Taroko Gorge, Mt. Huhuan: "Driving Blind"

Shuishe, Taiwan

November 2, 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

Imagine driving alone through the mountains over an endless, tortuous road with multiple hair-pin turns. Imagine one narrow lane in each direction. A yellow line bisects the road and a white line guards each shoulder.

The road curves up, only up. There is almost no other traffic. Now, imagine that you are blind. Blind. And alone.

From Taroko Gorge to Mount Huhuan, I steer up and up and up on the side of the mountain through a translucent, nearly opaque oatmeal fog, a green pea soup so thick I can barely see beyond my nose.

I fix my gaze on the yellow line. Suddenly the two narrow lanes compress into only one wide lane and the yellow line disappears. No more yellow line! To navigate through the mist I locate the white shoulder marking. Then construction barriers appear on my left and the road turns to ruts and gravel. Where's the white line now?

The road only goes up.

I am progressing slowly but usually slower than slowly. The mist obscures the signs. How many kilometers to the next town? When will I be out of this tedious mess? One hour? Two?

Up and up. The automatic transmission moans in low gear. Yes, plenty of gas.

I admit I did decide to follow the ragged red line on the map. But the fog? Who knew? Around and around. Up and around the mountain side.

I haven't been behind the wheel for ten months and my eyes are not so great. Do I overtake the huge cement truck lumbering just ahead? Is my depth perception in focus? Are my reflexes intact? Is my patience sufficient?

Does this predicament positively prove I have lost all my senses?

Up through the clouds and the mist. Around. Up. Up.

Now here's a thought, a fantasy, "Will I drive up, up so far, that I will eventually escape from the mist and emerge above the clouds?" Never mind. I am taking a drive. Where's the yellow line? Alone. Blind. Going up. I am losing track of time. How long have I been in this jam?

Where's the yellow line now? The white line?

Yes! Suddenly, yes!

Yes!! Fantasy becomes reality. Thank you, Buddha. Thank you, Matsu.

I burst forth from the fog on to the summit of Mount Hehuan. The sky above is a welcome blue. There is a sky! The clouds below are a puffy, hugable white.

Crowds of folks are posing for photos and enjoying a beautiful clear day on the green mountain top. Where did they all come from? I could hug them all.

My ordeal is over. The fog is gone.

I stop for a drink. Can I take a photo or two?

I am exhausted.

Never mind.

Let's take a drive. All clear on the western slope.

Let's take a drive to Sun Moon Lake. And maybe arrive before dark? Onward.

Proud and grateful,

Alpine Jan


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