July 12, 2005

Climbing a mountain

Last week I was pretty busy with the conference, and even busier going out in the evening. On Thursday night we had the conference banquet at the Grand Hotel. Indeed it was 'grand'. A very posh place, with an even more impressive buffet — I have some photos!

Friday was the final day of the conference, so we said our goodbyes in the afternoon and the evening a few of us went up the 85-floor tower again. The band were there again, playing some quality tunes to accompany the romantic image of Kaohsiung city at night. When they played 'Killing me softly', I was starting to think this was the most perfect place to spend an evening.

I arrived home pretty late, to find everyone in bed and to be given the news that tomorrow we would leave at 6am to climb a mountain. I was not in the mood for sleeping, and I had to force myself to get a few hours rest before rising again. As usual I had no idea what I had let myself in for, but as ever I was optimistic that this would be an interesting (and unpredictable) day. We set off on what was to be a long drive, having met a couple of Canadians who would join us, and got a quick bite to eat at a local street seller — my favourite: soya milk and red bean buns.

The journey was long, and reminded me of the Mexican roads in Baha California. Once out of the city we were in the mountains for several hours, on twisting mountain-edge roads, before reaching our chosen mountain named Taguan — reaching 3220 metres into the clouds. The roads were not as bad as Mexico, but the mountain path was more of a challenge. We started off at a good pace, but soon we slowed down as our bodies complained at the lack of oxygen. My head was pretty light for the whole climb, and although the air temperature was cooler than the city, there were sections in direct sunlight which I could feel were burning my skin. As we got higher, the climbing got more difficult, the path got narrower, and we seemed to be getting closer and closer to the edge. There were places were the path seemed to be on edge of hundreds of metres of nothingness. The view was spectacular though! It took us over 2 hours to reach the summit of Taguan, by which time we were completely in the clouds and couldn't see much. It was colder than England up there, so we ate snacks to keep warm and other climbers offered us coffee. We didn't hang around too long before beginning the descent. This was slightly less demanding than the climb except that it was quite stressful for the knees — and my flip-flops! Most of the Taiwanese were pretty impressed that I accomplished the climb in flop-flops as most of them looked like they were going to climb everest.

It was a great feeling to reach the bottom again, and I celebrated by eating plenty of food. The drive home was long and by the time I got back I was ready for an early night.

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