Taiwan Route #8 is not a safe road for people to drive on. Some sections of the road are too narrow to pass for two cars, but also landslides are common and the results are shocking to behold.
(Below: Landslide is a common "scenery" on Route #8.)
(Below: Sometimes the aftermath was just right above our head.)
There were no apparent tea plantations in sight while driving back to the (mythical?) Da Yu Ling area, so we decided to keep driving until we were back to where we started. After another long and curvy ride we finally made our way back by passing through the narrow tunnel which is the only way in or out of the Fushoushan and Da Yu Ling area. We decided to stop for a while at the 3-Way crossroad where the resting station (actually just a lavatory) was located. There is also a sign for Da Yu Ling here.
(Below: a picture is worth a thousand words.)
We were a little bit lost when driving along the cliff. We were here for tea plantations, but there were simply none in sight, even after we had driven through the whole route. It was confusing and a bit frustrating especially being tired and feeling the pressures of (wasted) time. Where is the tea plantation anyway?
Feeling confused and frustrated, we decided to drive again from where we had just came from. This time, we also decided to pay more attention to the green kilometer marker signs on the road. And yes, the number sign that probably everyone has heard of being the "105K" sign.
(Below: this is the number sign thing everyone has been talking about.)
(Below: very close to the famous 105K. We were one kilometer away. The safety railing looked like it was in serious need of repair!)
So what are these green number signs, and what do they mean? Well, their function is to tell us which kilometer section we are on. The signs have been used by tea enthusiasts over the years to describe which section of Da Yu Ling their tea came from. As you head deeper into the mountains the numbers decrease.
At the 105K marker section we finally found the "tea plantation" we had been looking for...
(Below: The tea plantation after government took it back.)
(Below: R.O.C government is gradually taking back the land from tea industry.)
It is very true that the government is taking back the land around Da Yu Ling. At 105K we could see the deserted worker dorm that was left in a mess when the plantation close. This place used to be one of the most prosperous and renowned tea harvesting area in Taiwan. It was a pity to see the tee trees gone from the slope, but in some regards it was a fortunate for the preservation of this unique high mountain eco-system.
Since we had found the actual location of the tea plantation, it was time for us to commence our true purpose of being here, which was to brew some Da Yu Ling tea at Da Yu Ling with some authentic teaware. The Da Yu Ling tea was of course from last year.
(Below: This is the abandoned workers dormitory right above the tea plantation.)
We found a tea plantation that was accessible by foot, so we decided to scout around (carrying all of our tea brewing gear) and see whether this place was a suitable location for tea brewing. The tea plantation we found was so green and orderly that it looked like magnified algae growing on microscopic hill. We were overjoyed to finally have a respite from endless driving and searching, not to mention we were with this tea plantation's vibrant exuberance that contrasted dramatically with the neighboring defunct plantations.
The steepness of the hill was beyond our expectation. Carrying the tea brewing gear and other equipment made our vertical plodding quite tortuous. Even after our difficult trek we didn't find any spot that was appropriate for our little ambition. Admitting our failure, we returned to our car for a rest.
(Below: We were trying to find a spot for tea brewing here, but no good result.)
Once we got back to our car we hurried our pace to find a proper spot before the weather turned bad. Weather in the mountains change rapidly so you never know when the rain would drop in the mountain, since we already found a spot that was ideal for our purpose before we visited this tea plantation, we decide to drive back there and began our tea ceremony immediately.
The path was very inconspicuous for outsiders, but we manage to find it anyway and began our search for a way "up". This place we were visiting was a tea plantation field once, but now with every single tea tree uprooted by the government it had became a perfect spot for picnic and hiking. Despite the lovely environment, we were the only people here!
(Below: the secret path required some physical fitness to climb and descend. Our Chinese friend here is the best proof.)
After the climb it was a huge and wide field. The quietness up here is mind soothing and a bit nostalgic. It was the dream we all had when we were children - running in the field like this in the mountains. To Taiwanese, this kind of "true nature" is very rare to find, most of the "natural scenery" was like what we saw earlier on, with the development of parking lots and hotels.
In other words, it is probably a good thing to see the government begin taking the land back to preserve the true nature. We might be losing some great teas to drink, but in exchange we earn a brighter prospect for all the people (present and future generations) who live and visit these lovely mountains. After all, there are many other great tea regions in Taiwan (Alishan, Li Shan, Fushoushan, Lala Shan). To be crazily obsessed with Da Yu Ling tea seems somewhat unnecessary in the colorful world of Taiwanese tea.
We were probably the first group to ever prepare a tea ceremony at one of the now empty Da Yu Ling tea fields. We feel it's a good way to commemorate this place. "Da Yu Ling" will gradually become a historical term in the world of tea, and only after that will it turn into a true "legend" in the mind of tea lover.
(Below: With tea trees uprooted, the nature is back.)
(Below: We could have climbed higher, but the weather might have turned ugly.)
(Below: This iron kettle was one of the reason why it was so difficult to climb the hill.)
(Below: It is a wonderful experience to have all this joy at Da Yu Ling, just a bit heavy though.)
After brewing a couple of teas, we packed up our equipment and made our way back to the car. On our way back we saw an accident at the entrance of the narrow tunnel, again proving that Taiwan Route #8 is a particularly dangerous route to drive on.
(Below: Accident just happened couple minutes ago before we took the shot. The truck was there to help.)
It is time to say goodbye to the beautiful mountain and fresh air. This trip has been both exhausting and exciting for us, but the experience was priceless.
We had experienced some of harrowing mountain roads at midnight, we saw mountains being over-developed for profit, we discovered tea plantations disappearing from Taiwan's most beloved tea growing region, and finally we were able to brew some Da Yu Ling tea at a now barren Da Yu Ling field, which no one had ever done before.
We were also fortunate to acquire some of the best Spring 2015 Da Yu Ling available from one of the last remaining Da Yu Ling plantations! You can learn more about (and purchase) that tea here. Please enjoy this Da Yu Ling like we do, and commemorate this great place with us while seeing it returning to its true nature. To a true tea lover, the disappearance of Da Yu Ling tea is not a sad news at all, but rather a delightful one. We understand the need to preserve Taiwan's high mountain natural heritage so that it can be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike for generations to come!
(Below: Thank you Da Yu Ling tea plantation for all the delightful memories!)