Caught in the Mountains During a Thunderstorm in Taiwan

June 13, 2018 — Leave a comment

(中文版請按台灣國旗)


Have you ever decided to do something and thought “Yeah, it should be ok.” And at some point while doing it you realize you made a bad decision?

Well, today was that day…

I had put new valves in my motorcycle and really wanted to go the mountains to try them out.

The weather forecast was showing rain all this week, but Monday and Tuesday didn’t look so bad. Clear in the morning and 70% chance of afternoon thundershowers. No problem, I was sure it would rain for maybe an hour and be done. That has happened to me before many times out there…well, not always but hey, maybe I’d get lucky!

The morning was great. The trails were a bit wet from the night before, but it was getting hotter and hotter. I drove around and even hiked to a small peak named Long Mu Bai Shan (Lóng mǔ bài shān – 龍母拜山). Here’s a short write up of that hike. http://outrecording.com/Fplco

Parking in the hot sun waiting for me to finish hiking

End of the trail!

Later I drove deeper into the mountains to a small stream to take a break.

At some point the rain started. It rained a bit harder and then slowly stopped about 30 min later. Great! I was so smart. Now I could start cooking and enjoy the rest of my afternoon.

What I didn’t know was that this short rain was kind of an early warning system. It was saying “Hey idiot! I’m going to give you another 40 min or so to get your ass outta here before I flip on the ‘all hell breaks loose’ switch.”

Unfortunately I didn’t heed the warning, and instead sat there relaxing like a fool – taking pictures and eating.

Even saw this amazing butterfly that was enjoying a drink of my sweat. I’ve never seen one like that before.

At some point dark clouds rolled in. I put my stuff away thinking (hoping!) it would be another short burst. But I knew this one was different when I saw all the crabs and shrimp in the stream moving to calmer/safer areas of the stream. Here’s a short video of them.

A few minutes after this video was taken, the water started getting higher and the sky started exploding.

We’ve all heard people say “I was caught in the storm.” Well, I wasn’t just caught in the storm…I was IN the storm. Like literally INTHESTORM!!

Every storm you’ve probably been in, well, you were like “under” it, right? All that crap was happening way up high in the sky and the rain and maybe some lightning would hit the ground. Not for me this time, no….

You’ve heard the saying about when you see the lightning flash you should start counting. And however many seconds you count before you hear the thunder is how many miles away the lightening was, right? I don’t know if there’s any truth to that, but if it’s true, then that lightning must have been no more than 100 meters above me, probably less. There was no time to count. I saw a flash and within a billionth of a second the world was shaking. My ears are pretty much shot from all those years of DJ’ing…but they damn near hurt from the sound of that thunder.

Needless to say I quickly packed my shit and made for my bike.

Now here is where I have to apologize. I have no pictures for you. My phone was wrapped up in a plastic sandwich bag and my waterproof GoPro was out of batteries. I didn’t dare take my camera out to take any videos or pictures. Only later when I made it out of the mountains did I take a video. The weather up in the mountains was much worse than this, but I hope it gives you some idea of how bad it was.

 

 

It took me about 10 minutes to walk back to my bike, the whole time being assaulted by lightning and thunder. After packing everything I set off.

This is where the fun begins.

The trail I rode in on was gone. It was replaced by a small river. The whole way the trail was flooded beyond belief. The water was flowing at a pretty fast rate as well. Sometimes I was riding with the “river” current, sometimes against it. At times, and I shit you not, it got deep as hell; almost like I was crossing one of the riverbeds here in Taiwan. And this on a typical single track Taiwan mountain trail. It’s hard to imagine how dangerous it was, but you have no choice but to keep going – there was no place to wait it out.

It was like this for the entire 45 minutes it took me to get out of there. The single track eventually turned into double track, but this just made things worse. The small “river” turned into an 8 foot wide river! And just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, as I was reaching the end, I noticed the trees ahead of me were dancing like they were doing the Electric Slide. See, the inner mountains were cutting down a lot of that wind but once I got out I was still quite high up, and was hit with the full force of that wind.

So imagine wind blowing the rain in every direction, the trail looking like a river, and lightning & thunder going off every 15 seconds or so…sound fun?

Let me be honest…I actually WAS having fun! I shouldn’t have been feeling that way but I did. At any moment a rock or mudslide could have sent me off the side of the mountain. Or any number of other bad things could have happened. But man was it so damn cool. And to top it off, my bike took it like a champ. The tires never once lost grip. They stuck like glue; even on the sketchy uphill sections where the water was flowing towards me. I’m still amazed at that. And mind you, I couldn’t see what was under that water. That was the lucky part. I easily couldn’t have hit a rock and had the front end wash out. Maybe those new suspension valves really helped out.

So yeah, I made it out in one piece. And pissed only because my GoPro ran out of batteries before all that happened. Damn! That’s the kind of shit GoPro’s were made for. Anyway, you’ll just have to take my word for it. I’ve been caught out in the mountains in a thunderstorm before, but never have I been in one like that.

I certainly don’t recommend you chance going out to the mountains when there might be thunderstorms. It’s an interesting experience, but a dangerous one.

Be safe…

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Glenn

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