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Here are some photos from the epic day walk that Sean Grimmond and I enjoyed in Yangmingshan National Park [Taiwanese National Park site][great topo of park]!

As if the fact that Sean was also an endurance athlete type wasn't coincidence enough, let me relate a conversation from the walk...

Setting the scene
Friday: Joel meets Sean Grimmond, an Australian from Brisbane, during the meeting. Sean is a very successful genome biologist who has played a major role in setting up large-scale, next-generation DNA sequencing in Australia and is part of several international consortia for interrogating gene expression on a global scale. Joel mentions plan to venture into Yangmingshan National Park on the day off for a big day walk. Sean reveals that he does quite a bit of adventure racing and mountain biking and would be keen to join in, following several days of typically indulgent conference eating.

Sunday: The boys head off for an epic walk, armed with topographic maps that Joel has printed off the internet - sounds dodgy, but they were pretty good! The walk is a popular one with the locals, who are all extremely friendly, and takes them from sea level up a 1100 m peak (Mt Datun), down the other side and onto the slopes of a second peak (Mt Qixing) around lunch time. Here there are (a) impressive fumeroles – small holes in the side of the mountain where sulphurous steam escapes the bowels of the earth and (b) a small shop selling freshly made bbq pork buns and ice creams. After fully appreciating both, they make their way up Mt Qixing and then start the trek back to their starting point – just outside the KFC in Xin Beitou (the famous hot spring resort).

Much conversation was had on the way, with topic ranging broadly from carbon mountain bike pedals to DNA sequencing technology to Steinbeck to Futurama, and at one point strayed onto where we grew up.

Sean: I moved around a bit but spent high school years living in a log cabin that my parents built out the back of Nimbin.

<conversation continues for some time>

Joel: Actually, Jacqui grew up near Lismore too – in a village called Dunoon.

Sean: Ah, small world - what school did she go to?

Joel: Hmm – Lismore High I think.

No obvious connection exists however…

<conversation and walking continues for some time... >

Joel: Funny you mention about the log cabin – Jacqui’s parents built a log cabin up in Dunoon too. He was a maths teacher though – don’t know if that would have made it easier or not!

Sean: Maths teacher did you say? Where did he teach  - Marist Brothers?

Joel: Not sure – could have been.

Sean: What was his first name?

Joel: Denis.

Sean: OH MY GOD – Mr Matthews!! He was my maths teacher – he was the one that had told me that I would never come to anything – of course I was continually disrupting the class…. I remember he came out to our house early one morning to look at how it was built – must have been when he was building his own. I remember lying in bed early in the morning half asleep and hearing his voice outside – not the sort of thing you generally want to wake up to – your maths teacher’s voice outside…

[Click on the thumbnails to get a caption and a larger image]
Roadside shrine - instant noodles are an interesting offering to the gods! (100kb) Sean nears the first summit - Mt Jhongji. (117kb) Impressive lookout! (78kb)
Not something you see every day... (44kb) Nearing Mt Datun West Peak. (74kb) Joel with Mt Datun in the distance. (51kb)
Sean on Mt Datun South Peak (53kb) Local fauna. (86kb) Lush valley - not much chop for rogaining i reckon... (123kb)
That isn't cloud in the foreground - that's steam rising out of the ground! Below Mt Cising. (26kb) A ring of sulphur around the fumerole - smells of Rotorua here! (52kb) Very primeval somehow. (47kb)
Little lookout on the way up to Mt Cising. (67kb) A *lot* of work has gone into making these trails. (105kb) An interesting interpretation of nature-loving...! (52kb)
Now, that is an impressive roof for a small municipal depot (electricity substation?). (87kb) Sean consults his guide book, not realizing that the sign says Ad hoc water usage from the local river! (84kb)
The local bathhouse! (87kb) River view. (91kb) Gods on the path by the river. (96kb)
Some of the gods are fairly lurid! (84kb) Now why doesn't Christianity have gods like this?! (105kb) An old bathhouse? That's boiling water coming out of the near one! (72kb)
Interesting exercise circuit in the local park at Xin Beitou. (41kb) Hello Kitty wine! (sorry - bit blurry...) (36kb) Another impressive local roof. (106kb)
Now, that is a specialised child seat! (65kb) Our hotel from the freeway - a bit of a standout! (24kb) The only thing I brought back from Taiwan (lucky Immigration let me in...). (45kb)