Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Trip to Kenting

The end of November.  Living in the Pacific Northwest makes this time of year difficult to be outside.  Cold, yet not cold enough to freeze the constant drizzle of rain, and breezy is the norm.  Our first Thanksgiving in Taiwan had us packing up the Freeca and heading south along Highway 3.  This is a toll road, so the traffic was light though every 20 to 30 minutes we had to stop and pay 40 NT (approximately $1.30) for the right to continue driving south.  After three hours of driving, the freeway stopped and we hit small roads that eventually swung us along the western coastline.  The wind had whipped whitecaps in the Taiwanese straight and sunlight was glinting off the blue waters.  Aah, what a difference from the past years.

Our destination was Kenting, the end of the road in Taiwan.  Kenting is comprised of a small town on the southern strip that is surrounded by national park and ecological reserves.  It's like a tropical paradise.  We arrived just after noon on Thursday and walked the strip eating lunch and peeking into shops that were slowly coming to life in preparation for the night's market.

 Our Thanksgiving meal took place in this fine eatery.  Given that our school had provided us with a traditional turkey meal on Wednesday, we settled upon a light Mexican fare in honor of arriving in the land of sunshine.  After lunch, the sun had heated the day up and we were ready for a swim.  Little Bay was just around the corner and offered white sand and warm waters.

Until now, Taiwan has been a bit frustrating in that the time to go anywhere has taken double what would normally be expected.  Kenting restored some travelers' faith.  This part of the island is easy to get around and we soon found ourselves on the eastern side, looking into the Pacific Ocean.  At the end of the road is a surf camp like town and we parked along the palm trees and headed out to the beach.
 The afternoon was great!  We swam in the waters.  Audrey took quite a beating as she charged the largest surf of her puppy dog life.  The shore had a steep drop off and when waves sucked back out to sea, a decent undertow was created just as the next wave would come barreling in.  In one instance her high flying leap over an incoming wave was miscalculated and her hind legs were suddenly above her head as she was flipped into the surf.  Shortly after, the undertow sucked her beneath the incoming whitewater and she was held down for several moments to resurface and slowly pull herself back onto the beach.

Finding a smoldering piece of wood from someone's old fire, we quickly stoked it up until we had a nice beach fire.  Piles of nearby driftwood provided an endless supply of fuel but we were off to the southern tip in the hope of catching the night's sunset.

Unfortunately, we arrived a few moments too late to see the final rays of the sun but the hike to the southern tip was a nice and quiet one.  The other tourists had departed and the trail to the point was empty.  We emerged from the jungle to find this monument at the end of the line.

When the sun sets, the streets of Kenting come alive.  Vendors sell all sorts of things.  Lots of items can be put on a stick such as sausage, squid (looks a bit scary with all of the tentacles dangling about), cheese, fruit and chicken butt.  Yep, I got fooled into buying le brochette de chicken arse one night.  Contrary to what students in our class have told us, it is awful!

That night, we found a secluded grove on the eastern side to camp.  The night was gorgeous with a large, orange moon peeking out from the clouds.  Then, the wind started.  It howled.  Wind demons grabbed fistfuls of sand and threw it at us.  Our tent began to fill with sand.  The wind battered down the top of the tent.  Finally, we made a quick retreat to the back of the Freeca for a cramped refuge.

The next day was beautiful.  We explored a bit of the inland portions and stopped at Hengchun to visit the old city wall.

and market.  This lady is selling shrimp - pick the ones you want!

Not wanting another night with the sand demons, we returned to the calmer, western shores and the beautiful Baishe Beach.  It's a small cove nestled into the jungle.  This became our home for the rest of the trip.  Clear blue waters that were warm enough for long swims kept us busy. The sunsets were quite nice...

 It was great to just relax

 though Audrey became a bit obsessive with her desire to swim and fetch the ball out of the water.  Here she digs one of her holes before returning the ball for the next round.

Side trips to the aquarium and little towns kept us going for the next several days.

All-in-all, this was a great trip.  There are a few more photos tucked away if you're interested.

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