Barefoot hiking in Shoushan national park

Barefoot in the park

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.

Decoration in the park
Decoration in the park

For being in autumn, with some leaves already falling here and there, there were however still flowers to be seen in the park.

Flowers in the park
Flowers on background of urban cityscape.

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”.

Barefoot in the park
A lady chills out in a park of Kaohsiung.

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).

Rental post for city bikes
City Bikes in Kaohsiung

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.

Bridge over pond
A little bridge over a pond in the park of the Museum of fine arts

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.

Old machine
AN old and rusty machine left in a side treet of the Shoushan district

This allowed me to search for photographic “targets of opportunity”. For example this old and rusty machine in a side street.

Textures

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.

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Less attractive, but always interesting for textures, was to shoot some details on a boat engine stored on the street.

 

Boat engine detail
Details of a boat engine left out on the street in Kaohsiung.

That workshop even stored some boats outside, giving rise to some quite surreal scenes.

Navigating the city
A boat in the city: a little boat stored outside a boat mechanic workshop

 

At the national park

Buddhist temple in Shoushan

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”).

Near the Buddhist monastery
Near the Buddhist monastery.

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).

Barefoot hiking

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.

Shoushan national park
A gorgeous view from up there… In Shoushan national park

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 in Shoushan
Barefoot on the rocks: fun and not painful at all

 

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).

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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.

Tea for visitors
Rest stop in Shoushan national park offering tea for visitors

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!

4 banyan rest stop
Old people taking a rest at the 4 banyan rest stop

Later, I headed back down… And found that I was near to the original temple featured earlier.

Back to the beginning
Full circle as I come down below near the Buddhist temple seen 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.

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