Some links including a great Kickstarter project (Africa)

As a traveler you meet all sorts of people.  Some of these people go back to normal lives but others continue to live the dream.  Some us lead semi-normal lives while sometimes living the dream.  Even if you are not chasing down the latest adventure in an exotic country there is still an opportunity to live vicariously through those that do incredible writing, photography and videography.  Here are a few of the incredible independent travelers that I have been following recently.

Click image for kickstarter link

I haven’t actually met Francis Tapon but he’s a friend of friends.  He hiked the Pacific Crest Trail the year before I did and followed that up by exploring Eastern Europe for a couple of years.  After that he published an excellent book (Hidden Europe) about the history and current situation in each Eastern European country.  This time instead of writing about his travels he’s making videos to expand his audience.  He is planning on visiting all 54 African countries during the next 4 years.  Thishe wants to film a TV series about his travels.  The goal of his kickstarter project is to finance a professional level pilot that could turn into a TV series.  Below is a trailer for the pilot that describes why his particular show is important and what it offers that is different from the content that is currently out there.  There are 2 weeks left and he still needs to raise 3000 dollars.

These two Australians have been cycling all over Asia for more than a year and this is the twelfth short video that they have made about their travels.  Someday (when I have more time) I would like to add this type of videography to my travel blogging.  I love these videos and can never wait for the next one to be posted.

Out Of Order (hiker nickname) was someone that I seemed to always be near (20-50 miles) on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007 but I think I only saw him once.  He set out on an ambitious adventure 2 years ago.  He kayaked from Minnesota to Louisiana to Florida to New York and back to Minnesota.  His trip is finished but it was an amazing feat and he told some amazing stories on his blog.  This is also worth checking out.  Link to Blog

We meet all sorts of people in our travels.  One of the best hiking resources in Taiwan just happens to be a concert pianist.  Richard performed at a concert hall in April and he has seven short youtube videos of his performance.

Photo of the week #46

Yesterday’s haul at the Jiuru farmers market.  700NT or 23USD and the cherries were 1/3 of the cost.  Everything except the apples and cherries are from Taiwan (I think).

We are getting 2-3 light rainstorms every day.  Just carry your raingear everywhere.

A trip home

I never intended to wait 4.5 years before returning home to Minnesota but it has been 4.5 years.  Some things have changed but many things remain the same.  Some things are the same but they are a complete shock to someone that has lived in Asia for a considerable amount of time.  The sound of silence exists here (even in the city/suburbs).  Giant open spaces create a sense of calmness that is rare in Taiwan.  There is a sense of order on the roads instead of a sense of chaos.  The grocery stores have everything that someone could want.  And the air is clean and breathable.  If I could change just one thing about Taiwan it would be the dirty air.

I ended up cutting the timing of my trip dangerously close to the winter that would never end but there has been absolutely awesome weather here for the last week.  It didn’t rain much until the last day and the temps have been perfect.  I have been a little frightened by the number of places using AC in the low 70’s (<25C) but I guess that is really hot or something.

Looking at my grandpa’s farm on the left.  The corn was just planted in the last couple of weeks and it won’t be long until it is a sea of green.

Grandpa’s old barn.











There was a time before the Internet.  You couldn’t just go out and read 100’s of product reviews in an evening.  Grandpa’s barn was in a sales book for a local construction company and perhaps an interested farmer would stop by and view the barn in person before building it himself.

This one isn’t quite in running order but old tractors are really cool despite the mega tractors roaming the fields now.  Every year they seem to get bigger and bigger.

One of my uncles operates a small sawmill.

Another one of my uncles perhaps has the coolest job ever.  He isn’t just a salesman.  He is a Harley-Davidson salesman at Faribault Harley-Davidson.

One of my stepbrothers has built an impressive print shop in Minneapolis.  They don’t just do the same digital printing done everywhere but instead they focus on high end paper (it feels wonderful) and nearly forgotten techniques of letterpressing, engraving, foil stamping and methods that I couldn’t even begin to understand.  Their work truly takes on a 3D feel due to the thickness of the paper and the print methods used.

For more info – Studio On Fire

The family farm at sunset.

Lake Maria State Park, MN

For the next week there will be a completely different flavor to the blog. I have returned to the US to visit with my family and explore a few local Minnesota places. The first short hike was a state park near my mother’s house in the northern suburbs. Despite being close to the Twin Cities it was practically deserted on a holiday weekend. It doesn’t actually have a main draw but rather it offers pleasant tranquility.

Most of trails lead through a mature forest with many picturesque fallen, mossy trees.

A columbine flower.

This would be a giant lake and a major tourist attraction in Taiwan.  I’m not even sure this counts as one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes.

Even this would be a tourist destination in Taiwan.  This was just one of dozens of small waterholes at Lake Maria State Park after a rainy spring.


Even deeper reaches in Hsinchu – Jianxibao ( 鎮西堡)

Jianxibao is located across the valley from Smangus.  Smangus has become famous for being the most remote aboriginal village in Taiwan.  It was just 20 years ago that roads and electricity reached it.  Since then it has become an overly popular as a tourist destination.  It’s almost laughable thinking about the large tour buses that continuously make the trip to Smangus on the narrow switchbacking roads with tourists that wouldn’t consider stepping off of a sidewalk into the real nature that surrounds the place.  Somehow they pass right past Jianxibao and keep going.  Even though we saw it from our breakfast table we chose not to go to Smangus this time.  Instead we hiked two outstanding trails through Jianxibao’s grove of ancient Red Cypress trees and found a secret place that was an amazing mixture of dark/gloomy and beautiful.

The million dollar morning view from our guesthouse.

On a previous weekend our guesthouse had a similar million dollar view but was completely forgettable in every other way.  This guesthouse (500NT/person or <20USD/person) was amazing.  (035847715/0919281283)  Most of the mountain guesthouses are old family homes that have been retrofitted into guesthouses since most of the family has moved away from the mountains.

On the first day we hiked an 8.3km loop (loop B) through the forest on a level and well maintained path.

Smangus and Jianxibao are notoriously wet as seen by the endless moss clinging to branches.

I have been incredibly lucky so far this year with weather.  I expect that will cruelly change on my next hike with an overabundance of rain.

Richard, the ladies and myself in front of one of the giants.  It seems like a person could sneak through that hole…

Another one of the giant Red Cypress trees (2000+ years old).  I think this one was named Giant Tree while others were named King, Queen, Adam, Eve and countless other creative names.  Adam and Eve were particularly naughtily named…

Hiskia tried to warn me that I might be disappointed since there wouldn’t be any waterfalls on this trip.  I knew that but we were completely shocked when we crossed this stream not once but twice.

The giant trees are such a big attraction that these waterfalls don’t show up marked on any maps or brochures of the area.  They are now marked on my waterfall website though.

On the second day we hiked the significantly harder Loop A to some more giant trees.

Hiskia in front of one of the smaller giants.

Ginny walking through one of the few flat places on the trail.

Shortly after this the trail went vertical and presented challenge after challenge as it climbed over 800 meters mostly in the 2nd half of the 5.4km hike.


A place that was so eerily dark and depressing yet so incredibly serene and beautiful at the same time.  It was coated with a layer of pond scum and was unlikely to be more than a meter deep in the middle.  In the US this would be dismissed as just another swamp but Taiwan’s geography doesn’t allow lakes to form and this is one of the few lakes that I have seen in my 4 years in Taiwan.  There is perhaps no better name than the English translation of Poison Dragon Lake to describe this almost mystical place.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 43 other followers