06-Jan-2016 -- The longest incomplete hunt – So close and yet so far
This is the second out of two confluence points visited by Rainer during a bicycle trip around the island of Taiwan. The story continues from 24°N 121°E.
For Ray, this is his 2nd attempt for this point. Previous effort a little over 10 years ago with his daughter Sierra reached 8.4 km GPS distance. This time the record was improved to 2.2 km, but still not there.
At noon on Saturday, 2 January we met in Táidōng (臺東市) train station. Ray rented a bicycle such that we both could ride to the confluence in the morning. After we had spent the night in a fancy bed & breakfast place, it was time to take off. It was raining heavily and continuously all day. We tried to pack our gear waterproof and headed off at 7:30 AM towards the confluence point.
After riding through the rain for three hours, we reached Hóngyè (紅葉), the last village before entering the wilderness where this confluence is located. We were already very hungry and when we saw a barbecue stand, we had a feast. We thought that this will be our last meal for 3 days. But it would come out differently: Still during heavy rain we rode (and partly pushed) our bicycles upwards along the old Yánpíng forest road (延平林道). It was an exhausting torture, physically and mentally. When we had reached a height of 1000 m altitude, a motor-bike came towards us. This was the first person we saw after leaving Hongye. The man on the motor bike told us, that there was a gate 1 km ahead that we could not pass. He was the gatekeeper and now he had just finished work. We should come again tomorrow. Pleading him to open the gate for us was unsuccessful. For a trip into the wilderness extending a single day as we had planned, he told us that we must anyway obtain a permit at the forest administration in Guānshān (关山) which is all the way downhill about 30 km away!
So we coasted down again and continued two long rainy hours cycling until we finally had reached the town Guānshān. Here we stayed in a very nice guesthouse, but we were quite frustrated after this unsuccessful day. In particular, Ray was not amused to find out that his paniers were not waterproof at all. He spent the evening at the coin-laundry.
The next morning we thought about abandoning the plan to visit this confluence point and make a coastal bicycle trip instead. But we nevertheless stopped by at the forest administration office. There, we simply got oral permission to enter the forest. The gatekeeper would be informed by phone. Therefore we had to come all the way to Guānshān? No, we were advised to obtain permission at the police as well. We went to the police station, were we got official permission letters for entering the forest.
Now we had already the permission, so why not try again? Cycling the long and steep road for another time would take too long, so we thought about renting a motor-bike at Guānshān train station. But when we got a good offer to rent a 4WD car, we immediately rented the car, put our bicycles and gear in the trunk and took off again.
This time everything went according our plan. The gatekeeper opened the gate for us and let us even drive further from the gate at KM 10 up to KM 15 where the road ends. Around 15-20 years ago, a land slide had blocked the road and since then it was never opened for traffic. We parked our rental car at the very end of the road and assembled the bicycles. We were optimistic or even naïve in believing that cycling would be possible beyond the location of the land slide. However, soon after we had carried our bikes and gear over the landslide area another land slide came up. Again we carried our staff over it. But when the third land slide appeared to us only after 500 m, we decided to abandon the bicycles and the idea of cycling. We repacked our gear for hiking and started following what had been a road two decades ago.
It was interesting to see how quick nature regains the former human structures. There was hardly a piece of bare concrete left. The road surface was totally overgrown such that we had sometimes a hard time following the course of the road. Shortly before dusk, we saw a small black bear. We continued hiking 2 hours in the dark until we set camp at KM 32.
The next morning was beautifully sunny and we could see a sea of clouds
below us. We had lunch at KM 42, where we left the road in order to follow a trail to Měinàitián Mountain (美奈田主山). As it turned out, that it was less of a trail but a marked route to the peak. We followed a steep incline upwards through pine forest, until we reached thickets
at an altitude of 2600 m. The going was now slow and it was not before 4 PM until we reached the triangulation point
at the peak. When it got dark, we were in 2.4 km distance from the confluence point, located on the ridge between the northern and the southern peak of Měinàitián Mountain. Hiking further was hardly possible in the dark, so we set our second camp
In the night we discussed whether we should try to visit the point or turn back. Our problem was that we were running out of time, in particular for Ray who had commitments two days later in Beijing. But the real problem was a sudden lack of water. Since we left the old forest road and went up on the ridge we could not find drinking water for another day. We estimated that it would take an 8 hours hike from our second camp to reach the confluence point and back with a strenuous climb. The only option would have been to descend first about 500 m to fill our water bottles and then come back up again. We should have read more carefully the successful previous visit of Tamai Lee, Koi, and Baki – they carried 15 liters of water!
Regrettably, mainly for safety reason for lack of water, we decided to turn back in the morning even though with the point being within reach – 2.2 km beeline. We knew this would be a hard point to reach but still we underestimated the difficulty and time required. Maybe we make another attempt in the future, because this was a really joyful hike. It was such a great experience such that it didn’t matter that we failed to reach the point.
Hiking back down made our third day a very long one. We reached our bicycles at 9:30 PM. After a rather slippery transport of our bicycles over the landslides we reached the car and thought the hard part was over. Unfortunately, the part of the mountain was engulfed in a dense cloud and the visibility was less than 4-5 meters which made the driving down the winding road rather tense. Only when we were near Hóngyè we went below the clouds, the drive became easy and we reached Guānshān just a little after midnight.
For Ray, this is one of the few 2nd tries of a confluence point. Looks like a 3rd attempt is in order. Hopefully, it will not take 10 more years!
CP Visit Details:
- Distance to the road: 10 km (straight line)
- Distance to a footpath: 3 km (straight line)
- Distance of bicycle parking: 10 km (straight line)
- Time to reach the minimal distanced to the CP from the road: 1.5 days
- Time spent on attempt: 4 days
- Measured height at turn-around: 2812 m
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 2.26 km
- Position accuracy: 9 m
- Topography: located in steep mountain terrain
- Vegetation: dense mixed forest
- Weather: partly cloudy 12° C (felt temperature)
- Given Name: The Pole of Inaccessibility Confluence