In the morning we huddled
around Doppel's map. My hands swollen and bruised, knuckles green. Kept them in
"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
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
"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."
"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
"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?
"I'm ready. Half of life is
just being there, so we'll play it by ear when we get there." Doppel, always
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
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.
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
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."
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"That's a high concentration
of butterflies," he said.
"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
"Not everything needs to
written down. Thought it was one of those things that everyone knew." Turned
their bikes and headed for the gorge.