From:  shan lung <shanlung9@y...>
Date:  Fri May 30, 2003  4:38 pm
Subject: 
Tinkerbell at Alishan mountains

I had too little time in the last post to dash off
more than a few words. There have been more that I
must say to help you avoid mistakes and possible
injury to your charges and also make clearer the trip
I made up the mountains last weekend.

When I took Tink out for the field test, she was as
usual on my shoulder when I rode my bike. I have been
doing that all the time before and she never spooked
which is a big relief when looking back at it all.

We went to that big area where the free flight was
done. You can see the fields of padi ripening and the
leaves of the rice plants strong and sturdy. The
light breeze blowing did not make any wavy motions.
It was lucky that I liked that area and I rode very
slowly. Without warning, Tink spooked. In that
lonely lane with only myself, I could bring the bike
to a stop carefully without injury to all of us. In a
city and with other traffic, the consequences can be
fatal. After that recovery, we went on to the point
of free flight. Tink spooked again, I was really
wondering why. The difficulty is that our senses are
obviously very different from theirs who may see much
more (uv light) and hear much more than us.

There was this military/civilian airfield in the
vicinity. The same vicinity where Taiwanese love to
keep their racing pigeons letting them fly
periodically. Obviously birds and planes do not mix
very well. It may just be possible that the airfield
may have some devices at ultrasonic level to keep
birds away. Which may have been the spooking factor
in the first place but unknown and unheard by us.

At any rate, that was the last that Tink will ride on
my shoulder in her harness when I am on a motor bike
or even a pedal bike. It is far too dangerous if they
spooked or just chose to fly. I read earlier that a
cockatoo with leg leash got her leg tore off and I can
well believe that. That cockatoo died 3 weeks later
from blood poisoning.

The trip up the mountain and any other trips, Tink
will be in a carrier cage with her harness on. She
will be on my shoulder when I walk or run but never on
a bike.

That overnight trip was also a precursor to even
longer trips in the future. I will be meeting up with
some old Taiwanese hiking friends next week for a few
days. The current trip can be seen as a 'shake out'
trial where Murphy can be brought to bay in a more
controlled situation.

Here is the Webshot URL that all of you are warmly
invited to.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shanlung/sets/690236/

With Tink in her harness Ver 4 and the old leash
clipped on, she was stuffed into the carrier and we
went on our way. The base of the mountain was only 15
km. Problem was that we love to stop every now and
then as even on the lowland, there are beautiful
pastoral scenes and I came from big city where even
the mundane in a country setting can be unique and
enchanting enough for me to stop.

Just before the road climb up the mountain is a little
7 eleven that I like a cold coffee and for Tink to
stretch her wings. There was this temple dedicated to
a legendary mystical monk Ji Gong who went around in
rags helping the oppressed and taking down of the high
and mighty, much loved by the ordinary people.

He was so much loved that many people in busloads will
stop by in the car park opposite the 7 eleven forming
themselves into a procession towards that temple.
Poor Tinkerbell minding her own business of wings and
leg stretches suddenly found a bunch of devotees
trouping towards the temple in a blaze of color and
sound. Her spooking this time was easy to understand,
no need for me to evoke strange machines with
ultrasonic pulses.

We continued upwards until we came to this coffee
stop. This consist of a van with coffee machines and
chairs and tables on a knoll overlooking what must be
a beautiful vista from 1000m high. As it was always
cloudy and misty here, we must be charitable and give
benefit of doubt to that location where many others
also stopped. It was not for the coffee. Tink in her
harness got yet another chance to take a break and to
glare at all others.

We went on slowly and at about 2000m, came to this
area just before a rockfall shelter built to protect
rocks from falling on vehicles traveling on the road.
I have been here on clearer days and this part hugs
the side of the mountain with a 500m drop below. As
it was always cloudy, I never knew how high the
mountain went up here. Tink came out of her carrier
and we had some photos together for us and for all you
folks. I was rather proud of Tink harness Ver 4.0
which allowed her to join us like never before. Then
I walked back to the bike holding her leash in my hand
and Tink on my shoulder.

There was this soft click. I then saw the leash was
dangling down. Joy saw that too. By the side of a
lonely road hugging a steep heavily forested mountain
with mists and clouds coming in.. Something died in
me and I slowly turned my head to look at Tink who
turned her head to look back at me. She went 'goo goo
goo' and bob her head up and down. I knew that she
knew that I knew she was 'free'. I had a chill in me
that was not from the light breeze blowing. The last
time I felt this kind of chill was when she winged her
way into the distance a month ago. It was one of
those ethereal moment where time stopped and I can
feel the beating of my heart and total awareness of
where we were.

She chose not to fly away, maybe relishing my dying
yet a little more.

I dropped that useless leash. We were a few feet from
the bike and it was with outmost control that I raised
my hand to Tink on my shoulder and asked her quietly
to 'step up'. She did so. The other waiting hand
immediately went to her head to give her head rubs and
as insurance. She was stuffed so fast and smoothly
back into the cage. I would have been so proud of my
expertise if I was not so frightened. You folks
understand if you got no shots of that moment but only
my very relieved face holding the end of leash Ver
1.0 against Tink safely in the carrier.

Somehow, Tink managed to released that spring loaded
clasp thingy which hooks onto the harness clasp. I
almost can swear she knew clearly what to do and chose
that moment to do that to me.

The way the harness clasp was stuffed through the
harness loop and that BS loop made it extremely
difficult for Tink to release that part. The leash
was another matter.

I comforted Joy (even though I needed bloody
comforting myself) telling her not to worry as the
other leash I bought have this big spring loaded
thingy used to hold dogs.

We went on our way and in a few km more, reached
Alishan park area to top up the petrol. I then slowly
open the cage in a secure area and reached in to clip
the new leash on Tink's harness with a wicked
satisfaction. My earlier reluctance to use this as I
thought it to be too heavy have been altered with no
apologies to anyone or Tink,

Those sequent of shots were to show you folks the
entrance to Alishan recreation area and the new leash
Ver 2 and that heavy clasp.

Jade mountain, or rather the Tatajia hostel where we
planned to stay, was still 20km away. With Tink
stuffed back into the cage, we continued on our way.
Through alternating extreme clarity and 3 meters
visibility, we continued on. The destination mattered
little. In this and many other cases, the journey
itself is as much as the destination. We stopped a
few times to try to capture how this road was like for
you folks. Perhaps having a video snippet might have
been necessary. The way the clouds moved and bellowed
upwards like a boiling cauldron could not be captured
in a simple photo shot.

At Tatajia, we found the accommodation to be dormitory
style. There have been earlier times where we stayed
in even more basic places without second thoughts. I
have stayed in lodgings in the shadow of Annarpurna
for less than a dime a night for the privilege of
unrolling my sleeping bag on the restaurant floor
provided I took my meals there. 12 years ago when I
roamed Taiwan alone, I carry a sleeping bag on my bike
and slept off the road side at wherever I felt was
beautiful enough.

I rationalized that with Tink, we needed our own room.
Perhaps that may even be true. More likely it was
that my tolerance level was a lot lower now and a
comfortable room felt delightful.

We turned back towards Alishan and were nicely
surprised that not only the hotel there had vacancies
and they upgraded our impromptu phone booking to a
nice room. That will not make me thank SARS which was
responsible for that upgrade. Wildlife in China and
Asia will be much happier. With the tracing of SARS
to the eating of civet cats and other wildlife, I am
happy that resulted in stopping of trade of wildlife
for the cooking pot.

As we walked into our room, leash Ver 2.0 slipped out
of Tinks cage. Somehow, it did not shocked me this
time. I was secretly pleased that Tink knew what to
do and relished the ongoing challenge to show Tink I
can be smarter.

The bathroom was dedicated to Tink who was taken out
of the harness. We cleared away the towels and used
that rack for the food and water dishes. Tink seemed
to be a very seasoned traveler and settled quickly and
very happily, went for the dry food and water. Tink
was never starved. Periodically, she was given her
sunflower seeds and she joined us during all meal
breaks eating all that we eat to the delight of others
and the restaurant owners.

I brought a couple of spare phone lanyards. One of
them was looped through the metal ring on the harness
spring loaded clasp thingy. The only way for Tink to
get that out was to pull the entire lanyard through
its loop. This is now Tink harness Ver 5.0 .

The earlier leashes were still usable. The leash
spring loaded clasp will remain safely locked on as
the clasp will be attached to the other end and far
away from Tink's very capable jaws and even more
awesome mind..

The next morning, Tink was eventually taken out for a
walk in the Alishan re-emerging forest of cedars,
pines and red junipers. The songs and calls from the
birds were very enchanting to me especially when I
cast my mind to the time I last stayed here 12 years
ago. The forest was very silent then. I was
wondering why until I stumbled to the hawker area
where food and drinks were sold. I saw what was being
sold as tidbits. 3 small little songbirds on a skewer
nicely roasted to a turn and sold for 50 NT. Times
have definitely changed and awareness of our
environment and wildlife will not allow such scenes
again.

Take note of the pictures where you can see Tink
harness Ver 5.0 with the new long loop incorporated
and the leash hooked on far away. I no longer dare to
say that it will work against Tink all the time. Now
and then when we took a break, Tink was busily trying
to understand that loop. Its only the length of that
loop that must be pulled that is holding Tink at bay
as she actually got that knot half loosened.

The three hour walk in the forest and glades were very
pleasant. I wonder how the original forest was like
seeing the giant stumps were left behind. At the Zen
temple entrance, Tinkerbell flew off my shoulder. I
do not think that was a spook, more like she felt
exuberant and wanted a fly. The leash was not that
long and Tink was brought up short and she circled
back to me. My next development will be some kind of
fishing reel with long enough line for her to have a
good long flight as she wished. And that she come
back to me. That will go a long way to help cure my
current paranoia about Tink's free flying. Even so, I
do not think I ever have the courage to let her truly
free fly for a long time. Perhaps if she can tell me
in a hundred words or so that she deserve and will
honor my trust, maybe I relent.

All too soon, it was time to go.

But then, next week with a public holiday on
Wednesday, and a couple of bridging holiday, we will
be off for 4 days at another mountain with a lot of my
old Taiwanese friends from my earlier mountain
climbing days. And of course, Tink will get to meet
and greet all of them.



=====
With warmest regards

Shanlung
Joy - wife, Tinkerbell - CAG & surrogate daughter
www.flickr.com
This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called Tinkerbell at Alishan Mountain Taiwan (where flaws with original leash were uncovered). Make your own badge here.
strange stuff happens on my trips with Tink
Joy and Tink
sacred umbrella and the mystic monk
sunrise
www.flickr.com