and photos from films and exchange name cards.

All the way this day goes up and down by between 20 and 100m again and again, but in the end we only gain 100 m up, which is bit frustrating, knowing that we will have to cross over 2.700m. On the way two cars and a motorcycle want o give us a ride - the part with the motorcycle I do not understand yet - 3 grown-ups with 2 big backpacks on one motorcycle. Perhaps the offer was only ment for my co-walker. Along the way we see many fallen rocks and at one place I still manage to take a picture of a bulldozer clearing the road from larger rock slide. In Taoyuan village at km 94 on road No.20 we eat beef noodle soup and stired fried potato leaves and watch a small boy chasing a mini pig with a broom. The shop has some art objects of the artist we had just visited. We also see a man weaving straps from plastic bands usually used for packaging. The straps are used for  aboriginal backpacks used for field work and on hunting trips. I joke with him that I will bring my backpack to him if my starp will break - he smiles. The new museum for Bunun aboriginal art and culture has not been opened yet. Two boys who play around the place confirm it, but also do not know when it will be opened. We consider to walk to Chiao Nien Hot Springs, but it shall be 3.2 km from Taoyuan, not knowing if one way or round trip and perhaps in totally wrong direction. Then a man in a car tells us that it is closer to go from Chinhe, the next village where we want to stay in the church. Chinhe village is only 4 km away. Here we get a tongpu in the church with a great view on the stream and small,but somehow special waterfall.

After an hour rest we walk the 1.5 km to the Chiao Nien Hsi Hot Springs, via the village, a suspension bridge over the stream we could see from the room, along a small, but interesting shaped waterfall and special rock setting and by a tunnel construction site. I find it a strange location for a tunnel as no road or any other connection leads to it - as I am a curious person that means - ask and find out. We approach a man on a big machine doing some repairs.We shout from distance some questions to him, but he signals us to come nearer as he cannot hear us. Later he explanes that he can't hear that well anymore from the many years of load dynamite blasts in tunnel construction. He gives excellent answers and later he tells us that he, Mr. Guo is the No. 2 man of this construction project's largest section. His boss, the number 1 is a Japanese. Mr. Guo says that he has been in Japan for training. He is repairing the machine as he is the only one who knows how to do it. He answers many of my questions: The tunnel will be a water tunnel, a major project to supply water to the Tainan, Kaoshiung and Pintung area - water from rivers in the area is collected here and then diverted to the Tsing Wen Dam near Tainan. Total length is 39 km. The whole tunnel will be filled with water. The project has 4 sections, which are started from 4 different places. Annother man working here calls us and talks to us. He is the man who told us the place where to get off the bus the day before - he came home from a homeleave for the weekend - what a small world. The Mr. Guo invites me to go into the tunnel by his car. Tsai Chin as a woman is not allowed - bad luck, a believe known in many tunnel and mining works in many countries ( for mining I know it is or has been true also in Germany ). I get with Mr. Guo into his small off-roader and into the tunnel. It is a huge tunnel, so that two trucks can pass each other. The athmospere is spooky, very dim, wet from running water, still dust in the air, very loud from different machines and the trucks as well as very hot, so that breathing gets more difficult. The tunnel is going down slightly. Two trucks are making turning maneuvers - I can feel a bit claustrophobic. He explains that the heat will get less further down as the fresh air is blown deeper into the tunnel. But where does the heat come from? We are not yet so close to the core of the earth. The answer is that the tunnel cuts through a hot spring with water of about 50 C running into the tunnel. Although very interesting it is so uncomfortable that I ask Mr. Guo to return, what he does. Wow, what an experience. Outside we thank Mr. Guo very much for his time and interesting explanations and continue our walk to the hot spring - the one coming to the surface of the earth.

The Chiao Nien Chi hot spring is about 1 km up the mountain. The hot spring is developed with ponds , but still in a pretty natural setting. In the background we see Chang Long ( Long Dragon ) waterfall , definitely an impressive waterfall which we cannot reach because the trail had been destroyed in a typhoon and the way is totally overgrown - it is another sign of the power of Taiwan's nature/ flora. Tsai Chin goes into the hot spring, joining maybe 10 other people who are coming and going. I am too lazy and sit by the river. The hot bathers 'cool down' in the mountain stream. On our way back at about 6:00pm, it's slowly getting dark, we meet Mr. Guo again.

We go to have dinner at a local restaurant and get a special treatment of huge plates of fried rice, pork meat and cabbage for just 250 NTD. The lao ban niang ( lady boss ) says we shall "tche bao le" - eat us full. In the restaurant which seems also to be something like the local gathering point and " Vereinslokal " we see many trophies including some for hunting, a favored pasttime for the local people. About 6 people sing KTV, some better, some still need a bit more practice. Later they change to aboriginal songs and dance the traditional dance to it. We clap our hands in the tact of the music and applaud the performers. Later we talk to a lady who is a teacher at the area's junior high school - her name is A-Bin. As the school is on the way from Taoyuan to Meishan we agree to come by the next day and say hello.

From 8 to 10:00 pm I write my notes and at 10:30 pm is sleeping time. Being beside a river is romantic, but not good for a deep sleep when the river is so strong after several days of rain. It sounds like a train running through the room, rolling all the stones and gravel downstream from the mountain. The water, usually a wonderful blue-green, is now grey.


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