One of the pleasures of hiking in Taiwan is meeting one’s fellow hikers.
We hiked Beidawushan during weekdays, so we did not encounter many professional hiking groups, though there was one student group from northern Taiwan, and another student group whose was setting out for intense river-tracing. We mostly saw middle-aged people, but young adults were also well-represented.
There was a group of Taijiang National Park rangers. Though Taijiang is not known for hiking, I suppose many of their rangers enjoy hiking in their free time. Perhaps they like hiking in their free time because it’s not part of their regular work duties.
Most of the hikers were small, self-organized groups from Pingdong and Kaohsiung. Many of them had hiked Beidawushan many times, and as I heard again and againg ‘each time you hike it, it’s different’. As a group not from southern Taiwan, we were considered a little unusual (okay, the fact that one of us came from Quemoy, and I am not even Asian was definitely enough to mark us as unusual).
A certain old man is known to have hiked Beidawushan over three hundred times…
Here are some English-language tales of Beidawushan hikes. If you know of more, please comment!
And here are some Beidawushan videos on YouTube:
A Good Video Made by Taiwanese Hikers – I think this gives a good sense of what many Taiwanese hiking groups are like. Just hearing them talk in Taiwanese is nostalgic for me.
Some Foreigners Try (and Fail) to Reach the Summit
A Beautiful Speeded-Up Beidawushan Video
The most famous hiking event is the ‘Coming of Age’ ceremony organized by the Pingdong County government. It is held every year so that Pingdong youth can build self-confidence and connect to their natural, cultural, and historic heritage – in other words, so they can experience all of the stuff I’ve been writing about in this blog series.
In clear weather, Beidawushan is visible from everywhere in the Pingdong plain, which is where most people in Pingdong live. While Pingdong is generally more rustic than, say, Kaohsiung City, the youth of Pingdong, like youth around Taiwan, have a tendency to have their lives absorbed by tests, electronic games, cram schools, manga, online-socializing, tests, TV, anime, tests. Those are not necessarily bad things, and they have all brought good into my own life (*ahem* I am a Manga Bookshelf contributor), but forming your life around those things tends to make one focus indoors, rather than nourishing a curiosity about one’s own position in history and the biosphere. I think bringing the youth out – both in a literal and metaphoric sense – is good.
Why is it good? That will be the topic of the next – and final – post.