¡Hola, mis amigos! Last Sunday was photo an hour day, and it just happened to fall on the first full day of my holiday. We were in Ronda, Spain, where we met up with my sister and brother-in-law, my sister’s best friend and her boyfriend, my brother, my mum and a friend of my mum’s. Let’s see what I got up to that day, shall we?
8:30 a.m. Awake but not getting up yet, so here’s the view from my bed.
9:30 a.m. Now out of bed and having a cuppa.
10:30 a.m. Dressed and waiting for the others to be ready to leave.
11:30 a.m. Admiring the view… the day’s plan being to walk down into the gorge.
12:30 p.m. The start of the journey down.
1:30 p.m. We found water! Hurrah.
2:30 p.m. Back at the top and hitting a bar for some much needed refreshments.
3:30 p.m. Crossing the bridge, and looking down into the gorge.
4:30 p.m. We stopped for lunch… and I also had a beer.
5:30 p.m. Wandering through a rose garden.
6:30 p.m. Back at the apartment to chill for a while… how beautiful is that ceiling?
7:30 p.m. A glass of vino before heading back out.
We went out for dinner after that and I completely forgot to take any more photos, so that’s your lot. Maybe I will remember to post more photos of Ronda at some point, but I wouldn’t hold your breath considering I still haven’t posted must of the ones from our trip around Britain two years ago…
As always, Photo an Hour was hosted by Jane and Louisa. The next one will be on Saturday, 15 June. Make a note of it now if you want to join in!
For our ninth day in New Zealand, we had booked a room at a B&B in New Plymouth. We left Rotorua after breakfast and drove to our first stop of the day, Huka Falls on Lake Taupo. This is not a waterfall in the traditional sense of the word (cascading down from a great height), but a series of small falls in an area where the Waikato River narrows significantly, causing a huge volume of water to funnel through a narrow space. Huka is the Maori word for “foam”.
The falls are a spectacular sight and definitely worth a visit! There’s also a walk you can do around there, but with a long drive ahead of us we didn’t have time. Instead, we drove a bit up the road then pulled over to take some photos of Lake Taupo and the surroundings. Imagine having this view out of your window?
After driving for a bit longer, we spotted signs for the Waituhi Lookout and decided to stop there. After driving up a narrow winding road through some trees, we came to a clearing with a small amount of space for parking and a viewing platform. We climbed up to the platform, looked out over the trees and saw this:
How amazing is that view? I’m so glad I ignored the advice I was given to miss out north island and just spend time on the south island! (I couldn’t have anyway since I actually wanted to see my family and they’re all on the north island!).
The lake in the pictures above should be Lake Taupo again if I’ve got my geography correct.
After another half an hour of driving, we arrived in Taumarunui, which is at one end of the Forgotten World Highway (technically State Highway 43). There, we stopped to buy some food at a supermarket and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a clock:
Apparently Taumarunui is on the North Island Main Trunk Railway.. hence the train clock, I suppose. There wasn’t a greet deal there though (at least on the main street), but there were free and reasonably clean public toilets and the little supermarket had some food for us, so we were happy.
Back in the car, we drove on into the Tangarakau Gorge. First stop was at the grave of a surveyor named Joshua Morgan who died in the gorge in 1893. Not all that exciting, but from the grace you could see the bridge we had just crossed to get there.
Next stop, another waterfall: Mount Damper Falls. We parked by a sign then had to walk across a field to get there.
The next photos will just be general ones from along the Forgotten World Highway. We stopped a couple of times to take photos but I can’t say precisely what each one is of.
The end of the highway is Stratford. We didn’t actually stop there, but there are a lot of streets named after Shakespeare characters and we had fun spotting them as we drove through. Finally, we reached that day’s destination – New Plymouth – where we checked into a lovely B&B before driving into town for a walk along the coast… but this post has a ridiculous amount of photos already, so I think I’ll give New Plymouth its own separate one!
*New Zealand was my March trip for my 2016 redo of Take 12 Trips*
I am going to use this post to tell you about our final day on New Zealand’s south island and also for some general photos of Queenstown that I took on various evenings throughout the week.
As you may know, Queenstown is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. Actually, they claim to be the adventure capital of the world… If you’re interested in bungee jumping, paragliding or white water rafting (to name just a few examples), Queenstown is a pretty good place to be!
We decided that we should partake in some adventure tourism before leaving the south island, so we booked the Shotover Canyon “Double Shot”, which meant the canyon swing and canyon jet for a special price (cheaper than booking each thing separately). We were told to be at the Shotover Canyon shop half an hour before our booking, which we did. There, we were weighed and waited around a bit for the rest of our group to arrive before being driven up to the top of the cliff that we would be swinging from. Jan and I decided to do a tandem swing and I’m a wimp so we chose the least scary version, The Cutaway, where they lower you over the edge of the platform and then pull the pin so you fall down (the next least-scary option is jumping forwards). Neither of us wanted to go backwards because we actually wanted to see the view as well as having the adrenaline rush.
The above photo shows the platform you swing from with the canyon below. We couldn’t take a camera with us on our swing (you are allowed a GoPro if you have a proper wrist strap for it, but neither of us own such a thing), but after our swing I took some photos of other people from our group. I think it’s okay to use them here since they’re too far away to be identifiable.
The initial freefall is 60m, but it seems much shorter… it was over so fast! I didn’t even scream when they let us go because my breath was literally taken away! After the freefall, you swing around at the end of the wire for a bit before being brought back up. Various jumping methods are available, including diving head first or going down a slide. For a small fee, you can do a second jump, but we chose not to since we had already spent a lot and had a whole week of north island to go!
Once everyone in our group had finished their jumps and purchased whatever photos/videos they wanted, we headed back to the van. Everyone else went back into town while we were dropped off at the canyon jet. Again, we couldn’t take any photos – all our possessions had to be placed in lockers so they wouldn’t get wet or fall out of the boat! But here are some photos of where we went and of one of the boats:
The jet ride was really fun! The driver (captain?) of the boat stopped a few times to tell us where we were and give us some information about the area and the views down in the canyon were absolutely spectacular! I so wish I could have taken photos. The only annoying part was that we had a lady behind us who would not stop screaming and carrying on! The driver used hand signals to indicate when he was about to do a 360° turn because we were supposed to hold on and brace ourselves at those times, and every time he did the signal the annoying woman would start screaming before we even started the turn (he gave us plenty of warning). Gah!! I thought the turns were fun. The worst part for me was when we went over huge rocks because there wasn’t much warning there. We were right at the front of the boat and I got jolted around quite a lot! I can definitely recommend the Shotover Jet though.
After our jet ride, we took the free bus back into town where we decided to have a relatively relaxing afternoon. We went for lunch at an organic café called Rehab then went to play Frisbee/disc golf in Queenstown Gardens. We then took the gondola up Ben Lomond for some evening views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountain ranges.
Looking down on Queesntown
Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu and mountains
Queenstown and mountains
View from Ben Lomond
I also found some more of my little friends the Paradise Shelducks. These ones were much easier to photograph than the ones in the Gardens and I spent ages trying to get a shot of them that I was happy with.
Just admiring the view
Shelducks and Queenstown
After taking the gondola back down, we tried to go to the Queenstown Birdlife Park to see the Kiwis, but it turned out to be closed (Good Friday!) so instead we went for dinner.
And now, as promised, some of the photos I took of Queenstown at various other points during the week:
Autumn trees… behind them is part of Queenstown Gardens
Moa… an extinct, flightless bird
Across the lake is Queenstown Gardens
Photo overload! Gallery two below:
Attempt at a night shot… somehow wonky?
Terrible night shot!
Ballarat Street Bridge, constructed in 1882
One of the few original Queenstown buildings left… former courthouse. The bar is named 1876 for the year the building was completed
Speight’s Ale House… former Queenstown Council Chamber, built in 1880
Inside Queenstown church
Finally, I shall leave you with a photo of the full moon… which from our point of view was upside down!
As you can hopefully see, despite being incredibly touristy and not really feeling “real” (I would like to know where the actual residents live/eat/shop!), Queenstown is a beautiful. There aren’t many of the original buildings left, but the builders have done a pretty good job of making everything feel quaint and not too modern. As a base for exploring Milford Sound, the Central Otago region and other parts of southern south island, I can definitely recommend Queenstown!
That was the end of our time on the south island. The next day we returned the rental car and then spent most of the morning at Queenstown airport waiting around because all flights in and out had been delayed due to fog! Watch out for my north island posts coming soon…
Jan has been determined to go hiking since we arrived in Basel, so a few weekends ago we did just that. I found a route that started in Sissach (about 20 minutes train ride away) and ended in Liestal, the capital of the half canton Basellandschaft (the capital of Basel-Stadt is, of course, Basel itself). Warning: another long, photo-heavy post ahead… the scenery is just too beautiful to resist!
The first part of the route took us from Sissach train station up to the Sissacher Fluh (a Fluh, sometimes spelled Flüh or Flue, is a rock face or cliff). That part was the steepest climb and took us about an hour.
A stream in Sissach
Walking up the hill
We saw lots of butterflies!
It’s all so green!
Bird of prey… flying in the sky
That’s the Flüh back there
The view from the top was well worth the climb!
You could even see Basel from up there (you can tell it’s Basel by the wedge-shaped building):
Basel is back there, past the trees…
Let’s take a closer look… Yes, there’s Basel!
There’s a restaurant at the top, also named Sissacher Fluh. We stopped there for a cool drink and some lunch, and decided to share the Fluh platter which looked like this:
It also came with delicious bread.
After lunch, it was time to head back down the other side of the hill. There was a kind of sculpture trail set up on the hillside, which was mostly weird and a bit pointless, but there was on sculpture I really liked:
Those of you who are connected with Confuzzledom on Facebook may have noticed that one of the moles is the new profile picture for the page. The title of the sculpture was something about politicians and looking to the future (obviously a play on the fact that moles are practically blind and can’t see very far).
This part of the route led from the Sissacher Fluh to the village of Hersberg, past another village called Nusshof. Have some more pictures:
View from behind the Sissacher Fluh
Nusshof in the background
In Hersberg, we saw some horses and stopped to refill our water bottle.
Next it was on through the woods and up the hill to Schleifenberg, which meant another hour of hiking.
In the woods near Hersberg
Finally, we reached the top of the Schleifenberg, where there’s a viewing tower. The tower is 30m high, and after climbing up the first few levels you find yourself coming out of the trees to spectacular views. It costs 50 rappen to get into the tower and no change is given so make sure you have a 1/2 franc piece on you! Trust me, you are not going to want to miss these views! My camera could not do it justice at all – partly because it can’t cope with clouds, but mostly because it just can’t see as far as my eyes can!
Directly below us, at the base of the Schleifenberg, we could see our destination – Liestal. We still had just under an hour of walking to go before we got there though, so we decided to stop for a quick drink. We had a beer each and watched some bug (beetle?) that was crawling around the picnic bench.
Any ideas what he is?
On the way back down to Liestal, we came across more wildlife: hornets, a snake and a lizard (who I didn’t manage to get a photo of before he ran away):
Jan took the final hornet picture here – I wasn’t willing to get that close!
Finally, just as we were about to leave the woods and enter Liestal, we spotted a very interesting looking tree…
I don’t know how well you can see, but the roots form a kind of cave under the earth above. I actually had my photo taken inside, but it’s on Jan’s phone so I can’t access it now.
Then, just after seeing the tree, we finally reached the outskirts of Liestal.
With a population of just over 14,000, although it’s the capital of Basellandschaft, Liestal is not exactly large. It’s an industrial town, but it has a very pretty old town centre, which we walked around for a while.
Coat of arms above a door
Oberes Tor (upper gate)
I couldn’t resist taking a photo of Popeye!
There are three museums in Liestal (the cantonal museum for Basellandschaft, a town museum for Liestal and an organ museum), but being late afternoon on a Saturday in a small town, all of them were closed – as were the shops. By that time we were tired out from our long hike (13 km, in case anyone was wondering) so we left Liestal and took the train back home. My leg muscles hated me the next morning, but it was worth it for the gorgeous we saw along the way. I still can’t believe all of this is literally on my doorstep!
Swiss rail has various summer offers, so a few weeks ago we decided to make use of one that involved the train to Fribourg plus a Fribourg city card for 92 francs (that’s roughly 88 euros or 64 pounds) per person. Fribourg, or Freiburg to give it its German name (although at least in this part of German-speaking Switzerland it’s referred to by its French name to distinguish it from the Freiburg in Germany), is right on the border between French and German-speaking Switzerland – officially, it’s a bilingual canton but more people have French as their first language than German (although most people speak both to some degree). Our Fribourg cards included something called Stadtgolf, or urban golf, so we decided to give it a try. Basically you get given a golf club and a ball each plus a map which tells you where the holes are. At those points, you look out for a blue pole and a red pole – the blue one is the start and the red one is the end. Like so:
The holes are dotted about throughout Fribourg, and the leaflet with the map includes a score chart on the back and, in the middle, brief information about the sites where each holes is located, so what you end up with is a mixture of mini golf, putting and a city tour. An interesting concept, and a bit different to just walking around the town. Jan won, of course! Here are some of the photos I took during our walk/game.
More Switzerland. It really is worth the effort!
A bear with a beer!
The third hole was under this bridge
St Jost’s Chapel (I think?)
A wooden bridge
One of the bridges in Fribourg, the Zähringerbrücke, is jokingly known as the Röstigraben or rösti ditch – the cultural boundary between the German and French-speaking parts of Switzerland. Only the German-speaking Swiss could possibly be uncouth enough to eat grated and fried potatoes – the French speakers are, of course, much more sophisticated 😉 Here’s the Zähringer Bridge, from various angles:
In case you were wondering, the river is the Saane or Saline, depending on which language you prefer. Some more photos of Fribourg:
Aww, how cute!
We found a kitty!
One man and his pet lion…
A lantern had to feature somewhere, obviously.
High up above the rooftops…
By the way, not all the holes were as easy as the first photo seems to suggest. Here’s one of the more difficult ones:
The photo was taken from next to the blue pole. Note the huge wall in between that and the red one? Needless to say, this was not a hole where you could get a hole in one!
The urban golf course involves a lot of walking, up hills and down stairs. It’s a lot of fun though, and if you get tired or bored you can stop at any time. There’s nobody forcing you to complete the course 😉 However, if you do you will have seen pretty much all there is to see in Fribourg/Freiburg. It was a lot of fun and something a bit different to our usual method of just wandering around aimlessly! And the city itself is well worth a visit (honestly though I’ve yet to find anywhere in Switzerland that isn’t gorgeous!) The Fribourg tourism website has more information on urban golf here (and no, they didn’t sponsor me to write this post!). At the time of writing, the price without a city card is CHF 9 for adults and CHF 5 for children. Golf clubs can be picked up/returned from the tourist information centre or, when it’s closed, the bowling alley round the corner.
It took me so long to finish talking about Taiwan that I haven’t even mentioned where I went for Take 12 Trips in September yet! Seeing as it’s now November, it’s probably about time I got on that!
Jan and I took a train to Weinheim on the last Saturday in September 2014. This is the Weinheim in Baden-Württemberg, near Heidelberg – I’m sure there are others around as well. It had been rainy all that week and it was cloudy when we left Karlsruhe, but we ended up being really lucky. The sun came out and I even had to take my coat off and carry it! Between the blue skies and little hints of autumn just starting to peek through it was a perfect day for a walk. Unfortunately I’m an idiot and completely forgot to charge my camera battery the night before, so unsurprisingly it very quickly died. Here are the few photos I actually managed to take:
Of course I was going to take a photo of this building!
A street in Weinheim
St. Laurentius Church on Market Square
Yes, those few photos plus the one at the top are all I managed to take! Luckily Jan had his phone on him and in most conditions that actually works better than my camera anyway! Here are the photos he took. A few I requested, but most he just took anyway. A good opportunity to see how our opinions on what needs photographing differ 😉 (Hint: he tends not to take photo of lanterns…)
LOVE this photo
A pond in the Schlosspark (castle park)
I don’t know what this plant is but it’s pretty!
Amazingly this actually stayed still long enough to be photographed
Gorgeous autumn colours
View of the town from near the Schlosspark
It was market day… hence the pumpkins
I requested this photo. It’s just too cute!
Part of the Rathaus (town hall). I requested this photo.
Marktplatz (market square)
Is it just me or does that first photo looking through the gate belong in a fairytale? So gorgeous!
We walked around the town for a while and spotted a flea market in the streets around the cathedral. Sadly I didn’t see anything worth buying though. Eventually, we wandered back to the market square to find something for a late lunch. The entire square is on a slope, so all the outdoor tables are kind of wonky. Look what happened to my soup:
The chef must have been practicing because it was the perfect amount not to spill over the edge of the bowl! It was also delicious, and came with some really nice bread. Once we’d eaten we took a slow walk back to the train station where we looked around the book shop for a bit while waiting for the train home. It was a great day out in a really pretty little town (we also saw a wedding going on at the town hall, which is right by the Schlosspark, and I decided if we ever get married I want it to be in Weinheim. Just imagine the pictures we could get in front of the pond/with the towers, etc.!)
As I mentioned at the start, Weinheim was my September trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare at Need Another Holiday.
Almost a month after returning from our trip, I’m finally getting round to posting the last installment in my recap!
Our final day in Taiwan was spent travelling back to the airport. To do this, we drove along the East coast from Hualien up to Taipei. Hualien is roughly in the middle of the country, so really it was more like the North-East coast.
Before we got properly underway, we stopped at Quingshui Cliff, which isn’t far from Hualien City. Quingshui is the highest coastal cliff in Taiwan. It stretches for a length of 21 km, but there’s a viweing area not far from Hualien, which is where we stopped. I think you’ll agree the view is stunning. Look how blue the water is! (It’s the Pacific Ocean, in case you were wondering)
The Pacific Ocean
Part of Qingshui Cliff
Once we got back in the car, Jan asked me to take some photos while we were driving. Apparantly he has photos that were taken while driving along the Pacific coast in the US, so he wanted some from the other side of said ocean. I don’t think I did too bad a job with the following photos considering they were taken with a crappy camera from a moving car!
Driving along Taiwan’s east coast
The Pacific ocean
Looking out the front window
We stopped again at a viewing point that looks down on (I believe) Keeling harbour, then we had a final stop at a beach where people were surfing. For the first time on our trip we saw mostly non-Asian tourists! Of course not every other tourist elsewhere had been Asian, but there were a lot more of them about than “Westerners”.
Keelung (I think?)
On the beach
See the surfers in the distance?
See that last photo with the people on it? The island in the background is called Turtle Island. You can’t tell why from that photo though, so here’s another crappy “taken-while-driving” picture of it from the other side:
Finally, we drove back to Taipei. Jan had been talking about taro balls (taro is a kind of root vegetable, kind of like sweet potato) all week but we hadn’t been able to find them anywhere, so before heading to the airport he wanted to go back to the night market where he had eaten them. First, we needed to find somewhere to park, which was easier said then done! The sat nav kept telling us we’d already driven past the carpark we’d asked for directions to without us ever spotting said carpark! Finally, we managed to park by the main train station. From there, we took a Metro then walked for a bit until we reached the night market, the last one we would visit in Taiwan. Taro is sweet, so before buying that we went fr some dumplings. This time they weren’t bread dumplings but a kind of pasta-like dough. The filling was delicious pork! We enjoyed them so much that, after our first basket, we ordered another. In fact, I would like to eat more of those dumplings right now! That’s how good they were.
Once we were done with the dumplings, we went and stood in the looong queue for taro balls (apparantly they’re popular!). Jan bought some plain ones and some that were filled with pickled egg yolk. I preferred the plain ones – the egg tasted rubbery to me. The plain ones were a bit like doughnut on the outside but then the inside tasted almost like bean curd. It was a bit odd! I certainly wouldn’t have raved about them the way Jan did, but oh well. I was pleased he got to have some again before we left.
If you can read Chinese you can learn all about Taro from this
The making of the Taro balls
Time was getting on by then, so we went and picked up the car then drove it back to the car rental place. From there, one of their staff members drove us back to the airport. The check-in desk wasn’t open yet, so we went and looked at the gift shop and I bought some sweet potato cakes to bring back to work (they tasted odd, for anyone who’s wondering). Then we finally checked in, bought ourselves a drink on the other side and, before long, it was time to board our plane. And thus ends our Taiwanese adventure! It’s a shame we didn’t get to visit the south of the island – I’ve heard Alishan is amazing! But a week just isn’t long enough. Hopefully one day I’ll make it back.
~I am counting Taiwan as my August 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge with Clare from Need Another Holiday. It also counts towards my 35 Before 35 challenge, item: Visit a continent I’ve never been to before.~
For those who missed them, here are my other Taiwan recap posts:
Our second to last day in Taiwan was spent hiking in Taroko National Park/Taroko Gorge. First, we stopped at the visitor centre to see which trails were open that day and (more importantly) which were most suitable for our very unfit selves. We decided to start with the Shakadang Trail, as it was right next to the visitor’s centre. Unfortunately, only 1.4 km of the trail was open on that day due to a rockfall further down. What we were able to see of the trail was beautiful though, and the shortish walk was a good introduction to the day.
Having finished the part of the Shakadang Trail that we were allowed on, we headed back to the car and drove on to Bulouwan Recreation Area, where we stopped for lunch. There were three different set menus, each being served with soup, rice, tofu and some other vegetables. Jan went for a beef stew with ginger while I chose the pork ribs (I had originally wanted another pork dish, but there was none left). I didn’t take any photos unfortunately, but the food was delicious. And I even managed to eat my ribs with chop sticks – not easy I can tell you! Once we’d eaten, we headed up to the upper terrace (the restaurant is on the lower terrace) where there’s a short walk called the Bamboo Trail. The walk itself is fairly boring to be honest, but there were tonnes of butterflies so that was nice.
Next, we decided to do the Swallow Grotto trail, as it’s supposed to be one of the most impressive in the National Park (the Nine Tunnels trail is even better according to the visitor information but was closed on that day). You’re supposed to wear a helmet on this trail in case of rockfalls, but we only figured out after we had walked the trail where you’re supposed to get them from! Lots of people were walking through bare-headed though – only the people from tour buses actually had helmets! I spent half the walk nervously staring at the cliffs towering above me praying nothing would fall down, but the views made it all worth it.
We had to go in there to start out walk…
Gorgeous, gorgeous view!
By the way, there are actually swallows in the grotto – it’s not just a name! They’re way too fast to photograph though, so I took one of this guy instead 😉
We ended our day of hiking with a visit to the Changchun Shrine/Eternal Spring Shrine, which was on the way back to Hualien. This is the shrine:
And again from closer up:
There wasn’t all that much water when we were there, but it still looked beautiful. I can only imagine how impressive it must be after a lot of rain! Behind the shrine, there’s the start of a trail that leads from the shrine to the Changuang Temple. The entire loop takes 50 minutes to walk, but we only went as far as the bell tower (the highest point) then decided to come back down before it got dark. There are a lot of stairs to climb on this trail – it was certainly the most strenuous of all our walks that day! – but once again the views from the top are well worth it. The bell tower was built to comemorate all the people who died while building the highway through the gorge (it’s pretty dangerous down there – there are signs everywhere telling you to watch out for rock falls!)
Yep, we climbed up those steps…
View from the trail
Another shrine on the mountain
The bell in the bell tower
Once we were done with our hike, we drove back to Hualien, stopping briefly another walk around the market where we each bought a cold drink made with fruit and milk. There were hundreds of varieties to choose from, but not being able to read Chinese we went with some of the fruits that were on display because we could simply point at those 😉 I chose Mango and Guava. Jan’s drink also contained mango and I don’t remember what his second fruit was. While we were there, I finally managed to get photographic evidence of the duck heads that were on sale everywhere 😉
I have no idea what half the stuff in this picture even is!
The eyes… the beaks!
We were both tired after our long day of hiking in the sunshine, so after a quick stop at the hotel to freshen up we decided to be proper tourists and head to the Steakhouse immediately next door for dinner. I know… eating Western food in Asia. Terrible! We had tried a lot of Asian food by this point though. Jan had quite a lot of Taiwanese money to get rid of, so he said I could order anything I wanted. We each chose the set menu, which consisted of a salad (I had potato salad), a Taiwanese style soup, a bowl of what I am convinced was Heinz Cream of Chicken Soup, the steak itself and a desert. I think that’s everything – there were a lot of courses! Iced tea was also served throughout the meal with numerous refills and at the end we could choose another drink – I went for lavender tea because it sounded so interesting! Here’s my steak dish before I gave my fried egg to Jan:
We were absolutely stuffed after all that food! Luckily, as I mentioned, the hotel was right next door, so we didn’t have far to go before we could collapse on our bed, with full stomachs and aching legs!
We’re almost at the end of my adventure now. All that’s left is to tell you about our drive up the East coast from Hualien back to Taipei (more stunningly gorgeous views!) and our final meal in Taiwan before returning to the airport for our 11 p.m. flight.
I’m about halfway through the trip to Taiwan now. After this, there’ll be two more posts.
Thursday was another early start. The hotel we were staying at next to Sun-Moon Lake was the least westernised of the three hotels we stayed in. The staff spoke very little English and all the other guests were Asian. Understandably, the breakfast was also very Asian. I ate some kind of vegetable omelette, noodles with (I think) pickled vegetables and some slices of what we think was sweet potato. There was also toast and jam for the less adventurous tourist. The breakfast room was two floors above our room and gave a better view of the lake.
After breakfast, we checked out, picked up the car and were off for a drive around the lake. Our first stop was at the Wen Wu Temple, which was built after two other temples had to be torn down due to rising water caused by the building of a dam. I said the temple we visited in Taipei was beautiful, but it was nothing compared to this one. Everywhere you looked something screamed out to have its photo taken, and when you tired of looking at the temple, you could turn around and see a stunning view of the lake. Here are just a few of the photos I took. Sadly, my crappy little camera couldn’t do it anywhere near the justice it deserves.
Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan
View from in front of Wen Wu Temple
Giant guardian lion with the temple behind it
Carving in the stone
Attempting to be artistic 😉
View of Sun Moon Lake from Wen Wu Temple, Taiwan
It was another boiling hot day, so before leaving the temple we treated ourselves to an iced tea, then we drove on around the lake. We stopped again at a pier that I don’t remember the name of (if anyone recognises the view please let me know!). It was incredibly crowded there and, as I’ve mentioned, another boiling hot day. Also, we had a long drive ahead of us, so after taking a few photos we moved on.
The pier whose name I don’t remember
Once we’d driven all the way round the lake and almost back to where we’d started, we switched the sat nav back on and set off towards Hualien. Now, as the crow flies, Hualien and Sun Moon Lake aren’t actually that far apart, but the only way to get from one to the other is via the cross-country highway, which leads through the mountains. Basically, to drive from Sun Moon Lake to Taroko National Park (or vice versa), you need to plan in an entire day. Which is why, not long after we started going up into the mountains, we decided to stop and buy some food. At the rest stop, we came across the tiniest little kitty.
We purchased chocolate cake, milk and chocolate mini cookies and some bizarre jam sandwich type things – two slices of white bread without crusts that had been filled with strawberry jam and somehow sealed around the edges. Then we were on our way again, occasionally stopping to admire the view. Here are a few photos I took during our drive – sometimes we were in the clouds, other times we had an amazing view of the mountains below us.
The long and winding road
Not sure what kind of bird this is…
Not fog, but clouds
At some point on our drive, we noticed that there was some red tape across the road and a bunch of cars had stopped. We stopped too and Jan got out to find out what was going on. It turned out some workers were securing part of the mountain that had become unsafe due to a rock fall. The section of road was closed, apart from for 10 minutes on every hour when cars would be allowed to pass. We had arrived in between two hours, so we only had to wait about 20 minutes. Then, at 4 p.m., the workers stopped what they were doing (which mostly seemed to involve throwing huge boulders down on to the road!) and the queue of cars was allowed to make its way slowly through the dangerous section of road. Nature at its terrible best! That was the only incident we encountered along the way, and a couple of hours later we were driving through the Taroko Gorge then finally in to Hualien. Having checked in, got rid of the car and dumped our bags, it was time to go in search of food. A piece of paper in our room told us how to get to Hualien night market, so that’s where we headed. We bought one of each of the three types of dumplings pictured below.
The left one is pork and spring onion (my favourite!), the middle is some kind of green vegetable – not sure what, and the right one contained mainly cabbage and (I think) mushroom. I didn’t really like that one. We then found a kind of bar/grill place, so we decided to sit there for a while. They had all kinds of beer from all over the world, but of course we chose ones from Taiwan.
Taiwanese wheat beer
One of the bar workers offered us some shrimps (?) on sticks, so we decided to give them a try. They were coated in some kind of curry powder and tasted quite nice. I wasn’t brave enough to eat the head and tail, but after being told it was ok Jan did eat one whole. Later, Jan ordered some of a larger variety. I only ate one of those – I found it tasted bitter and not very nice, but Jan liked them. And we also decided to try a local craft beer that the bar had on offer. That was very nice! (And washed away the horrid taste of whatever that seafood on a stick was!)
Shrimps (I think?) on sticks
Giant shrimps? Small fish? No idea!
Taiwanese craft beer
Tasty beer and interesting food was the perfect way to round off our day of driving through the mountains.
After breakfast on our first day in Madeira, we drove down to Funchal – the capital city – to see what it had to offer. The photos in this post will be a mixture of ones from that first day and ones from later trips into Funchal.
On the first day, we just wanted to have a look around. With no particular destination in mind, we found somewhere to park the car then just went for a wander. We found the cathedral, and beside it a mini Christmas market complete with a Madeiran village section, where people in costume were displaying traditional crafts and cooking over log fires.
The front of Funchal Cathedral
Just a random bank, but look how blue the sky is!
Mini Christmas market in Funchal
Cooking over fire
Huts with traditional Madeiran crafts and cooking
It was odd seeing the place decorated with things like snowmen when the temperatures were around 15-17°C all week! There were some pretty lights though, including some made to look like the Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise flowers that were planted everywhere. There were also loads of cute little lizards all over the place… anywhere there was a wall, there was a lizard!
A snowman… but it’s not even cold!
Spot the cute little lizard!
A “bird of paradise flower”
When there are lots of Strelitzia together, they look like cranes who have just popped their heads up to see what’s going on!
Lights made to look like Bird of Paradise flowers!
Lights shaped like a Christmas tree
Some Christmas lighting down by the harbour
It was nice to be beside the sea again, and smell the salt in the air. That’s something I really miss in Karlsruhe!
The very first photo I took in Funchal…
The water looks so beautiful with the sun shining on it!
Looking out at the Atlantic Ocean from Funchal
We went for a walk in one of the local parks (there are many!) and I found a rainbow in a fountain.
A rainbow in a fountain!
A swan, viewed through the trees
Flowers in the park
After walking around for a while on the first day, we decided we were hungry so we headed back to the traditional Madeiran huts to grab a bowl of soup and some of the local bread. Bolo do Caco is a round, flat bread (similar to a Stottie in the North-East of England). It’s baked on a flat stone slab called a Caco – Bolo do Caco literally means bread cooked on the Caco (actually, Bolo is technically the Portuguese word for cake). At the Madeira Story Centre we read that the bread was originally baked on large pieces of roof tile – caco de telha – which is where the name Caco for the stone slab comes from. The bread is traditionally served smothered in a garlic and herb butter – not all that healthy, but absolutely delicious!
A soup consisting of vegetables, barley and pieces of pork
Delicious soup and gralic bread!
After eating our soup on that first day, we headed back to the car before the time we had paid for ran out. But on the way, we stopped by the Mercado do Lavradores (Worker’s Market) for a quick look. You might want to look away now if you don’t like dead fish 😉
Check out the giant head!
The chillies looked so pretty and colourful!
I think that’s enough for one post! Tomorrow I shall share some pictures of the artwork on the doors of the old town. I think they deserve a post of their own 🙂
~ I am including Madeira as my January 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge, even though part of the holiday actually took place in December ~