Once again, Eddy, our Kaohsiung landlord, came through with great excursion advice. He suggested we take a scooter tour of his favorite nearby island retreat, Xiao Liuqiu. His guidance couldn’t have been more spot on. We hopped on the MRT one stop to the main station and caught a bus to the ferry station in Donggang. Travel time in its entirety from Central Park in Kaohsiung, where we were staying, to the boat dock took about an hour and a half. Then the ferry ride took another forty minutes. Once on the island, all that was left to do was secure a scooter, and everyone was offering them. A little granny accosted us all the way down the dock, bargaining the entire trip. Once we got down to the price Eddy had assured us of, we had a deal. We gave granny $300 NT ($10 US), and she handed over the keys. No contracts, no signing, no “Drive safe or it’ll cost you!” Just “Thanks for the money, see you later.” And we were off!
The island is pretty small, so we made a loop first to see what we wanted to see. Then we circled back to more closely inspect our top picks. Snorkeling the clear blue waters was first on the list. And there was a perfect spot just outside of the main port city. We had the beach to ourselves. Swimming isn’t too popular among the Taiwanese. They are a cautious bunch and the unpredictable nature of the sea offers too many variables to safely control. So they mostly watch the water from under an umbrella (the sun, too, is a foe) at a safe distance. Nikki and I frolicked for an hour or so in our own private paradise. Then, as we were drying off, the photo shoot happened. The shady pavilion where we had left our things turned out to be a prime location for our photographic fancy.
Bringing drugs into Taiwan is a serious offense, but smuggling grapes, as it turns out, is perfectly legal. Unless, of course, you are worried about the fashion police. I can’t be bothered by them, though. It’s a pirate’s life for me, yaaargh!
After I had safely stowed my fruit stash, we headed inland for a hike through the jungle. Wild Boar Trench winds you through sheer walls covered in cascading foliage. Exposed tree roots drape the cliff faces and tunneled passages connect the maze for mucho meters. The trench offers such seclusion that the residents of the island used its safe haven to hide from bombs during World War II. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes are still using it to this day. So we had to seek safe haven of our own, closer to the beach.
The craggy cave formations extend all the way down to the water, but you really have to work to find your way. We spent quite a while wandering around a man-made path that overlooked the ocean, but offered no means to get there. That wasn’t a big shock, considering how the Taiwanese feel about the water. Almost at the end of our journey, we did manage to find an old path that had long since been closed off by the authorities. Not being one to shy away from danger, or from shrugging off the man, we shuffled on down the sketchy descent. The reward we found was well worth the risk.
After scampering down the jagged surface of the cavernous rock, we were greeted by an isolated playground of pristine tide pools and sapphire-colored coast. This would be where we spent the rest of our time on the island — exploring the still sanctuaries of trapped water on the rock, and the labyrinth of trenches in the deep blue beyond. But not until after we had one last photo shoot in this superlative setting…