We were all exhausted from last night's crazy ride, and even though we were exhausted, we were woken by the noise of a loud machine at around 8:00 AM.
The noise that we heard was coming from the air compressor pump that was spraying the pesticides right next to the parking lot where our car was parked overnight. With our windows slightly opened all night and into the morning, we had probably inhaled some of those pesticides, providing us with a perverse "breakfast in bed". This was our signal to get going and we walked across the parking lot to wash up in the hotel bathroom, which was too posh for our meager budget. After all, money is for buying tea!
After our brief wash-up in the hotel bathroom we headed back to our car and began our exploration of the Fushoushan area. "Wait a minute!" You might ask, "I thought you guys were looking for Da Yu Ling? Why are you at Fushoushan?" Well, the things is, there were no resting areas like the pesticide parking lot in the Da Yu Ling Area, so we had to drive an extra 40 minutes to Fushoushan area for a night's rest. That's why we ended up starting our "Da Yu Ling Journey" at Fushoushan.
( below: The entrance for Fushoushan area began with a hilarious start - a tacky yellow animal statue of an unknown mythical? species!)
It was a very sunny day in the mountains, and it didn't take long to find a "scenic spot" on the side of the road, although the "scenery" was not exactly what we were expecting.
(below: A scene at Fushoushan area.)
Most Taiwanese mountains will look like this with the flattened ridge and buildings sporadically erected on the top of the ridge. These idyllic scenes are popular images in the minds of tourist from the bustling cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung. As we went deeper into the Fushoushan area, tea trees began to be replaced by something else, that very something that terrified us yesterday on the road. Yes, the cabbage, and some other crops.
(below: This is a commonplace scene in Fushoushan)
We saw more vegetables than tea as we pushed deeper into the mountain area, which did not surprise us at all when just yesterday we saw a multitude of vegetable trucks along this very stretch of road.
Some of the tea processing factories were surrounded by the vegetable plantations in a village we drove by. Compared to the other buildings around they look bizarrely modern and new, some even four or five stories tall. The area is scenic in some regards, but has an artificial feel in places lending to it's over-development and lack of ecological considerations.
(below: The "village" in the mountain with tea factories and vegetable farming)
(below: While this little village had a new feel to it, we can see it's been here for a long while.)
The rough road was hard on our mini hatchback, and as we drove by the police station in this village, we could tell the police officers stationed here were 100% bored by their job. Not a whole lot going on!
As we drove the mountain road we gained altitude and just as the vegetable farms started to disappear we found a tea plantation that looked amazing and bio-diverse. It was also the highest point on the hill which afforded us a better view of the whole area. We climbed excitedly to the top to see what was below, only to find out the disappearing trees and greenery at the valley below later on.
(below: The mountain was comforting after all.)
Part of the tea plantation was recently cultivated, and there were grannies working in the field. The tea factory right next to the plantation was about to process a new batch of tea ingredients when we were leaving. The pitiful part was that we were not allow to observe the tea processing, and to be honest we did not have enough time neither as we were still not quite to the Da Yu Ling area.
We spent some more time on the top of the hill to enjoy breeze and fresh air while trying to find if there were any other tea plantations in the area, only to come to a disappointing conclusion that there none, just more vegetable farms. So, with a heavy heart we began heading back from whence we came.
On our way back to the Fushoushan resting area we finally encountered a tea plantation terrace right next to the road. We pulled over and parked on the side of the narrow road. After turning off the engine the the only thing that could be heard was the chirping of birds and silence.
(below: The plantation was covered by a line of trees, so it is easily missed.)
(below: There were more plantations at the bottom of the hill)
(below: Was this the tea heaven we had been looking for?)
As we kept going we encountered even more tea plantations on the side of the road. Some of them even had electric fans installed to avoid the possible frostbite that can afflict the tea trees during the extreme cold temperatures that occur at these high altitudes in the winter and early spring.
(below: The tea varietal here are all Qing Xin Oolong. The electric fans were not activated when we were here.)
A lovely natural high altitude tea garden, but not the "Da Yu Ling" we were looking for! After all, this is considered the Fushoushan area. It was close to Da Yu Ling, but it isn't Da Yu Ling! So after taking some more photos, we jumped into our car and continued our journey back towards the Fushoushan rest area.
The legendary "Taiwan route 8" of Central Cross-lsland Highway.
(below: On our way back we saw even more signs of over-development, with parking lots and hotels all over the place.)
Continued in Part 3 soon!