Monday, October 03, 2005
Kenting Baby! (Day 2)
Ah... It doesn't get much better than this. Relaxing in a spring-fed waterfall pool up in the mountains on a hot day...
The next day (Saturday, October 1) we were out of the hotel before 11:00, a miraculous feat when you are trying to get 12 people to leave by 10:30. We went to a pretty nice beach about 10 minutes down the road and spent the next three hours there. It was really nice to get to a beach where we were allowed to swim out farther than waste-deep water for once. The lifeguards at the beach near our school always wave us in before we get out too far, which I suppose isn’t a bad idea, considering most lifeguards in Taiwan don’t know CPR.
We thought about renting jet skis for an hour or so while we were there, but the fee (about $45 U.S.) was a little too steep for us. Neils and I found a much cheaper thrill – jumping off a big rock into the ocean.
The giant rock near this beach apparently rolled down into the ocean from the nearby mountains long ago. One of the ledges on this rock is easy to climb and sits about 10 meters (about 30 feet) above a deep spot in the ocean. It has recently been a very popular spot to take a jump, which I really wanted to try. Some of the other guys didn’t want to try it because they thought it looked very low from far away. Neils and I, however, decided to check it out and discovered it was much higher from up close. We had to rent scuba boots because the sharp coral rock is not something you can negotiate in sandals, but it was definitely worth the $1.70 (U.S.) rental fee. We asked Marjorie to take some pictures, but she used her camera, so I haven’t loaded those on flickr yet. She took some video of me jumping, so if I can find a way to load this on blogger, I will let you know.
There were a few kids playing on the rocks on the way to the jumping rock (I think it’s called sailboat rock) who were very outgoing. One of the little girls and a couple of the boys kept saying “hello!” and asking for our names in English. It’s amazing how intent the adults here seem to be on getting their kids to learn English. They were only about seven years old, but could handle self-introductions in English pretty well. As cute as they were, however, it got a little annoying when they kept saying “bye bye” over and over for about 20 minutes.
After we had enough of playing in the salt water, we drove back to the hotel where we met up with five of our group who had returned earlier. We went to a cheap mom-and-pop Chinese place down the street for a late lunch of dumplings and fried rice. We needed a fast meal because we had planned to spend the afternoon hiking out in the national park.
We decided to take the scenic route to the Cikong Waterfalls – a nice secluded spot in the forest where a spring-fed river on a mountain forms seven waterfall pools as it cascades down toward the ocean. We made it there by about 4:00 in the afternoon, so we didn’t have much time to hike all the way to the top. We didn’t have flashlights and the trail here is not very developed, so it would be a nightmare to try to climb down at night. The “trail” is really more of a suggested place to walk – there is no beaten down path to walk on. You have to cross the river about three times, walk over slippery rocks and logs, and dodge any falling rocks one of your partners might accidentally kick down on the ascent. There are ropes tied to trees and strong roots protruding from the ground, but you have to be careful not to rely on them too much. You never know if one is old and frayed to the point of breaking or how solidly the tree or root it is tied to is stuck in the ground. Sometimes the rope is tied to a tree fairly far up hill, which means there is a lot of slack on it when you grab it. I would imagine if one relied too much on one of these ropes they could slip and the rope wouldn’t catch until they had already fallen pretty far. Fortunately, my years of trekking through the Missouri Outback prepared me for the climb in this terrain, so I was fine.
The first of the waterfalls was really beautiful. It’s not a very high waterfall, but it pours over the ledge in several locations. Some of our group didn’t really have good shoes, so they decided to wait for us there. The path up from the first fall was very steep and slippery. Unfortunately, my Pumas don’t have the best traction in the world, so I had to rely on the rope a lot here. When we made it past the top of the first fall, we found the first pool at the base of the second fall. It was pretty small, but looked deep enough to swim in. Since we only had about an hour before we had to head back, we had to decide whether to swim here or to try our luck farther up. With seven people, this pool looked like a tight fit, so we climbed on.
The next pool was beautiful! We decided to spend the rest of our sunlight time here. It was a steep climb down, but there were ropes, roots, and small rock ledges to use on the climb down. The water was cold, but clean and clear. It was probably about nine feet deep and really felt refreshing after being in warm saltwater all day. The current wasn’t too strong and you could get directly under the waterfall if you swam hard. The water has carved this pool so that the ledge where it falls to the next pool is like a wall that you can rest on. We had fun climbing up about five feet and doing cannonballs into the pool when we got cold. The rest of the time we just enjoyed the scenery. It was one of the prettiest spots I have ever seen. We all agreed if we made it back to Kenting, we would have to come back here and spend a whole day hiking to the top and working our way down, having a swim in each pool along the way.
At the end of the trail on the way back there is a little shack where some old Taiwanese men were hanging out. They had a few dogs tied up in the yard and a karaoke machine in the hut. It was an interesting sight because these guys were singing JAPANESE songs! They gave a big smile when I started talking to them in Japanese and told us to come again. I wish we had had more time to stay and chat, but by this point everybody was ready for a shower and dinner.
We drove back to the hotel and got ready for dinner. We tried to make reservations at “Din-din”, a famous Thai restaurant down the street, but it was booked until 11:00. We managed to get reservations at another Thai restaurant on the main street, which was really good. Ordering with a big group of people over here is fun because we each ordered one or two dishes and everybody just shared everything. The shrimp, chicken, pork, frog, beef, and veggies were all scrumptious! I have decided that no cuisine in the world tops Thailand’s, but that it just my opinion.
We went to a nightclub later that night to hang out for a bit. All of us were pretty lethargic when we first got there, but we all got out on the dance floor when the DJ put on some decent (i.e. non-top 40) dance tunes. Two effeminate Taiwanese guys kept getting into the dance circle and trying to pull in Adi and Steve, but they weren’t having any of it. It was a very amusing sight.
I was pretty tired, so I left at about 1:00. Most of the others stayed for another couple of hours, but I had been swimming, jumping, climbing, and driving all day, so I wasn’t up for it. We were supposed to have a typhoon move through the area late that night and into the morning on Sunday, so I was a bit worried we wouldn’t be able to drive home, but it went north. Apparently it was really strong and did some damage in Taiwan, but we hardly had any rain or wind in Kenting at all. Those who stayed in Kaohsiung said it rained pretty hard, but we only saw a few drops the whole drive home. Lucky us!
All in all it was a great weekend. I am back at school now and trying to get back into a studious mindset. Chinese classes are driving me crazy because this language seems next to impossible to pronounce if you are not Chinese. We have started using characters in class, however, which makes things a little easier for me. Now if I just wasn’t tone-deaf…
I am thinking of going to Taichung or Taipei for a day or two this weekend. If anything interesting happens between now and then, I will be sure to fill you in.