Last Sunday was my last Hash run, but this Sunday I still had a special “farewell” run planned with fellow hasher Susan. Susan is possibly the fastest female in the East, and I’d originally suggested us running together more as a joke than anything else. But she was game, and after running up to the top of Taipei 101 this morning (with a time qualifying her for Elite) I hoped she would be sufficiently fatigued to appreciate my gentle pace. We had SUCH a fun time — nearly 2½ hours of thrills, including snakes and plenty of spiders.
We started at Liuzhangli station and headed uphill towards the graveyard, along Chongde Road. It was so hot and we were glad to convert our t-shirts to headbands as soon as we were out of the city… it turned out to be a stretch of road that I was quite familiar with, as several hash runs have gone through it, and we decided to go look for a trail of our own, even there wasn’t actually one there. Equipped with sticks to fend off the spiderwebs (which we promptly renamed our wands, as progression involved waving them in front of us in the hopes of preventing us from walking straight into a spider), we basically stumbled into the forest and made up our own way out.
Susan bravely marching on ahead
We would occasionally stop to check my GPS to make sure we weren’t going round in circles, and to
fend off spiders admire the wildlife. We were both enchanted by this tiny frog, who blends so perfectly into the reddish-brown earth around him:
Can you spot him?
So engrossed were we with the frog that when I stood up and turned around, I was not expecting to be standing right next to a human-sized web, complete with human-sized spider (who was probably not expecting us either). The first time I saw one of these gigantic black-and-yellow guys was on my first Hash, and I am a little less scared of them now, but they are pretty horrendous things to come face to face with unexpectedly.
There’s little to give a sense of scale. Let’s just say he was as big as both my hands put together and leave it at that.
Eventually we battled our way out of the forest, into a bamboo grove that in turn led to an actual path. Delighted with ourselves for finding a trail, we both started running again in earnest. Susan was just ahead of me when she turned a sharp bend, gasped and froze. I crashed into her and then saw what she was staring at — the HUGEST snake I have ever seen, even in zoos or snake exhibits. It wasn’t quite boa- or python-sized, but it was easily 6 feet long and pretty chunky. I am afraid to say I screamed — and probably set off Susan by doing so. We turned tail and ran back a few metres — I turned to make sure it wasn’t going to come after us (I’ve seen too many stupid films, sorry!) in time to see it speed away down the mountain-side.
I checked the handy Field Guide to Taiwanese Snakes,
and by deduction I am thinking it may have been the Chinese cobra. It was way too big to be most of the other snakes on there, and whilst cobras are very distinct with their hooded heads, apparently when they are not on the defensive the hood lays flat. I hear it was probably a Brown Rat Snake! Just like when Mummy and I ran into a Brown snake in Tasmania, I am really glad that I was ignorant of its potentially nasty bite at the time!
Updated picture of our friend…
Anyway, we checked ourselves before I hyperventilated us both into complete terror, laughed it off and kept running. Eventually the path turned into a stream, which led to houses, which led to a dark passageway.
We weren’t afraid, between the spiders and the snakes, what worse could be in there? We had our wands to protect us anyway…
We clambered past a building site and were suddenly back to civilisation — muddy, soaked in sweat and brandishing our sticks and t-shirts like we’d just escaped a prison camp. So of course I tapped a passer-by on the shoulder and asked her to take our picture.
I’m disappointed with how normal we look! We certainly felt like warriors.
But it wasn’t over yet — we weren’t even halfway done with our run.
We paused at first a temple to wash off and to check Susan’s 5,000,000 mosquito bites.
…and I didn’t get bitten once. They all just threw themselves at her!
…and then a 7-11 to
scare the cashier re-hydrate, before we set off towards Elephant Mountain. This was very easy going compared to what we had just been through (hello, there was an actual path) but of course steps are not my knees’ favourite thing in the world (and Susan DID race up 91 flights of steps this morning). So we took every opportunity we could to follow any trails we saw leading off from the hiking path. This led us first to a temple…
…and then to some awesome rocky paths without a soul on them. We spotted a sort of crazy tree house above the path, connecting this hut on a huge boulder to the mountain by the means of some kind of home-made suspension bridge. We scrambled up to explore and were promptly confronted by a man naked from the waist down who seemed to be appreciative of our company… back down to the path we went!
Next we discovered a gigantic statue, hidden in the middle of nowhere. A few people were making devotions whilst children ran around and screamed. We took a picture, then pushed onwards to a temple further down the mountain.
Note the realistic hair and beard.
Misty atmosphere courtesy of me sweating all over my phone.
This kind of statuary is quite unusual in the Taiwanese temples I’ve seen… there must be a particular story involving this guy and his horse, he looks pretty pissed off and the horse doesn’t look too happy either.
Looking back, the view of the Horsey-temple and the big statue
Shortly after we left the temple, these statues started popping up around us. We really loved some of them! I wouldn’t know how to identify them but I’m guessing they are all kinds of special sages.
“I’m just chilling out, reading with my friend the psychedelic deer”
Loo-loo-loo, I got some apples, Loo-loo-loo, you’ve got some — dude’s head coming out your chest?
This man has eyebrows that are EVEN BIGGER THAN JAMES’! Also, some little friends to carry him around. Susan pointed out how the eyebrows look very snake-like…
I just love love LOVE the excitement in the eyes of this guy’s little dog-lion. You can see he is SO THRILLED to be with his owner!
Then we noticed a break in the trail, with these fairly implausible stairs that seemed, Escher-like, to go nowhere. So of course we took them.
Emboldened by our previous success at Liuzhangli, when the trail petered out into nothing, we attempted to fight our way through the brush towards home. Then I think both of us suddenly realised how much effort it would involve compared to, say, simply following pre-established trails. So we turned back, only to encounter another snake. Again, I didn’t have time to take a picture, but this time he was easy to identify, a Greater Green Snake. Very cute!
The rest of our run was fairly uneventful in comparison, and we found ourselves on my street as if by magic — couldn’t have planned it better myself. We ran to the Family Mart to make it a complete 8km (I am slightly obsessive about round numbers when I run), and picked up adorable Hello Kitty-shaped water bottles which are perfect for running because you can squeeze HK’s neck and it won’t slip! Too lazy to go take a picture of mine so you will have to trust me on it.