Day 4 (06/Feb/2020): Fongbin to Changbin

Today we crossed the Tropic of Cancer in beautiful sunshine, so different from the dreary forecast that I looked at last night. The fine weather stayed with us all day, making this one of the most pleasant days of the trip so far.

Our day started with boiled eggs, steamed buns filled with pork paste, bananas, and tangerines, provided by our host in Fongbin. It was no trouble at all for him to have breakfast ready for us by 7:00 AM. He planned to go fishing that morning and then tend to his farm in the afternoon. I felt far from my comfort zone at his place, but I have to say that he was a nice old guy.

Our route today could not have been simpler to follow – We just had to keep heading south with the coastal mountain range to our right and the Pacific Ocean to our left. Tyson told me that I should try walking along the beach at some point – It was a short lived experiment. In addition to the difficulty of getting traction on a floor of tiny pebbles, it was often necessary to head inland – climbing over tetrapods – to get around the estuaries. I think Tyson kept it up longer than I did. For most of the day, I found myself walking on the dedicated cycle path which is segregated from the coastal highway by a concrete barrier.

In addition to the monument marking the Tropic of Cancer, the sights of the day included the Baxian caves, which were inhabited 30,000 years ago, a church and some mausoleums in the shape of ships, and paddies that extend the cultivated land right up to the edge of the sea. On two occasions I got the chance to peer in at the marquee tents that people had erected outside their homes, to host celebrations – marriage in one case. The biggest thrill of all, though, was to meet a couple of fellow walkers coming in the opposite direction- Two women who had set off from Taitung and were aiming to reach Hualien. They might be members of Tyson’s group so I must post the selfie that we took to the Facebook group page to find out.

Shortly before walking into Changbin, I stopped at a roadside cafe for some dumplings. When I got to the town centre I was unable to find a reasonable place to stay – only listed a handful of relatively upscale hotels. I found a bench to rest while I waited for Tyson to show up. Once he arrived, he was very quickly able to get directions to two unlicensed guest houses. So tonight I’m at the very pleasant “Wen’s house” which is fronted by a watch and clock shop. Apparently, there are a lot of these unofficial guest houses all over Taiwan. Tyson is staying at another one just a short distance away.

Changbin is famous for foot massages – and the history of this is quite interesting. Apparently, the town became home to a group of Catholic missionaries from Switzerland who had been expelled from mainland China some years ago. One of those missionaries brought a foot massage technique from Europe and trained the local people in the method. So now you can get an excellent foot massage at the Catholic church near the town centre. Of course, Tyson and I headed there as soon as we had dropped our luggage in our rooms. For 600 NT$, we got our feet prodded and rubbed in mostly soothing and occasionally painful ways. I managed to explain to my tormentor that she needed to go easy on my right foot. It has been doing well since I started wearing my arch support – no major twinges or other signs of plantar fasciitis. I’d like it to stay that way.

We ate dinner at a restaurant around the corner from the church – hot and sour noodles, fungus, lotus root, vegetables, squid and celery, and clams. All delicious – some Taiwanese and some Thai.

I feel so much better about my food and accommodation tonight. With a foot massage in the mix too, I expect I’ll sleep well … What a difference a day makes.

Categories: 2020 Taiwanese East Coast Camino

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