It seemed that this one plan, this one adventure, was never going to become a reality. A week before our first departure attempt, our plan was rocked to a halt by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake with the epicenter near our planned destination. Then, our second and third try got rained on and consequently blew away by two typhoons.
So, we were hoping that the fourth time was going to be the charm.
And it was!!
As we made our way up the mountain road, we put our faith in our smartphone GPS to point us to the exact location. Google pinpointed a very steep, very narrow paved road that snaked up the side of the mountain.
There was no sides indicating that this was the correct spot. There were, however, several signs in Chinese informing visitors to ask the few local businesses within the immediate area for assistance – a smart tactic to get business if you ask me since most provided 4×4 travel up the steep road to the trail entrance.
We arrived very early which made parking very easy. As we began our hike, my head felt quite heavy as my body slowly adjusted to the elevation and thinness of the air.
But my brief discomfort was quickly overshadowed by the silence of the early morning. Birds chirped their hellos. We were greeted with the glowing morning sun over a very picturesque tea plantation, then a forest of bamboo, followed by pine trees which shaded our paths and casted shadows.
Higher and higher we climbed and at that point, we were still unsure if this was the correct location. With every twist and turn of the road we were unfortunately greeted with yet another large, steep incline. The path seemed to go on forever but luckily we were surrounded with such amazing natural beauty to keep our minds off the intense climb.
At that point, we met two hikers descending and we were happy to hear that this was indeed the right location and we were nearly there (which was music to my ears).
The road suddenly came to an abrupt end. The sign pointed one way towards the forest and the other way towards a coffee shop. The path was rather small and relatively flat. However, it required total concentration as it was necessary to climb over large rocks, manoeuver around enormous tree roots and stumps, and avoid large puddles of mud which made the path very slippery.
Then, as we came out of the forest, there was a clearing and our destination was right in front of us. 忘憂森林 (wang you sen lin), loosely meaning ‘Forget Your Worries Forest’ in English is a new sightseeing attraction. It is located between Xitou and Sanlinxi. (I have search the internet for the proper name of this place in English, but it was a dead-end, kinda like all the fallen wood in the area.)
We were lucky to have the place to ourselves. The early morning light casted reflections of the leafless standing wood in the water and the wood created shadows on the entire area. The morning was still, silent, and perfect. For nearly an hour, the place was ours. We walked around the area and enjoyed the entire area from different vantage points.
And then we heard the 4×4 vehicles whizzing their way up the mountain, which was followed by footsteps and voices. As the people came, so did the fog which made the area look different. It created a more airy, mysterious feel.
The narrow paths around the wood pond began to become congested. We decided to leave and enjoy a cup of coffee on the opposite side. The coffee shop was deserted when we got there. We sipped our coffee and enjoyed the cool mountain breeze.
It seemed like we were always one step ahead of everyone else that morning. When the coffee shop began to fill, it was our cue to leave.
The coffee gave us the extra energy boost for the downhill decent which proved to be a workout too as we fought against gravity. The walk back was very different as the fog engulfed the trees of pines and bamboo and kissed the tea plantations.
As we neared our parked car, we met one woman carrying high-heels as she made the upward climb barefoot. I always wondered to this day how she kept those heels from sticking into the mud and how she climbed up onto those rocks that blocked the path. But at least she can say she was the most fashionable there that day!!
What are your favorite hiking areas?
4 months blogging as of today!!