Tag Archives: Scenery

Reimagining Our Borders

Happy 1900th anniversary to Hadrian’s Wall!

Borders, frontiers and walls, marking the edges of our property, kingdoms, countries, empires, our world ~ they’re as much part of the modern world as they were in ancient times. Where they relate to questions of sovereignty, trade, military power and control, so relationships between the peoples on either side of the border can be very tense. There can be anger, hatred, and even war. We see it with the invasion of Ukraine, and even more recently in Taiwan, facing Chinese retaliation for Nancy Pelosi’s visit.

Here in the UK, this year is the 1900th anniversary of Hadrian’s Wall, begun in AD 122 in the reign of the emperor Hadrian, and built as the northern boundary of the Roman Empire. It runs 117 km (73 miles) across northern England at its narrowest part, not far north of the Lake District. These days, Hadrian’s Wall is a popular long-distance footpath and the best-preserved sections are well worth visiting, especially on a lovely sunny day….

So, with the sun coming up over Ullswater early yesterday morning, and the promise of a very hot day with no rain, I set off at the crack of dawn heading for Housesteads Roman Fort at Hadrian’s Wall, just over 100 km (68 miles) away….

Daybreak at Ullswater

The main attraction was to see the multi-coloured art installation at Housesteads. It is FANTASTIC!

The front of the art installation, taken from inside Housesteads Roman Fort, facing south

From the English Heritage website: “In celebration of Hadrian’s Wall’s 1900th anniversary, English Heritage has installed a contemporary and colourful take on the original Roman gatehouse at Housesteads Roman Fort – one of the Wall’s best preserved and most important sites. Created by renowned artist, Morag Myerscough and the local community the temporary installation – called ‘The Future Belongs To What Was As Much As What Is’ – stands in the exact spot that the north gatehouse at Housesteads once stood. The colourful re-imagining of the gatehouse echoes the original building in size and as visitors can climb to the top, the installation opens up views of the ancient landscape, last seen by Roman soldiers 1600 years ago.

The back of the art installation, facing north

English Heritage’s Chief Executive Kate Mavor, said: ‘Hadrian’s Wall is one of England’s most iconic landmarks and to mark its anniversary, we wanted a meaningful way to connect people of 2022 back to AD122. We hope that placing such a bold contemporary art installation in this ancient landscape will not only capture people’s imagination but maybe also challenge their ideas of what the Wall was for. Not just a means to keep people out, but a frontier that people could – and did – cross. To create this work we’ve engaged with a wide range of community groups who have all played a part in making this such a striking and vibrant piece of art…and living history.'”

Art installation: the east side

The words and pictures have all come from working with local community groups, all in connection with what Hadrian’s Wall means to them, living as they do, in the area, near the wall. These are the words I’ve chosen below (in no particular order, and in capitals, which is how they are written), as being meaningful for me as related to the wall and the border ~ and many reflect my own experience of living in Taiwan:

Art installation: the west side

IT NAVIGATES MY JOURNEY / THREAT OF CHAOS / SKY / THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF THE JOURNEY / RAIN WITH SHARP TEETH / INTERNAL GATEWAY / PICTS / POWER / CONTROL / JOY / DESOLATE / BETWEEN / GUARDS / DIFFERENT DIMENSION / TIMELESS / WILD / ON THE EDGE OF THE UNKNOWN / FRONTIER / EVERLASTING AND STRONG / BORDER / BEING ON THE EDGE OF SOMETHING / WILD WIND WHISTLES / ALWAYS BEEN THERE / COLD WET STONE / CONNECTION / WARNING OR WELCOME / FAR AWAY / RESILIENCE / THAT LONELY FEELING / FRIENDLY PEOPLE ON THE OTHER SIDE / REFLECT / GO BEYOND / ENDLESS STRETCH / THE EDGE LIKE THE SEA / JUST GET ON WITH LIFE / A VIEW FOR THE PAST / PORTAL / GAZE OUT / DIVISION / BARRIER / FREEDOM / GRIT / PEOPLE / HOME

Inspiring eh?! Well I think so, but it is not to everyone’s taste! There is of course plenty more to see along Hadrian’s Wall and at Housesteads Fort itself ~ and to put the art installation’s words and pictures into context, it is well worth exploring the wall, the fort, the area, everything – and especially walking along the footpath by the wall. From Housesteads, the path goes eastwards for about 2 miles up to Sewingshields Crags – get there early to get the sun and blue sky shining on the art installation from behind…

The art installation visible from the path towards Sewingshields

Then from Housesteads in the other direction, westwards, there is also a good footpath for about 4 miles to Steel Crag. The path by the wall is steep up and down all the way, but there is a lower path for the return journey which is easier, though there’s not much shade. Yesterday, there were hundreds of people walking along, and it was extremely hot, but hey – the blue skies looked great!

This is Sycamore Gap, check out that sycamore tree…

When I got back to Housesteads Roman Fort late morning yesterday, there was a camera crew from ITV Tyne Tees who were interviewing everyone about their opinions of the art installation. Ah yes, I did appear briefly at the very end of the news last night saying I thought the art installation was fantastic, and it had made my week, in fact my whole summer! 🤣🤣 This was the backdrop…

On my way back to the Lake District yesterday after Hadrian’s Wall, I came down the A6 from Shap which goes along the very edge, the border of the Lake District mountains, and I was reminded of my trip up the Kentmere Horseshoe a few weeks ago, on Tuesday July 26. Kentmere is north of Staveley, north of Kendal, and is a no-through road, surrounded by the mountains that make up the Kentmere Horseshoe. This is it …

Kentmere Hall is a pele tower, built as a fortress to protect the people and their animals from invaders, this being border country. Once out of Kentmere village, on the Kentmere Horseshoe, I was in heavy fog, but by late morning, dramatic scenery started to appear. It was such an amazing day! There are a small number of parking spaces for £3 donation at Kentmere Village Hall, next to the church, but you need to get there early – so I did! I followed the route up in the mist, clockwise, first to the Garburn Pass, then turning right for Yoke, Ill Bell, Froswick, Thornthwaite Crag, and up to the highest point at High Street 828m (2,715ft). High Street is the famous Roman Road, built by the Romans to link their forts at Brougham near Penrith and Ambleside. It’s believed to follow the line of a much older, prehistoric track. The mist lifted as I started down on the east side of the Horseshoe, with spectacular views from Mardale Ill Bell of Small Water & Hawes Water and from Harter Fell downwards to Kentmere Pike and Shipman Knotts. Total: 22 km, 1,139m of ascent.

The Kentmere Horseshoe starts and ends right next to Kentmere Church, St. Cuthbert’s Church, which is part of the group of churches that includes Troutbeck. The interior is made all the more bright and cheerful by all their beautiful kneelers on display …

Another border, another frontier recently ‘visited’ or scrambled over is Striding Edge on Helvellyn. This was Monday August 1. I was amazed to see a Lesser Black-Backed Gull (? to be confirmed – but has distinctive yellow legs) waiting to share my food (though it only liked bread – not bananas!) on the summit of Helvellyn, 950m (3,118ft), the third-highest mountain in England & the Lake District. Total: 14km, 946m of ascent from Patterdale via Striding Edge, described by Wainwright as “The finest ridge in Lakeland”.

Striding Edge

Descent was via Swirral Edge, Catstycam, Red Tarn (for paddling) & Birkhouse Moor. A sunny morning, clouding over in the afternoon as forecast, the rain came later. The cheapest parking is in the Patterdale sports field, first turning left after the church, with £5 donation. I finished at Patterdale Church, it’s a ‘House for Duty’ church. The vicar works Sunday-Tuesday each week, in return for accommodation, but no salary. As I came down, a helicopter was flying overhead, I heard later a woman had fallen on Striding Edge and was airlifted to hospital, a sobering thought. It is reckoned to be quite safe as long as there are no high winds, snow or ice, but there are some dangerous bits, and a chimney to descend down which could be problematic if you fall.

And I wonder, how does my theme of ‘reimagining our borders’ fit in with the Langdale Pikes? Well, the challenges of stepping outside our comfort zones, crossing new frontiers physically and mentally, expanding the borders of our minds ~ that’s not the Langdale Pikes in particular, but I went up Pavey Ark by Jack’s Rake! 😱😱 We all need a new challenge every now and then, and mine was Jack’s Rake. Not sure if it’s the very first time I’ve ever done it or maybe the second – but the first time would have been decades ago, when I was a teenager. This trip was Friday August 5 ~ an exciting day on the iconic & spectacular Langdale Pikes! Starting from Dungeon Ghyll, going up to Stickle Tarn, then up a very steep, wet & slippery Jack’s Rake, which goes diagonally from right to left up ‘Langdale’s biggest cliff’, Pavey Ark. That diagonal line is visible from miles away, and up close it’s massive!

Jack’s Rake is officially classified as a rock climb of the easiest level, a ‘Grade 1 Scramble’, (same as Striding Edge, but completely different – and much harder, in my opinion!) which also means it’s a walk of about the hardest level – and it’s hard work! Wainwright says, “Walkers who can still put their toes in their mouths and bring their knees up to their chins may embark upon the ascent confidently; others, unable to perform these tests, will find the route arduous.” 🤣🤣. Exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure, with trying to find handholds and then grip onto the slippery rocks to haul yourself up, all the while trying not to look down over the exposed edges! Fortunately, there were others doing the same route who had done it before. Getting to the top in one piece was such a relief!

And so up to Pavey Ark and on to Harrison Stickle 736m (2,415ft), Loft Crag, Pike O’Stickle, Thunacar Knott, Sergeant Man and to the highest point of High Raise 762m (2,500ft) with incredible views north. Weather: A mix of showers and sunny spells all day. Total: 16km, 1,101m of ascent. “No mountain profile arrests and excites the attention more than that of the Langdale Pikes… nor is the appeal visual only: that steep ladder to heaven stirs the imagination, and even the emotions…” Wainwright. I agree!

Reimagining our borders also kind of fits in a little with the Church Mission Society theme of going to the edges, ‘With Jesus, With each other, To the edges’… which was the theme of my last CMS link letter. Now I’m working on my talks for my church visits while I’m in the UK. I just must include that art installation at Housesteads in my talk, it is so dynamic, so fantastic, so creative, so in yer face and I love it! If only we could creatively reimagine all our borders like that, break down the walls where they need breaking down, work together, cooperate and redesign where they need rebuilding, and have more such wildly creative art projects and installations in the most unlikely of border places that would challenge, inspire and make people smile and laugh ~ and make us all realise that life is not worth wasting on border disputes of any kind. Ah, there’s plenty of room for more ideas!

PS When I googled ‘border emojis’ up comes an emoji for passport control 🛂. ‘Passport control’ reminds me of Brexit, immigration, Rwanda, delays at airports, ports, trains plus the current UK political situation ~ all definitely and seriously in need of prayer, as are Taiwan, Ukraine and all countries facing serious problems with their neighbours. ❤️❤️

Lake District Vibes & Views!

Today, yes today, is my first rainy day in the Lake District after being here 10 whole days! Most unusual for this part of the world, which is famous for rain and more rain, all year round. We’re really enjoying it after all that heat of the last few days! This was on Monday July 18, when it was cooler inside than out….

If you read my recent CMS Link Letter a few weeks ago, you’ll know why I’m here in the Lake District ~ I wrote, “I’m hoping to stay in my mother’s home in the Troutbeck area of the Lake District over the summer; she’s recently moved into a care home in Grange-over-Sands on Morecambe Bay, so I’ll be visiting her there.” And yes, that’s how it’s turned out. I’m very happy to be staying in her home in Troutbeck, it’s really lovely. And especially for my Taiwan friends, at their request, I’ve posted a series of photos of tea-drinking ~ yes, this is what it really looks like in this area. It’s oh so very beautiful!

Both my brother and his wife unfortunately went down with Covid within days of my arrival in the Lake District last week, so since then I’ve been visiting my mother on my own, on alternate days. Grateful that I happen to be here at this time. Grange-over-Sands is 29 km from here, almost an hour of scenic driving, right down the length of Lake Windermere, and it’s an interesting place, with a promenade too. I might write more in future posts, when I’ve got to know the area a bit. This photo was taken on Tuesday July 19, the hottest day of the year so far, when temperatures reached 40.2°C at Heathrow by lunchtime, and many other places passed 40, for the very very first time ever…

Arriving in the Lakes in the middle of a long sunny spell meant I hoped to make the most of my non-visiting days to go up a few mountains ~ and the weather in the last week has been truly spectacular. I got up very early (I’m still living like I’m in Taiwan!) and was out there long before anyone else was even up. Grateful to my brother and his wife for their maps, Wainwright guidebooks and advice about where to go – and where to park. Parking is a nightmare in the Lake District, it’s oh so expensive! Rydal Church asks for donations to be put in a box in the wall, but get there very early to get a place. This is my little blue car outside Rydal Church – note the distinctive scratch on the door, which was already there (and with so many little blue cars around, it helps to distinguish which is mine!)

Thursday July 14: Up to High Street 828m (2,718 ft) from the Kirkstone Pass Inn (free parking there) via Stony Cove Pike and Thornthwaite Crag. High Street is named after the Roman Road that ran from Penrith to Ambleside via High Street, and its flat top was later used for summer fairs in the 18th & 19th centuries, including horse racing along the summit! The day started cloudy and rainy but the sun soon came out, and the views were fantastic!

Saturday July 16: A perfect day for the Fairfield Horseshoe from Rydal clockwise up to the highest point of Fairfield 873m (2,864 ft). There were lots of people doing this walk, and several had spent the night on the fells too. The views of Helvellyn were superb. Total: 20km, 1,100m of ascent, ending down at Wordsworth’s family home at Rydal Mount and Rydal Church. Wainwright’s description is, “A great horseshoe of grassy slopes below a consistently high skyline, simple in design and impressive in altitude.” True, it was a great day!

Monday July 18: Escaping the first of the 2 hottest days of the year to enjoy the cool early morning breeze on Red Screes 776m (2,541 ft) by following Wainwright’s recommended route, from Ambleside via Stock Ghyll Force (no rain, so there wasn’t much water in the waterfall) then up via ‘The Struggle’ to the Kirkstone Pass. I spent an hour on the Red Screes summit, it was so gorgeous, and came down along the south ridge. From the summit there are stunning views towards the Fairfield Horseshoe, High Street, Brothers Water & Patterdale. There’s even a tarn up there with frogs in it! The last time I was up there was probably 1976 ~ so glad to renew my acquaintance again. Got back down before the real heat of the afternoon, and finished at the famous Bridge House in Ambleside.

Wednesday July 20: From Troutbeck past the National Trust house at Townend, up to Baystones 488 m (1,601 ft), the highest point on the Wansfell Ridge, and along to Wansfell Pike 482 m (1,581 ft), regarded as the true summit. The weather had turned much cooler after the heatwave of the previous 2 days. A runner was there who had just come up from Ambleside in 26 minutes! I went on down to the Ambleside Pier and across by the ferry along the top end of Lake Windermere to Wray Castle, and walked south down the lake. Last November, Storm Arwen devastated the area and there are huge numbers of fallen trees all lying around. The route goes to the Windermere Car Ferry (£1 for foot passengers) then across to Bowness and back to Troutbeck.

Friday July 22: A rainy day today, so a short walk this morning to Orrest Head, above Windermere, via the back roads of ‘St. Catherine’s Estate’ now a National Trust reserve. So many flowers, all looking lovely after the rain. Wainwright’s life was changed by visiting Orrest Head on his first trip to the Lake District in 1930, when he got off the train at Windermere Station and walked up to the viewpoint. There’s a plaque at the summit with these words,

Windermere and the High Fells:
“Those few hours on Orrest Head cast a spell that changed my life.” (A. Wainwright)
Orrest Head1930
‘… quite suddenly, we emerged from the shadows of the trees and were on a bare headland, and, as though a curtain had dramatically been torn aside, beheld a truly magnificent view. … This was truth. God was in heaven that day and I a humble worshipper.’
Alfred Wainwright’s description of his first view of the Lakeland mountains, from Ex Fellwanderer. It was a view that transformed his life and the lives of tens of thousands of his readers.

So that’s the story so far! Thanks for all your prayers and concern. Yes, my mother is doing fine, and it’s great to see her. Yes, my brother and his wife are getting better, and hope to be back in action next week. And yes, my Taiwan friends and others are enjoying the photos of tea-drinking! And we’re all enjoying the cooler temperatures, though Taiwan is also reporting a heatwave, with temperatures of 40.7°C in Hualien with a red alert issued for Taipei. Hope it cools down soon. In the meantime, enjoy tea, ice-cream ~ and even some refreshing cooling rain!

Happy summer everyone ~ and hello from a very friendly baby robin who lives near here!

✈️ And so to the UK! ✈️

A fairly momentous few weeks as I packed up in Taiwan and said goodbye to all my friends ~ and then came to the UK! Thanks be to God, all went well, and finally, I’m here ~ happily still with many wonderful memories of these last few weeks in Taiwan…

Lots of memories of daybreak and sunrise at Advent Church and St. John’s University ….

And sunrise down at the sea, with a plane overhead heading to the airport…

The nearby lotus fields are looking stunning, within walking distance of St. John’s University….

Sunset as I headed to the airport on Thursday, July 7….

Taoyuan International Airport is about an hour’s drive from St. John’s University ~ gotta love their large lego version of the airport that’s on display!

I was flying Turkish Airlines, first from Taipei to Istanbul, then transferred onto Turkish Airlines to London Gatwick. Despite news reports about chaos at UK airports, Gatwick was fine. During the course of my journey, Boris Johnson resigned too. Ah yes, welcome to Britain!

I’m very grateful to have arrived safely – and I’m now staying with my brother and his family. They live in a very beautiful old house in Sussex, originally built in 1580 as a farmer’s cottage, and the wooden beams in the living room were originally from a ship, some of them are numbered. I knew my Taiwan friends would love to see photos, and yes, the photos have been a big hit, and attracted dozens of comments on Facebook. Thanks to my family for their wonderful welcome and hospitality!

And thanks to all in Taiwan for your send-off! The last main event in Taiwan before my departure was the Advent Church Children’s Summer Camp, held on July 4-5. This coincided with the second round of Covid vaccinations for elementary school children, and with general worries about the pandemic, so we had expected much lower numbers than usual – although last year, it was cancelled completely, so we wanted to hold the event this year even with fewer children. In the event, there were 32 children, and we had 21 student leaders, who all spent weeks in preparation, and a whole weekend of training. They were a great team and it was a really worthwhile event. I was on hand for taking photos!

We have a video of the summer camp on YouTube, made by Tzi-Wei from our chaplaincy team. Check it out here… it’s fun!

And finally, a big thank you to you all for your prayers and blessings! If you’re here in the UK, hope you are enjoying the summer weather and the long light evenings. Ah yes, England at its best!

CMS Link Letter #86: UK Calling!

Published this week by the Church Mission Society, my latest link letter, click on the link below…

As you’ll have read in my link letter above, I’m preparing for my ‘home leave’ in the UK, so I’m busy saying goodbye to friends, schools and churches here in Taiwan. Last week, I said farewell to the 8th grade in our local junior high school…

Also said goodbye to St. John’s Cathedral English Congregation, where I’ve been going once a month for the last few years, helping out by doing the sermon. It was a joint celebration to say goodbye to Rev. Antony Fan-Wei Liang and his family – he’s in charge of the English congregation and moves in the summer to become vicar of St. Luke’s Church, Hualien. Everyone loves him so much! Thanks to the congregation for such a huge and delicious cake – the yellow is actually flakes of white chocolate!

We’ve also been celebrating graduation for members of our St. John’s University Student Fellowship, with a farewell party recently for them on the theme of Old School Graduation …

And on the day of the actual graduation (which was held online due to the pandemic), lots of students still came by, and we had photos in Advent Church…

In between all the celebrations, the pandemic continues. Although this current Omicron surge – which really got going only just after Easter – seems to have peaked and numbers are not as high as they were a few weeks ago, we are still seeing 50,000+ new cases and about 100-180 deaths per day. The total number of deaths from Covid now stands at 5,651, all but 850 or so occurring in this present Omicron surge – most have underlying conditions, about half unvaccinated.

Vaccination rates are now about 90%, and they’re about to start vaccinating children above 6 months. Borders are gradually opening up, and quarantine for all arrivals is now 3 days in isolation, followed by 4 days of self-health management, which can be done at home if requirements are met. That’s a vast improvement from not so long ago when it was 2 weeks of hotel quarantine for all arrivals. But many activities have been canceled or postponed or rearranged online and all with reduced numbers. Our summer camps are going ahead but numbers are about 1/2 to 2/3 of what we would normally expect. Economic hardship continues for many. Advent Church has responded to the diocesan ‘Love Your Neighbour’ Project (as mentioned in the diocesan Friendship Magazine, published in the previous post) to reach out to help those affected by Covid. For our students who are isolating due to Covid, we’ve been giving out small care packages…

And to those students who are receiving meal coupons, and our local junior high school students affected by Covid (as mentioned in my link letter), we gave out zong-zi for the Dragon Boat Festival at the beginning of June…

Then we had a fundraising project in Advent Church to raise money to provide care packages of basic essentials to local families affected by Covid…

We delivered 17 of these care packages to our local elementary school for them to deliver to children’s families. The principal and the chair of the parents’ committee were moved to join in and made financial donations themselves. This is us delivering the packages last week – it was pouring with rain!

When the rain stops, then we’re out and about! Cycled on the You-Bike into the sunrise, past the northern tip of Taiwan lighthouse, and around the northern coast to Yehliu Geopark. It’s full of stunning rock formations, most famously The Queen’s Head, which is having its neck gradually eroded by the wind and salty air…

Yesterday, my friend Chien kindly invited us to visit Juming Museum, featuring the sculptures and artwork of Juming 朱銘, a nice trip to say goodbye to each other as I leave for the UK soon. You need good weather for that place, but not too hot – and the day was perfect!

So a big thank you to everyone here in Taiwan for your blessings ~ and to you all for all your prayers and support!

And finally, as related to my CMS Link Letter above, check out this video from the CMS website, it’s really good!

臺北大縱走 Taipei Grand Trail @ April 2022!

Yes, the Taipei Grand Trail ~ and the second time I’ve done it this year, whoop whoop! The first time was over Chinese New Year in February 2022, all in the rain and mud. Check out my previous post below for intro, photos and description of the trail – it was fun, but oh so wet!

This time, I used the official app, Hiking BIJI. Last time I couldn’t install it as it was set for only those with a Taiwan Google account, but since then the app developers have opened it up for some international users – if your country is not listed, then get in touch with them directly, they have great customer service! Anyway, this time, with the downloaded maps, I followed and recorded the route of each section, collecting ‘treasures’ as I went ~ meaning the phone pinged every so often as I passed another treasure on the map, 49 in total, 7 on each section. At the very end of the trail, this ‘Mission Completed’ notification appears on the phone ~ due to the pandemic, the 2021 project has been extended to the end of 2022….

The Taipei Grand Trail circles Taipei City, and each of the 7 sections can easily be done in a day, though some are much easier than others. It’s a fun way of seeing new places, getting some fresh air and doing a whole lot of exercise all at the same time. The weather this time round was much better than last time, sometimes hazy but mostly sunny and dry. As it’s spring, so there’s lots of flowers, birds, insects and creepy crawlies to look out for ~ including the endemic, gregarious and very beautiful Taiwan Blue Magpie 臺灣藍鵲, 3 of which kept us entertained at Lengshuikeng Visitor Center on Section 3 of the trail…

Taiwan Blue Magpie

Over the 3 weeks I’ve taken to do the Taipei Grand Trail, Taiwan’s Covid situation has seen a big change. On the day I started, Monday April 4, when we had a few days off for Tomb-Sweeping Festival, there were 275 new cases announced, of which 133 were domestic, 142 imported, and with overall deaths standing at 853. When I finished the trail on April 23, there were 5,172 new cases announced for that day, of which 5,092 were domestic, 80 imported, and deaths at 856. Some 99.5% of new cases in this surge are apparently mild or asymptomatic – and most people can quarantine at home. Those considered more at risk, like the over 75’s and those on kidney dialysis, are admitted to hospital. The government has announced their new policy of gradually loosening restrictions, allowing the case numbers to grow slowly, and relying on facemasks and vaccines rather than following Hong Kong & Mainland China’s policies of hard lockdowns and isolating every confirmed case in quarantine centres. I read that Taiwan is one of the last countries to open up its borders to the outside world, so we expect a tough few months ahead. It will also take a while for people to get used to the government not stepping in with new rules and restrictions every few days – now that everyone is vaccinated and as long as we wear facemasks, the rest they’re leaving up to us – to manage our own lives and take our own precautions. A new kind of lifestyle for many. Facemasks are compulsory mostly everywhere – though fortunately not for outdoor exercise, but it means that people are still a bit unsure what to do for the best. Activities are slowly being cancelled or moving online, and people staying home a lot more. There are noticeably less people on the Taipei MRT and the paths of the Taipei Grand Trail as the month has gone on. On Saturday lunchtime at Makong, the restaurants and tea-shops were largely empty ~ normally a sunny spring day would see them packed out.

Certificate of Completion: there’s only space for a name of 10 English letters – so Chinese name to the rescue!

There are 12 places on the Taipei Grand Trail where you take a selfie with the Chinese character on the post, which when put together in a collage produce a phrase: 臺北東西南北大縱走壯遊趣 which means something like: ‘Taipei East West South North Grand Trail’. My 12 photos go round the collage clockwise below, starting in the top left, with the middle 4 photos extra ones taken at strategic points…

Coming up below are the 7 sections, which I didn’t do exactly in order, depending on the weather and time available – with a collage of photos for each section, mostly trying not to repeat those taken back in February….

Section 1 第一段:關渡站至二子坪 Guandu MRT up to Erziping 二子坪 in Yangmingshan 陽明山 National Park: Tuesday April 5

Section 1

Section 2 第二段:二子坪至小油坑 Erziping to Xiaoyoukeng via Yangmingshan 陽明山 Datun West, South & Main Peaks 大屯山 & Zhuzihu 竹子湖: Wednesday April 6

Section 2

Section 3 第三段:小油坑至風櫃口 Xiaoyoukeng to Fengguikou via Yangmingshan 陽明山 Mt. Qixing 七星山: Monday April 4

Section 3

Section 4 第四段:風櫃口至大湖公園站 Fengguikou down to Dahu Park MRT: Saturday afternoon April 9

Section 4

Section 5 第五段:劍潭支線 Jiantan Trail: Dahu Park MRT to Jiantan MRT: Easter Sunday afternoon April 17

Section 5

Section 6 第六段:中華科大至麟光站 China Univ. of Sci. & Tech, Nangang to Linguang MRT via 95 Peak: Saturday April 16

Section 6

Section 7 第七段:麟光站至政大後山 Linguang MRT to Nat. Chengchi Univ. via Maokong 貓空 Tea Plantations: Saturday April 23

Section 7

The Tea Plantations at Maokong are of special interest – the workers were there picking the tea leaves while I was there – and so have their own collage….

Maokong Tea

All in all, 7 days hiking the Taipei Grand Trail is a great way to spend a few weeks, fitting in the sections around weekend and holiday activities. Following routes on an app and listening out for the pings is really quite interesting. It’s my first time to stick to a hiking app and complete a project that is quite so detailed. Today I went to the Geotechnical Engineering Office in Taipei to collect my certificate, scarf and keyring, all marked with the Taipei Grand Trail. YES! On every section of the trail, I met lots of people, some several times on the same route, and we all helped each other out when we couldn’t find the way, or with taking each other’s photos – sorry you have to endure so many of my selfies, ha ha, what a laugh it was to get them! Anyway, overall, selfies aside, the Taipei Grand Trail is highly recommended, and spring is maybe the best time of year to try. So go for it. YES, GO!

‘Easter Advent Calendar?!’ Update from Taiwan: Surviving Lent, Looking to Easter!

Screenshot

Yes, ‘Easter Advent Calendars’ are all the rage – and there’s lots available, as you can see above. This is your chance to forget the dreariness of Lent and its grim associations with fasting and penance; instead we can have a fun 24 days leading up to Easter. But get yours quick, as the 24 days have already started!

Lent feels extra long this year, and we have Tomb-Sweeping Festival coming up this weekend, plus tons of rain and miserable weather, so we need some good news to look forward to ~ and so what better than to focus our sights on Easter. Even the cherry blossom, which looked beautiful for a brief few days, has now given up waiting for the sun to return. Petals cover the ground ~ the season is nearly over for another year….

These were the moody skies along Taiwan’s northern coast at Fuji Lighthouse, LaoMei and along to Yehliu Geopark just after the rain stopped a few weeks ago. See the people queueing to take their photos with ‘The Queen’s Head’ rock?!

It’s not all bad news weather-wise, and we had a few weeks of sunshine earlier this month, and a few hiking trips up to Yangmingshan – see the sea of clouds in the distance….

And views from Guanyinshan …

While for those more interested in staying in the city, in Taipei’s Da-an Forest Park, there’s a series of water fountains that are powered by pedal power…

We’ve had nice views of Advent Church from the offices on the 5th floor too…

But then last week the rain started again, and it’s been raining more or less since then. Good job we’re all mostly indoors with the new semester well and truly underway – and my English class too….

And diocesan office February and March birthday celebrations ….

Yes, facemasks can come off for photos! Taiwan continues to do well in the pandemic, though there are still cluster outbreaks in different places, with yesterday’s headline being ‘Domestic COVID-19 cases spike in Taiwan as clusters grow’. Yesterday, there were 83 new domestic cases in 6 clusters, the highest number since last June, today there’s another 34 added to the total. One cluster of 39 is in Keelung, linked to a karaoke bar, spread to the police force and resulting in even the city’s mayor now being quarantined after he had contact with an infected police officer. Another cluster of 63 is among Thai migrant workers working on a power plant in Taoyuan. There were also 120 imported cases yesterday, 93 today. Even though a negative PCR test is required to travel to Taiwan, testing is also done on arrival at Taoyuan Int’l Airport, and a surprising number always found to be positive – 55 today. Total COVID death toll is 853.

Border controls are still strict, and the country is still closed to tourists and those without visas ~ although hotel quarantine for all arrivals is now reduced from 14 days to 10, followed by 7 days’ home quarantine. The government is saying that there’ll be some sort of quarantine requirement for the rest of this year at least. The general public continues to widely support these measures, even though individuals who need to travel overseas of course find them very inconvenient. But given the choice between these strict pandemic restrictions for arrivals, or opening up like other countries have done, and risk huge numbers of cases – so far, I have not yet heard anyone say that they think we should change track. Most of us have just had our booster shots in the last 2 months, and daily life continues more or less as normal. Wearing face masks gives us the freedom to do so much without worry, and they come in all styles and colours. Check out our ‘Stand with Ukraine’ facemasks from the Taiwan Presbyterian Church….

I just spent the weekend at St. James’ Church, Taichung. The main topic of conversation there was last Tuesday night’s series of earthquakes (the biggest 6.6 but very deep) centered on Taiwan’s east coast, which shook everyone wide awake at 1:40 am and then continued through the night. Me too. No more sleep from then on, and like most people, I was distinctly bleary-eyed for the rest of the day. People living up in high-rise buildings had by far the worst of it, but here in Taipei, it seems more people were amused to be woken by the very noisy beeping of the earthquake text alert, rather than by the actual earthquake. Anyway, things have quietened down since then. Until next time.