Have SUV, will travel

Silver grass (Miscanthus Sinensis) growing the banks of the Zhuokou River in Maolin.

Bought an old SUV, which meant we could finally get out of the city. We could get in the car and simply go. Anywhere, anytime we felt like it. This weekend Dahlia didn’t care about particulars as long we went somewhere.

We escaped the smog dome of Kaohsiung and headed east. Windows down, the Dog of Destiny’s ears flapping in the crisp morning air.

Our destination: Maolin National Scenic Area, home of the Purple Butterfly Valley, one of only two places in the world were butterflies are known to migrate en masse (the other being Monarch Valley in Northern Mexico).

Millions of purple crow butterflies with iridescent, purple-spotted wings fly south and congregate in a handful of valleys at the base of Dawu Mountain. This happens in November. So I read.

Purple crow butterflies (Euploea tulliolus) fluttering on tropical milkweed. With the camera equipment I had on hand, it was difficult to be a good shot.

It was, if nothing else, a worthy pretext for a weekend expedition.

Onward. Over bridged byway. Across low-lying tropical land. Past rice paddies and roadside temples and barking dogs, stands of palm fronds and banana trees and dragon fruit. Onward to the mountain hinterland, mist-shrouded and verdant.

We traced the course of the Gaoping River, then its tributary, the Zhuokou River. We followed winding path up a mountain valley on a road built on stilts, which became a road carved into cliffside. We went all the way Duona (an indigenous village) and back again.

We took our time. We stopped at various points of interest. We hiked a mountain trail a to a waterfall. We traversed suspension bridge over a vertigo-inducing ravine. We clambered up and over an elevated boardwalk built atop a ridge line. And we admired the view from several panoramic lookouts. We made an entire weekend of it—Dahlia and I with the Dog of Destiny in tow.

And all the while before us, dancing on the wind like Autumn snow flakes, were butterflies, butterflies of various shapes and sizes and colors, far too numerous to count.