May 2017, Shei-Pa National Park, Taichung, Taiwan
We arrived at the start of the trail and we were met with several large warning signs. Landslides, bees, snakes and…bears. This was supposed to be just a casual stroll in the woods!
Katie and I swapped alarmed glances. Filled with trepidation we took a deep breath, girded our loins, and positioned ourselves safely in between Kima (Katie’s boss) and mum as we marched into the fog-filled forest. The destination was a suspension bridge, about a kilometre and a half away. The further we walked, the thicker the fog grew, creating an intensely eerie atmosphere that aggravated our existing unease. Suddenly, from within the mist, came a loud howl. We stopped dead in our tracks. Silence. This was it – the end. It was obviously the bears. We started inching forward cautiously, trying not to attract any attention. An ominous creak. Before us, from out of the mist, there emerged an enormous wooden boar head! Our fear went into overdrive and we broke into a sprint – desperate to get away from the bears and supernatural pigs.
We were very quickly stopped by mum and Kima, who laughed at us and, to our disbelief, stopped to investigate, instead of run. Clearly, fear is only for the young. On closer inspection, it was clear that our “bear” was a dog and our “supernatural statue” was a tree that had been uprooted in a landslide. We had fixated on totally the wrong warning sign. Like everything else in my life, the reality was far more mundane than the terror my overactive imagination had created.
Our fog-filled adventure had exhausted us and by about 7:30 we were about ready to pass out. Or so we thought. The four of us were sharing a room, and those of you that have read my Vietnam posts, will know that one of my family is a demon snorer. Just as we had drifted off, a thunderous peal echoed across the room, jolting us awake. Then, just enough silence to allow us to doze off. Followed by another canon-like emission. This irregular routine continued throughout the night. Despite putting in earplugs, wearing noise cancelling headphones, and wrapping our heads with clothes, the snores kept coming. And to make matters worse, she had chosen the bed on the far side of the room – just out of kicking distance.
To cement in our sleep deprivation and paranoia, we had also agreed to wake up every morning at 5:30 to catch the sunrise. We were told that we couldn’t miss it, it was mind blowing. And so we went. After dragging ourselves out of bed, and throwing on all the clothes we owned, because the dawn was freezing, we stumbled down to the viewing balcony in the dark. Rather than the meditative scene I had imagined, we were met with the entire hotel gathered together, waiting noisily for the sun to emerge. I joined them in sullen, sleep deprived grumpiness. It never came. Nor did it come the day after either. However, on our third and final day, operating on our last reserves due to the earth-shattering snores, and stubborn cloud – we were rewarded. It was every bit as beautiful as they said it was. Breathtaking. The sun rays broke through a thick, fluffy blanket of cloud, playing with the light and painting the most beautiful scene. It was the perfect end. And, most importantly, it meant it was time to go home and finally get some sleep.