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Intertidal reflections

Toucheng 頭城

Toucheng 頭城 is the northernmost township in Yilan and also one of the most historic places in the area. Attractions include the most well-preserved old street in eastern Taiwan, the beach at Waiao 外澳, and a new county museum that recently opened near the harbour.

Follow me

Follow me
Written in the black sands of Wai’ao in Yilan.

What a cute idea for a pair of flip flops! I saw this on the black sand beach at Wàiào 外澳 in Yilan last summer. I went out there with a friend to learn how to surf—which didn’t exactly end well. Still, it was a very interesting experience, one I wrote about here.

Old Caoling Tunnel 舊草嶺隧道

Inside Old Caoling Tunnel 舊草嶺隧道
Inside the old tunnel. Those are mock railroad tracks you see on the ground.

Old Caoling Tunnel 舊草嶺隧道 was built in the 1920s to connect northern Taiwan with the eastern coast by rail. A new tunnel was built in the 1980s and the old tunnel was closed until 2008 when it reopened as a tourist-friendly bikeway. The main point of entry is Fúlóng 福隆, a beach town in New Taipei City about an hour outside of Taipei 台北 by train. Riding through the old tunnel makes for a great day trip from Taipei 台北—as long as you don’t go on a weekend.

Surfing at the black sand beaches of Waiao

Black sand beach at Waiao
The gorgeous black sand beach at Wai’ao.

While living in Taiwan 台灣 I have made a habit of saying “yes” to most things that come my way. At times this has gotten me into trouble—but most of the time the outcome has been positive. When a friend asked me to try surfing I said “sure, why not?” One lazy afternoon in August we were off to the black sand beaches of eastern Taiwan.

Surfing at Wài’ào 外澳 in Yilan was a mix of both good and bad. First, the good: since it was way outside of my experience I was gripped by an hourlong series of epiphanies as my consciousness rapidly adapted to the task at hand. Every new attempt to ride the waves brought a flash of insight, of physical knowledge and abstract thought linked into motion. Everything is happening so quickly—but there is a rhythmic, hypnotic quality to it all.

I am more used to climbing mountains than surfing the waves. Mountain climbing requires the individual to work to escape gravity, to move the body over the solid earth eternal. On human time scales the mountains are effectively fixed and immovable. The ocean, however, is constant change, a process of endless renewal and ephemerality. No wonder we use surfing as the metaphor of choice to describe the Information Age. It has always made a superficial kind of sense but it wasn’t until I actually went and surfed that I truly understood.

Now, for the bad: I injured myself rather badly about an hour after heading out into the water. To surf you need to wait for the right moment and then slide onto the surfboard and start paddling. On one occasion I went to slide and the board dropped out from beneath me—so I fell, hard, and bruised a rib. Being the stubborn jerk that I am, I kept going until I stood up and properly rode at least one wave into shore. I suppose on some level I knew that I was doing something stupid—but I wasn’t about to head home without having managed that tricky balancing act at least once.

I spent the rest of the month recovering before embarking on my round-the-island bicycle tour.