The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness- John Muir
Saturday, my friend invited me out with her friends to a bar. Bars were my scene 10 years ago, but I decided to get out of my hermit mode and join them. The place had a relaxed vibe to it. Too bad I went on their last day of business. It’s one of the only black-owned businesses in Taichung and I wanted to support them. I didn’t stay too long but had a good time meeting new people from all over the world and hanging with my girl Bree. Whenever I lived in cities, one of my favorite things was to take a walk around at night or sit on a rooftop and conversate. As I walked home, I soaked in the sounds of the city. The scooters zipping by, the overall calmness of the streets at night, and animals who come out of hiding when the darkness arrives.
Walking allows me to be fully present and notice things that I can’t while driving. The next day I woke up early to go on a hike. I signed up for a Meetup event to go into the mountains in Pinglin, New Taipei and explored the area. I never go into these events with any expectations, and usually I’m pleasantly surprised. Getting to these mountains was an experience in itself. High-Speed Rail, to the subway, bus to another bus. Actually, getting there was not the issue; it’s coming home that can be a struggle. The event planner, Peter, is a nice guy. Great personality, knows English well and is a leader, making sure everyone was okay on the hike.
Our first stop was this amazing river called Beishi River. The scenery was so lush and bright green. The water was an extravagant shade of aquamarine and people were paddle boarding. If I could have, I would have stayed there all day soaking up the environment. Instead, it was on to the mountains. Taiwanese drivers can be crazy, and I find bus drivers to be the worst. The way that they handle the twists and turns of the hills with reckless abandonment, I found myself saying, “God, you with us? We might need you.” This drive was definitely not for people who can get sick.
The scenery took my breath away as I stepped off the bus and into the vast greenery of the mountains. It reminded me of my time in Peru. I couldn’t help but think of the shaman class I’m taking and how important and influential the mountains are. I noticed there were rows and rows of little trees. Our leader told us that they grow tea up here because the climate is just right for the plant. As we began our hike up the mountain, I noticed that everyone took their time, stayed back, and supported others who needed a break. My Shaman teacher, Puma, told me in the Andes a leader is someone who’s not in the front but is in the back encouraging and lifting others up, making sure everyone ends up at the finish line together.
I’ve been on a couple of Taiwanese hikes and never asked how much longer we have to go. Lol. They will say only a short distance, but that doesn’t correlate with reality. Ten minutes longer really means thirty minutes. I felt so blessed to experience nature, learn and see things that I couldn’t see in the States. The Rolling Hills and the tea plantations have such a majestic appearance. It seems like the perfect place to grow tea: Mountainous terrain, much rain, good soil, and it’s close to water. On my hike up the mountain, I talked to this Taiwanese woman named Jenny. She told me some of the history of this area in Taiwan. She said in Pinglin, not the popular Oolong tea, but a tea called Baozhong tea was brought to Taiwan 100 years ago from China. After sightseeing and taking pictures, it was time to go into old Pinglin to eat.
Tea is their way of life in this quaint little town and this was evident as we strolled through the streets. Most things sold have tea in them, and the neighborhood’s decor included teapot statues and lamps And that lit up the sidewalk. By the time we arrived at the restaurant, everyone was hungry. It was a tiny restaurant and the owners were so happy to see our big group arrive. The food was all local produce farmed in the area. It was nice to have some authentic organic and see a variety of greens besides romaine lettuce. The owner brought bowl after bowl of sweet potatoes, radish cakes, kale, cabbage, chicken soup, and noodles cooked in tea. After we ate, I bought a box of local tea and can’t wait to try it. Overall, a fantastic weekend of meeting new people while exploring new parts of Taiwan.
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