25-Dec-2003 -- We left 24°N 121°E and Puli after sunset and headed northeast to Wushe. This place is supposedly haunted by the ghosts of the 1000 people killed by the Japanese imperial army in 1930 in a violent uprising by the local aboriginal population against the occupation forces. Cameo was neither keen to talk about it nor to stay too long. We decided to spend the night in Chingching Farm 8km further north. It’s one of the few places in Taiwan where cows and sheep can be seen. On weekends the small community bustles with tour buses and camera-clicking tourists. Since the last time I was there, a Seven-Eleven and a Starbucks (the highest in Taiwan) had been built. The next morning, on Christmas Day, we left at sunrise and took the highest road in Taiwan, reaching an elevation of 3275m at Wuling, to cross the island.
When we were planning the three-day trip around the northern part of Taiwan, Cameo had decided we would use her car. However, when I told her I wanted to take the mountain road she got nervous and the morning we were supposed to leave she said that her father had warned her that it’d be impossible and too dangerous. I told her that I had crossed the Himalayas at an altitude of over 6000m from Nepal to Tibet in an ageless Chinese vehicle under worst conditions. A few years earlier I had also used a 150cc motorbike to visit many parts of Taiwan, very often in the mountains. But she remained very skeptical and I decided to rent a car, warned again by some companies that we needed at least a 4-WD to cross the mountains. We didn’t follow their advice and we had a very easy and pleasant journey passing stunning mountain scenery.
Two hours later, without encountering more than a half dozen cars, we reached Lishan, which is famous for growing cold-weather fruits like apples, peaches and pears. Local people were already busy installing fruit stalls along the main road. I had a second breakfast while Cameo was catching up on her sleeping time. We then started our descent to the other side of the island and four hours later reached the Pacific Ocean east of Ilan. We followed the seaside on Road 2 and started looking for a boat north of Dashi. We found one in the small fishing village of Shi-cheng 6km south of the confluence. It took us a while to explain the reason why we needed a boat but Cameo is a very charming girl and has one of the most sensual voices I have ever heard - it could easily lure the devil into heaven. Lu Quen-chuen, the captain of the fishing boat Chi-feng, was easily convinced and after registering our names at the local army post we left the harbor at around 14:15.
The datum used in Taiwan are slightly different from WGS84 and I told the captain that although he could approach the confluence with the help of his marine GPS we’d have to switch to mine to zero in on the confluence. The weather was nice and the sea almost completely flat. We followed the coast north and reached the confluence 20 minutes later. The point was less than 300 meters from the shore. I snapped a few pictures and we headed back for Shi-chen Kang.
The dozen young soldiers at the army post had been amazed and curious about our quest. After coming back I tried to take their picture with Cameo standing among them but we were told it was forbidden by army regulations. I only managed to have one soldier without his uniform, wearing T-shirt and shorts. The picture had to be taken away from any army installations and without revealing any part of the soldier under the belt.
We left Shi-chen Kang and drove south. Some 10km off the coast Kueishan (turtle mountain) Island was visible. According to a local legend the Lanyang Princess and a turtle commander fell in love and attempted to run away together from under the nose of the Sea Dragon King. They were caught and the Sea Dragon King punished them with eternal separation. The princess was put on land and transformed into the green and fertile Lanyang Plain, while out in the ocean the turtle commander was left to become Kueishan Island. Today the island is equipped with super-sensitive radar equipment that keeps a watch on China’s submarines and ‘fishing’ vessels. At Toucheng we turned west and left Kueishan Island and the east coast behind us to cross the northern part of the island for the other confluence off the western coast of Taiwan.