The route to Shoushan national park
In my previous post, I mentioned that I first stopped at Formosa Boulevard station to take pics of the “Dome of light”. The moment I left my hotel, I decided that this hike would be made barefoot or at least without shoes.
After checking the route to Shoushan national park, my conclusion was that I would do best to get down from the MRT at Aozhidi station, and continue on foot… Obviously I underestimated the distance. I got down at Aozhidi station anyway, where I discovered the large city park. By now, was starting to get tired with walking and standing, so took off my flip-flops and enjoyed resting my weary feet by walking in the grass.
This didn’t mean that I was not there for shooting pics. So, some context pics, I did shoot, despite the lighting being really too flat and hazy.
For being in autumn, with some leaves already falling here and there, there were however still flowers to be seen in the park.
As it was a week day, and we were in the morning, not a lot of people were in this park. Just some locals chilling out like this lady. The sight reminded me of that movie’s title “barefoot in the park”.
City bikes: the ideal way to explore a city
My excursion took another level however, when I discovered that you could rent bikes for a moderate amount (free of charge for 1/2 hr, and only 5 NT$ until one hour).
I grabbed one bike, and as sandals can be dangerous for biking, I biked barefoot, starting thus my journey up towards Shoushan national park. Unfortunately, signage is not very clear, so I took it a bit on the long side.
I managed to find another park near the museum of fine arts, where I took a selfie. The parks are always very lovely in their arrangement and very well kept in Kaohsiung, and that is part of the charm of this little coastal town.
Getting lost is still discovering
I used google maps to find my way, but still, the lack of appropriate signage means that I lost an important entrance point to the Shoushan national park. I didn’t mind that in the least, as for me, when you are on a vacation, getting “lost” is still a way of discovering. I was biking/walking in one of the more industrial parts of the city.
This allowed me to search for photographic “targets of opportunity”. For example this old and rusty machine in a side street.
By then, I had returned the bicycle and was continuing on foot. The area, very much an industrial area with a few cement factories and a boating workshop had some interesting gems, both in figurative and in the proper sense. In the proper sense, as I met this gentleman named Ting, who allowed me to shoot some of his wonderful stones and gems.
Less attractive, but always interesting for textures, was to shoot some details on a boat engine stored on the street.
That workshop even stored some boats outside, giving rise to some quite surreal scenes.
At the national park
The Bouddhist temple in Shoushan
Finally, around noon, i.e. a couple hours after my original plan, I arrived near the entrance of the national park of Shoushan. This park is open to the public, so no need to pay any entrance fee. There is a big Buddhist monastery at the entrance, with some nice views over the sprawling city below. I used a mirror on the parking to shoot a self-portrait (yes, not a “selfie”).
However, there are also some stray dogs (which is strange as not far from the park, there is also a pet shelter), and they can be pretty aggressive if you get close (I guess because there was a puppy with them).
I mentioned in an earlier post that I had started running barefoot as a way of allowing my left knee to recover and exercise again. Well, beyond barefoot running, I also started barefoot hiking, and Shoushan national park is an ideal setting for this as there is no rock clambering involved. Barefoot hiking is probably one of the best ways of really “feeling” the nature and your environment.
Later, as I began my climb in the park I took off my slippers. As I began walking up the park, the stairs and flat areas were pretty easy. Even these rocks were not that difficult to walk upon. The freshness of the ground and the various textures instead were definitely an enticing experience.
Barefoot hiking: sensory overload
The variety of surfaces makes it an extremely interesting sensory experience when you hike barefoot. From the fresh feel of the mud and leaves, to the angles on the rocks and even every little asperity of the path. Even the most uncomfortable sections still leave you with a lot of sensations. I walked on a very jagged and rocky path which made me understand the saying “death by a thousand cuts”. While not cutting my skin at all, it obliged me to take it extra slow, watch my step at all times, but also was a high demand on my footplant’s nerves. At the end of the day, my foot cried mercy from all the sensation (don’t forget, it was my very first barefoot hike on uneven terrain).
The encounters on this hike were also interesting. I was not alone in doing barefoot hiking. This seems more of a trend in Taiwan. I saw at least 3 other guys doing the same. One of the guys, Xiao, even posed with me for a selfie and of course, the “foot selfie”). Xiao was so happy to see another barefoot hiking, that he even offered me some typical Chinese roots (very delicious).
It seems Taiwan has a more relaxed attitude towards barefoot hiking or running. I even saw a guy running barefoot on a track near Kaohsiung arena.
The welcoming spirit of Taiwan for hikers
For being a national park, I found Shoushan national park to be very welcoming to visitors. In a rest stop, somewhere in the middle of the trail, you can find a shelter where they offer free hot tea! As I had emptied my water by that point, it was a very welcome halt.
At this point, I believe the distance covered was around 2 kms, but I was walking very slowly, as it was a very jagged and uneven terrain, and my feet were starting to have difficulties. However, before returning, I took a halt at the “4 banyan” rest stop. At lot of retirees keeping active there!
Later, I headed back down… And found that I was near to the original temple featured earlier.
It was where I met a tour guide, who despite his limited English, tried to explain me about the botanic qualities of several trees in the park. I really appreciated that encounter and it confirmed my opinion that inhabitants of Kaohsiung are incredibly kind and welcoming. The whole excursion took several hours, but were absolutely lovely.