Nah, I don’t need to follow my directions.
I wandered towards Taipei 101, the iconic building that consistently serves as a directional landmark while traipsing around the city. I was determined to locate a perch from which to bask in the final hours of sun and enjoy the ensuing sunset. Famously, Elephant Mountain offers up the grandest spot in Taipei to watch the sun descend behind the dense landscape of buildings and city life. And so, I was in search of Elephant Mountain (not known to be particularly challenging to find, I might add).
The directions I had written down in my notebook made it seem so easy, so self-explanatory. Basically, walk to Taipei 101, and head toward to the green hill in the not so far off distance.
You must be heading the right way.
I tried to convince myself that I was in fact walking towards a destination as I encroached on the half hour mark off pounding the pavement past the base of Taipei 101. I knew the directions had said not more than 15 minutes. And I wasn’t walking slow.
You’re getting closer and closer to the mountains. You’ll get there. Even if it’s not immediately apparent how to reach this so-called Elephant Mountain, you will reach a trail soon.
I attempted to persuade myself not to turn around, walk back to the starting point and follow the aforementioned directions. I continued on down a street that was increasingly residential towards the ever-forward green hills.
I remember that the directions mentioned passing a school and heading left.
I cheered victoriously as I passed a large school of some kind. There was a high barbed wire fence surrounding the complex, so I’m not entirely sure what kind of school, exactly, it was. Despite the ominous barbed wires threatening the narrow street, I made a left and pressed on.
A lawn mower or garden tool of some sort was on fire about 100 meters in front of me.
That’s not good.
I noticed the red spray paint on the ground and a series of xxxxxxs and a message in what appeared to be aggressive Chinese.
Hmm, perhaps this is not the correct path.
Shouldn’t this have this been obvious at this point?
But… you’re still getting closer!
I reached what appeared to be a construction site of some sort. Perhaps a bridge? There were a few taxis parked, but it was a pretty isolated area. With appropriate trepidation, I cautiously passed through the parked cars. I was almost at the beginning of the tree line when I saw a driveway of sorts, very steep, heading up into the trees.
Do it, Claire!
I trudged up the heavily wooded street. After about 5 minutes I reached another opening. This time, there were two elderly gentlemen wearing hiking boots and athletic clothing.
I must be close!
I managed the requisite friendly greeting just as I began to see statues flanking the paved road and an abandoned of a temple of sorts on the mountain slope ahead of me. It looked straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Despite all of the signs that should have been screaming at me to turn around, I picked up the pace and raced up the flight of stairs flanking the eerie temple. Not soon enough, I reached a plateau upon which I found a map and signs.
Turns out, I had made my way just south of Elephant Mountain to what I believe was Tiger Mountain. After a few hours of perusing around the nicely manicured paths, I made my way to the famous Elephant Mountain rocks directly overlooking Taipei. I made it there with ample time to kick back and soak in the setting sun.
On the way back down, I realized that it would have been totally easy and quick if I had followed the directions. It turned out I had only taken one wrong turn. But hey, that’s morea half the fun, isn’t it?