It was a rather unfortunate day to forget it, because halfway along my walk to Clear Water Bay, the heavens opened up in an epic tropical storm. I huddled in a pagoda with a few hikers and mountain bikers who had also been caught out. Later, after heading down to the beach and paddling around for a bit, i took a mini-bus over to Sai Kung. On the way i noticed the umbrella was still sitting there, amusingly sheltered from the sun under the larger umbrella i had been sitting under. Later that night, when i was heading back to my hotel in North Point, it had disappeared.
So, no umbrella. But i was determined to sit by the sea and write. That was a mission on its own, because Hualien - despite being sort-of a "seaside" town - does not have great access to the coast. Much like Zhunan on the west coast of Taiwan, there are large strips of agricultural and light industrial land along the coast, and very few roads or bike paths leading to the actual shore. This is made worse by a mysterious construction project that has closed off several roads. By the time i got to the shore i was already sun-kissed, because i had to backtrack a half hour to find another way around the construction and wild dogs. I sought out the tallest boulder and tucked myself into the tiny strip of shade that it created in the early afternoon sun. Needless to say, bending a 6 foot 3 body into a pretzel isn't easy, so my pasty-white bare feet and shins poked out to the east. Ordinarily i wear jeans year-round, but i had just taken a short paddle in the water and was "letting my feet dry". For several hours.
The sunburn is possibly the worst i have ever had. This is skin that has rarely seen the light of day. On the first evening some blood spotted from a scratch or blister made after i ventured out to get food (vege fried noodles, most notable for being made of banana flour). The second day i could barely hobble. And i had to hobble a long way, because the train station is so far out of town.
The train ride through the rift valley felt like a totally different country to the west coast. Steep, jungle-covered mountains stab up on both sides with just some banana trees and rice paddies and scrappy settlements between them. I would have enjoyed it more if i wasn't in great pain. I arrived in Taitung and joined an athletic Cantonese tourist who was biking his away around Taiwan in a mini-bus to the hotel. Where i mostly stayed, barring a brief excursion for dinner and booze.
The night market was pretty great, by the way, much smaller and with more of a thrown-together feeling than the big fancy ones in dedicated spaces around the rest of Taiwan. Seeing as Taitung is the city with the highest percentage of Aboriginal residents, i decided to pick up a snack from an Aboriginal stand - a wild boar sandwich. Literally, just grilled up wild boar and onion on a soft bun topped with fresh sliced chili peppers. It was probably more meat than i have eaten in the last month put together, and it was delicious. I also got the local stinky tofu, which had sweet chili sauce and napa cabbage and Thai basil on top. And a freshly-juiced dragonfruit and pineapple. And one of those spiral-cut deep-fried potatoes guilty recommended. I picked up a local-grown 釋迦 (shì jiā) or sugar-apple for breakfast. I returned to my hotel, which is the first i have stayed in that has a bar, and enjoyed the mainland-style atmosphere with big bottles of beer, tiny glasses and dice games before bed.
I was expecting to wake up this morning ready to wander around and explore the place. At least walk to the beach, if nothing else. But my sunburn is no better. I still need to hobble. Showering is painful. Putting on shoes is painful. Walking is painful. My feet are swollen and possibly bruised (wtf!?), so my socks cut into the sunburn too. I just went to do my laundry, grabbed a healthy but bland rice box for lunch (winter melon, water spinach, napa cabbage, okra, sweet potato, bean sprouts, pakora) and now i am sitting in my hotel room in shorts hating myself for being so stupid two days ago.
I do like this town, though. It feels less sprawling than Hualien, and seeing the Aboriginal faces and storefronts around gives me the feeling of being on an island in the South Pacific instead of one in East Asia, which is pretty cool. The current theory supported by linguistic and genetic evidence is that Taiwanese Aboriginals are the original source of Polynesian peoples. Certainly the weaving and beading and other design elements remind me of New Zealand. Plus, you know, wild boar on a bun. I think i am going to try book in a few more days here. I don't know if i will be so lucky as to keep this room on the 12th floor with a motherfucking ocean view (bestest best hotel room yet) but this seems like a nice enough place to figure out my next steps.
And to recover from this insane sunburn. Honestly, if i still can't walk tomorrow i am going to be pissed. I seem to have developed a sore throat too. Good times.