Wordcarpenter Books

Chapter Seven 




In the morning we huddled around Doppel's map. My hands swollen and bruised, knuckles green. Kept them in my pocket.

"If this tunnel is the one I think it is, the turn off is right there." Pointed to where a road faced west.

"That road there? We were so close!"

Yesterday we had been keeping our eyes pealed for a fork in the road where we would need to turn west to reach Puli. In the back of my mind I wasn't surprised at the coincidence that the road was 150 feet away from the tunnel. A serendipitous coincidence, it made the previous day a work of art on its own, ending with depositing us right at the turnoff.

My hunger was almost violent. Brought alive the taste of simple food. To have such deep hunger meant that I could savor the bread and nuts I had in my bag as if it were a five-course meal. Under the early morning sun it was a feast that filled my stomach and put a smile on my burnt face.

I took out the handbook.

"It says here in chapter three that all members should live their lives on the second principle of Viking-Poet philosophy: ‘Experience is the source of all knowledge, and knowledge is a catalyst for spiritual health and a queller of ignorance.'"

"Well, yes. Opportunity is a door waiting to be opened to life's hidden secrets and kernels of wisdom. One's degree of wisdom is the measure of all things. This means full-time adherence to justice of the soul."

"And thus the antithesis of phoniness."

"Indeed. Members soon become aware that truth makes them hard so they should be reminded never to lose their compassion. The ability to maintain compassion even in trying times of extreme difficulty is the one quality that distinguishes Viking adventurers as men of noble character. Members must understand the wisdom: ‘Everyone arrives into the world and leaves the world alone, everything else is a gift,' so they should regard all the special things that life offers as a gift, and as such never expect anything from anyone. No offence."

"None taken."

"A further deduction is that all Vikings should know that their greatest moments throughout their lives can only be experienced alone. Besides, it's easier to move when unaccompanied by others. No offence."

"So you're saying that when a Viking-Poet goes on an exploit, he is best to do it alone?"

"I see that was a part of the handbook you overlooked. Chapter six: The Solo Nature of the Exploit. Viking-Poets tend to be solitudinarians - a person leading a solitary or secluded life. To be alone is to achieve. To be with others is to celebrate what you have achieved alone. That's why members are encouraged to always have their own mode of transportation, motorcycle or mountain bike or what have you, and are encouraged to develop fundamental skills required for cartography and its derivatives."

"Speaking of which, where exactly are we?" We both surveyed our morning view. A steep incline went down to the valley to the west where the turn off was.

"I think we're close to Sun Moon Lake, which means we're close to the rescue mission in Puli."

"Okay, so are you up for it? The rescue?"

"I'm ready. Half of life is just being there, so we'll play it by ear when we get there." Doppel, always the philosopher.

We let our motorcycles warm up in the chilly morning air. In the morning light I saw the tunnel had a distinct Japanese style with alternating red and white brick weathered over the years. A plaque hung over the entrance.

"Maybe a couple hours it will take us?" I asked.

"About that, maybe less."

We heard a helicopter in the direction of Puli, a cue that had us both easing out the clutch heading for the turn off. The road was much worse here. Incredible we hadn't hit a loose rock the night before riding to the tunnel. Steep slopes showed fresh scars of rockslides littered with massive fallen trees revealing the path of destruction.

At a lookout point with a gazebo we stopped. The earthquake had created a four-foot high crack in the concrete foundation of the gazebo, the roof had crashed down into a heap of splinters in utter defeat. Built for the view for a small mountain lake, I sat down on the edge of the opening in the earth and drank some water. The tremors hit every minute or so.

"I can feel the aftershocks better sitting down," I said. A dozen recent rockslides on the mountain slopes across the lake was a testament of how close we were to Puli.

A tremor hit that caused the deep thudding sound of falling rock across the lake demolishing trees leaving a deep brown path to where rocks splashed into the water. Rock slamming rock echoed off the surrounding mountainsides. A thick cloud of fine brownish dust hung over the path of the rockslide, standing as a proof of God's exploit.

Doppel sat down on what was left of the gazebo.

"Big pieces."

Another big tremor hit but this time a different mountainside was the scene of an avalanche. An entire side of the mountain sheered off a layer of rock. Watching the avalanche we witnessed a barrage of rockslides from the surrounding peaks, as if it were an exclusive avalanche party. Aftershocks continued unabated at semi-regular intervals, shaking rock from the mountain like ice hit by a hammer.

"Behold, the hand of God."

"Never have I seen such a sight," I said.

"Standing proof of Odin's exploit."

Fear spiked through me thinking the fissure would open up suddenly. I walked to safer ground.

"Behold the result of extreme pressure by the earth's crusts," I said. Thought of my twin as he sat on a piece of rock that could break off at any moment and fall into the lake.

"As you see it."

A pile of rocks by the cliff was the new shoreline.

"Did you see in the code that it states that if a member believes in a Supreme Being, and is respectful and honest in all matters, a Guardian Angel will watch over them." A helicopter flew over us and turned to follow the river leading west. "Comes in handy while adventuring in foreign lands where littering on the roads with unexpected red herrings is common."

"I think I did see that." I thought about the impact that had on my brother. Since earthquakes, typhoons, tidal waves and avalanches were all deemed Acts of God, Doppel didn't have the same degree of fear as others. As expressions of the Supreme Being's power, he regarded His acts as exploits that were full of beauty. Hardly rattled from one of the world's deadliest earthquakes of the decade, Doppel found himself enjoying its power under his feet, admiring its execution. I found the rumbling of falling rock soothing as well, and liked the smell of newly churned earth.

"It's almost like a symphony," he said, twisting his head to watch the dust rise from the foot of the rock face. "A symphony of forces."

Seeing it this way, the awesome power of God impressed me rather than strike fear into me. I breathed deeply and looked at the carnage at the foot of the cliff as reorganized to God's liking.




We went slowly on our motorcycles. Huge trees broken laid on the road amid volumes of fresh earth that had dislodged from the crest of the hill. A minute later right after another tremor, a rockslide started beside us. I could hear the rocks tearing through the mountainside smacking trees. Rocks pummeled the pavement in thuds just behind me. We were like bowling pins waiting to be struck down by a flying rock. When I thought I should wear my helmet a small stone flew by my leg and hit my bike, another one whizzed past my ear. The earth was still but broken rocks fell until only dust rose from our feet.

Doppel came over, patted my shoulder.

"Ah huh! That was intense." Laughing, I could see it was more than just watching. It was following the loose stones and broken rocks falling down crashing paths, the magic of it hanging in wake of dust. Being involved in a rockslide so close up was palpable.

"It's a privilege to witness another exploit by the Hand of God. My kinship with the white-bearded wise man has never before been so full of bounty." Solemn awe.

"The ancients, yes." I walked to my motorcycle and we rode towards Puli.

I eased out my clutch trampling fresh debris under my wheels, loitering dust stuck to my sunglasses. The thought of a well-aimed falling rock made me consider putting on my helmet but my faith in God's relationship with me vetted the idea. I knew that He wouldn't strike me down in this manner. It was too unbecoming of Him. I had not deserved such a fate. The enjoyment of the ride trumps safety because of faith in God.

We followed the road until the pavement in front of us caved in where there was a waterfall. The small arch bridge had caved into the waterfall below it, and no connection to the other side. Doppel and I looked at one another and did a quick evaluation whether it could be passed using skill or daring.

"It's impassable," I said. Rushing water careening between the rock-covered road with force.

"Hmmm." The flow of the waterfall over the crumbled concrete was impossible to cross on foot or in a vehicle. Worse still one could easily loose their footing trying to cross. And from the sound of it, the waterfall fell a long way down.

"It's a sight worthy to halt our quest to help the rescuers," he said with a sigh.

"And an example of why the main roads are closed."

When we reached an impassable spot about 30 km from Puli, Doppel wasn't disappointed because God was guiding us to an unknown destiny somewhere towards the east coast and the Pacific.

"I interpret this as a sign to follow our contingency plan, which takes us to the other side of the country through a world-class national park down a gorge to the sea. We just go the other way at the turn off this morning."

"Not a crappy plan B." As if on cue, a flurry of black and white butterflies fluttered above us. It was strange.

"That's a high concentration of butterflies," he said.

"Butterfly colony."

"We were not meant to reach the epicenter. Time to remount our iron horses and buck outta here. It's a dead-end with no other way around. Besides, I know a girl who lives in Hualien. Vikings have girls in every port, didn't you know?"

"I didn't see it in the book."

"Not everything needs to written down. Thought it was one of those things that everyone knew." Turned their bikes and headed for the gorge.



Chapter Eight 


Riding east across the great divide gave me a chance to see why those people who spoke out against motorcycling were incongruous with Doppel's philosophy. Sitting in front of his electronic window to the world, the 21st-century man is half-scared of dangers in the world because he doesn't use his instincts. This separated Doppel from others. Those whom Doppel called his friends were people who showed interest in his way but who weren't able to dedicate themselves fully like he had. Tempted by the comforts of technology yet aware of the gulf between the malnourished souls of the weak and the power of man in full. Overlooked by many but seen by few, he looked at himself as a mountain among hills of sand where the sands of time tested again and again the foundations of all. Doppel was the last of a dying breed who represented all that was good in man.

Growing hot in the mountains, we took a long corner that curved for a minute and came to vast space stretching to the horizon. The mountain range ran perpendicular to the valley along the Central Mountain Highway, cut by a small river in the valley below. This was Toroko Mountain Valley. It was along this river that I came to know the terrible power of erosion.

The vast gulf between mountain ranges narrowed. Descending farther and deeper into the valley alongside Toroko River, the mountains bore the scars of erosion that had cut putty-like mounds of rock. Narrower and narrower we hit a stage dominated by tunnels. Every couple of minutes we hit another tunnel in a succession of engineering mastery. For miles a wall of rock stretched upwards at virtually an 80-degree angle the civil engineers had decided to go through the rock instead of carving out a roadway around the side. Weaving through a labyrinth of tunnels deep in the gorge with no traffic, my motorcycling became a flow of rhythmic maneuvering as I leaned into corners through road-caves with walls of rock above, downshifting and braking in a scissor-kick motion. Mastering my mastery on my flying horse.

Doppel pulled over in a jut in the road right beside the water.

"Look at the water," he said. Roaring gorge.

"It's gray."

"It's like mud. These rocks must be like sandstone or something."

"Or clay. The engineers only have to carve out each tunnel as if from butter." The water was high so we were splashed by the mist.

"The erosion is visible," he said. 

"Small amount of water and an awful lot of time."

"Actually it's an example of how a consistency of purpose, using time as its friend, had divided and conquered the impassible heights of solid rock that rendered eighty-three percent of Taiwan uninhabitable. Before us is an example of persistence can overtake that which appears beyond conquest. It fits into my life philosophy of time utilization so cleanly. The value of persistence in the attainment of your goal. It's carved into the mantle of the land for us all to see."

"With all its Wagnerian excess." The vastness between rock and swift gray water made me feel small.

"It is a small stream's victory over the granddaddy range in the South China Sea. Shows how time can be employed to achieve an end. To seek an end by means of time. To exploit time for your own purposes. A purpose for which time is used. This is what Toroko Gorge is to me. Persistence as the trump card. A dream that takes twenty-five years, not two."

"What if you don't have much time? Like a year or two."

"Put time into service to do something. Benefit by using time."

"What you would choose to do would change don't you think?"

"Well that's the six million dollar question. Would you? Maybe priorities due to time constraints but fundamentally there shouldn't be a change in what you do. Because you should be doing that thing you like to do the most." He was exactly right. And to see my failure on that is the cruelest tragedy of dying.

"There'd be a Bucket List wouldn't there?"

"Definitely. That would be the fun part." This is part of my Bucket List I wanted to say.

Canyon loud with splashing clay-infused water running past us. The edges of the tunnel entrances were rounded like they were clay putty. I trusted the tunnels; they had been done with skill. This was a riders' paradise. There were some rocks on the road, but with the absence of vehicles, it was like a go-cart track complete with deadly corners and long tunnels as if it were a science fiction film set.

"It feels like we're in a dungeon with that rock there," I said.

"I don't know how many more hours of daylight we have in here though. The sun is already blocked off."

"We have time. This is great riding."

"The tunnels should continue until we hit the opening at the sea near Hualien."

"It keeps going on and on."

"Which is good for us."

"A lot of taking corners you can't see."

"Makes for a more challenging moment when choosing the line of turn."

"With some various hits of fallen debris."

"From the earth's turbulence."

"Not knowing whether the rock will cave in on top of us."

"Due to the heavy pull of gravity," he said.

"The engine vibration just enough to crack a hairline fracture in the rock."

"And the weight of the machine along the pavement."


"Hit them."


"Lightly over them."

"Is this all in your book?"

"No, it's experience talking."

"And fractures?"

"Lightly over at an angle, like a hop."


"It's just one big piece of rock."


"All the roadways are above the water line so far."

"Darkening light."

"Good point. Switch from sunglasses helpful." I changed eyewear but he didn't.

"Anything else?"

"Time to ride is upon us."

Our engines on we eased back in the saddle. All downhill now, we both sped faster twisting around corners through long passages. In one long tunnel I was in fourth gear when rocks blocked the inside lane. Doppel took the corner in the oncoming lane to have more lean around the sharp corner. The dividers in the tunnels were large because it was so dark. Crossing back into the right lane Doppel's front tire hit the metal divider dead on, forcing the shock absorbers to max and his handlebars pushed the side. I saw, just in a split second, how he regained his direction and landed the front wheel back down in line with his line of movement. It sounded like he had hit a curb.

Doppel slowed. Didn't need any time to decipher the moral of this brush with death.

"It's clear that the Great Master in heaven wanted me to understand that one should never jeopardize functionality with any accessory that didn't contribute to its efficient execution," he said. "I shouldn't be wearing those sunglasses in these tunnels. Now with them off, I can clearly see the size of the centerline reflectors and the danger they pose to the operation of my vehicle. It was an act of folly and a blatant violation of the Viking code. It almost took my life." For someone who embodied bare-bone practicality over gadgets and non-essential equipment, Doppel should have been wearing his eyeglasses like me. He was old school Viking, preferring to use innovation with a matchstick and paperclip rather than GPS and grenade.

When he realized that his front tire was flat from the impact with the centerline reflectors, he inwardly nodded at its justice.

"Clearly there should be some punishment for my faux pas," he said as if confessing to someone over my shoulder. "And it is just."



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