Sometimes you’ve just gotta live in the moment and grab all of life’s amazingness when you can. Tomorrow a Super-Typhoon may blow your world apart…
A little over four years ago, I sat with my friend Jack along a seawall in the coastal city of Hudson, Florida. We had just finished dinner celebrating my 50th birthday. He had just finished 3 months of chemo and radiation. As we sat there gazing out at the Gulf of Mexico we noticed a thunderstorm approaching, lightning strikes reflecting off the water.
“How ironic” we both commented, understanding that the next few months of his life were like that thunderstorm brewing on the horizon.
A few months later he ended up with a massive intestinal infection and has been bravely battling chronic health issues ever since.
Shortly after that, I packed up my stuff and left the US. The loss of my job and his fight for life gave me more motivation to take the leap.
Now, four years later, Jack has made the journey all the way to Taiwan to explore Eastern medicine as an alternative to the many failed attempts at Western medicine…
With Super Typhoon Meranti approaching Taiwan, Jack and I focused on the required typhoon prep, stocking up on beer, Ritz crackers, and bananas – all of the essentials to ride out a storm. (Last year I ran out of beer and vowed that would never happen again!)
Shopping completed we were heading for home when I glanced into the distance – nothing but blue sky and a clear outline of the nearby mountains. This was the pre-typhoon calm before the storm, when the monster typhoon sucks all the haze from the sky and leaves us with perfection. A gift from Mother Nature and a perfect time to seize the day and live on the edge!
“We’re going for a little ride. I’ve got a few amazing new roads to show you.” I told him, making it clear that this ride was not optional.
We dropped off the typhoon supplies and headed for the mountains at, according to him, “a Nascar pace”. Riding (fast) is therapy for me. There’s nothing better than a clear sky, an open road, and music in my ears. It clears my head. As he struggled to keep up with me, he had no idea of the beauty lying ahead of us.
This was the perfect day for Taiwan to open up and reveal more mind-blowing beauty to this world-class photographer.
Heading past Beipu, our first stop is a visit to the Buddhist Goddess Guanyin, located in a remote area where fresh water flows from the mountain. Many local people make the drive to this isolated spot with their empty water bottles, filling up on the water blessed by the goddess Guanyin.
Some claim the water flowing out of the goddess has magical healing powers. I didn’t know, but after battling health issues for four years, Jack needed all the healing powers the island could provide.
We filled up a few empty bottles, snapped a couple of photos and continued along one of my favorite roads in this mountainous area. The road past Guanyin is really more of a winding, narrow scooter path heading deeper into the mountains.
“Keep your camera handy!“, I warned.
Just around the first big bend we stopped – the lush hillside, tall pine trees, blue sky – all were perfection. He grabbed his Canon and started shooting. As a professional photographer he’s beginning to explore the art of videography and could envision the mind-blowing possibilities everywhere. Every bend in the road revealed a stunning photo op or an epic drone video. Sadly, the drone and video camera didn’t make this impromptu trip and he kicked himself. Really really hard!
Connecting from the narrow scooter path to the main road from Wuzhi mountain to Nanzhuang, the traffic was very light on this perfect Tuesday afternoon when “normal” people were still at work. Coming to a ridge overlooking the other side of the mountain, the lighting was perfect and colors were stunning. Mother Nature was giving us an incredible show before slamming us with a Super Typhoon. Even the lazy stray dogs were enjoying the moment, this calm before the storm.
But damn, the genius lacked the right equipment to really capture the magic on film. “It’s like a writer not having a pen!” he whined. (OK. I feel your pain…)
The camera on my Samsung tablet couldn’t even begin to capture it, so I took photographs in my mind while he snapped away with his Canon. Knowing this perfect day may possibly be one of our last, I wanted to remember every single moment.
“Show me more! I want to see it all!” Without knowing what was waiting around the next bend, he had the intense desire to soak it all in while he still has the chance.
We continued along toward Nanzhuang, veering off on highway 21 and into the mountains. Crossing the bridge, we climbed up to the top of Lion’s Head Mountain where we pulled over to absorb the stunning view, taking a deep breath in the cooler mountain air.
With the afternoon slipping away, I cautiously mentioned, “The view from the other side is even better!”
Not wasting a precious second, we retraced our route down the mountain, back to highway 21 along the river bed and deeper into the mountains. Stopping for a few pics of the very photogenic Donghe suspension bridge, the genius continued to snap away while I danced to the music only I could hear. (“Drive By” – Train)
Following the steep, twisty mountain road to the top, we parked our scooters in the aboriginal village of Luchang. Surrounded by sheer, stunning mountains, the view continually changed as the puffy, pre-typhoon clouds rolled through. The village was quiet on this Tuesday afternoon with the few aboriginal restaurants closed and local villagers just hanging out, enjoying the calm.
Daylight was slipping away so we reluctantly began our slow-paced coast down the mountain. Everything looks slightly different going down, the view drastically changing with the direction. We coasted around a bend and pulled over to soak in the day’s most absolutely stunning view.
Standing there, we breathed deeply and soaked in the view when a white SUV stopped. We approached and saw two smiling faces of a friendly, English-speaking aboriginal couple from the village. Apparently we looked lost. I assured them that I live in Hsinchu.
“But you’re in Maoli County!” she commented, surprised that we’d driven so far on scooters. They offered a few helpful tips on their village and continued on their way.
As they pulled away, Jack doubled-over in pain. We hadn’t bothered to eat anything, too excited to maximize the beautiful day, and his body was rebelling. He sipped some water and slowly recovered, commenting that his scooter was also running low on fuel.
(“Great! ” I thought. “A mountain road with an approaching typhoon, an empty scooter tank and a sick friend. The perfect storm!”)
We cruised down the mountain, through Nanzhuang to the next small village where a friendly local man pointed us in the direction of the nearest gas station. Running only on fumes in every possible way, Jack coasted in and filled up.
Taking the more direct route home along highway 3 toward Beipu, we felt the change in weather with the approaching typhoon. Gusty winds blew flying debris as we raced against the approaching storm. We cruised along the country roads of Baoshan and came to the top of a ridge – just as the sunset turned the mountains into a blaze of pink, slightly angry-looking typhoon clouds.
The end of a perfect day…possibly one of our last? Who knows. You never really know what’s around the next bend, what unimaginable beauty or intense storm might be waiting. So we kept moving forward, soaking in the magic and cherishing the day.
We found the beauty before the storm…