I’ve read that in Japan, there’s a genuine encouragement for people to go walking in the forest on the basis that the peacefulness will calm you down. I’ll be the first to hold up my hands and say that part of the reason that I love to be in nature so much is for that calm feeling – it’s just you and a hill and your thoughts can be left at the bottom. But, this weekend, I can’t say I got the thrill quite the same as on a normal hike.
On Sunday, I headed to a mountain deep in Hsinchu county. As you head deeper and deeper into Taiwan’s beautiful mountains, you’ll stumble upon tribes and history that you thought were reserved for storybooks. Taiwan’s mountains are nothing but beautiful, but many of them are steeped in a bloody history or have some tribal belief attached to them that give them a bit of an aura. The one I’ve got my eye on at the moment, Taiwan’s most beautiful, Dabajianshan 大霸尖山, for instance is still believed by many to hold the ancestors of a Taiwanese tribe. Said tribe still believe that when they die their spirits will inhabit the mountain. Another one, 李崠山, which I hiked a couple of weeks ago, was a place that thousands of people had died on whilst fighting Japanese occupation in the not too distant past.
The mountain I hiked this weekend was pretty much empty. It’s used by people training for the over 3000s. It’s steep in places, can be tough, and is entirely covered by forest, which can be a little disorienting and also means that your heart is constantly pounding with the fear of being attacked by a snake or a killer bee or a pig or a bear or a spider or a poisonous frog (the list continues indefinitely). To add to this, the storm the day before made the whole experience a fight with a minefield of mud, which I stupidly decided to tackle in my running shoes because I am an idiot. As you can imagine then, walking through a spooky forest, shrouded at the time in mist and silence, safe for the occasional roar of a wild animal, made the whole experience wildly terrifying.