The Mushroom Rocks of Yehliu

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Wanli, Taiwan – November 1995

My sister and I walk amid the bizarre rock formations in Yehliu Geopark. Dark clouds hover over the coastline. Waves crash along the shore, flowing in and out of tide pools. A heavy sea mist hangs in the air. It clings to my hair and clothes. I run my hand over one of the rocks. It is porous, but sharp. Not at all as spongy as it appears.

“They look like giant mushrooms,” I say with a giggle.

My sister shrugs and looks down at her feet. This is her second time living in this tiny village on the northern coast of Taiwan. She works as a stunt high diver at Ocean World. She is twenty-three and has spent her entire adult life living all over the world. I’ve always envied her lifestyle and her talent. Her hilarious letters and late night phone calls kept me going through my darkest time. After many years of struggle, I finally lead a similar life. I’m so happy to be with her now, in this foreign place.

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But something is wrong. She won’t look at me. Her shoulders are slumped over with a secret burden. We circle around the peculiar little monoliths in silence, orbiting further away from each other. I know better than to come out and ask. The wall would only become more impenetrable. There is nothing I can do except let her be.

“It’s okay. We can go now.”

Without a word, she heads up the trail that leads to the village.

The breeze turns into a wind, and fat, tentative raindrops begin to fall.

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24 thoughts on “The Mushroom Rocks of Yehliu

  1. Very interesting formations. You’re sister sounds like she enjoys trotting the globe! How cool that everywhere is “home.”

  2. Simply wonderful! I love Taiwan… Been there 4 times, do hope to return again some day… 🙂 Have a great week & my very best…

  3. In some ways, the yellowing colour through the field of rock formations, reminds me of a rocky polluted mountain riverbed near here, stained by an industrial gold mining operation that turned a mountain into an inverted hollow cone now brimming with caustic water. Not a mountain lake one would swim in at anytime. But i’m sure the yellowing to the formations above is something more natural.

    • Hi Sean – I’m not sure what gives them that color, but I don’t think it’s unnatural. Sad about the mining pollution. Taiwan probably has its share of pollution, too.

      • Hi Julie, I’m now thinking maybe saltwater reacting with iron-oxide within the rock perhaps. Yes, sad, but up river where I lived is still all good, as is down river.

  4. Very interesting stones – and really nice pictures! As always, the writing is top-notch … I was left wondering, at the end, what it was that was troubling your sister? I read further in the comments that her job was taking a toll on her body – was it this that was bothering her, I wonder? I also enjoyed reading that you managed to recover from and rise above the hard times in your life, and move yourself into a way of living that you enjoy … so many people never quite figure out how to do this, it’s always inspiring to read from people who have managed it.

    Contrary to what a previous commenter suggested, the rocks formations have little to do with iron-oxide. The honeycombing is caused by the dissolving marine life that has been clinging to the rocks, causing the more calcium-rich top portions of the formations to erode in different patterns. The top portions of the sandstone formations actually contain a greater concentration of calcium, which enables them to resist weathering longer than the lower portions of the formations, causing the odd shapes that make these formations famous. The concept is similar to the formation of other fairy chimneys (or hoodoos), like the ones found in Utah. Just thought I’d unravel the mystery a bit 😉

    • Thank you for the kind words and for the science lesson. 🙂 How did you know that about the rocks? Photos were taken with a crappy camera and I had to be vague about what was going on out of respect for my sister’s privacy. I probably wouldn’t have written about it at all, except that’s the strongest memory connected with these rocks.

      • Privacy I can respect, and I won’t pry further, other than to say that with your writing style, you have a natural talent for drawing the reader in … the so-called cliff-hanger is well within your capacity 🙂

        As for the stone formations, I guess I’m sort of a collector of information … anything that might help lead me to further understanding of the worlds around and within me, that isn’t already hoarded away in some secret drawer, is fair game. Truth is, it’s been a while since I read about the fairy chimneys, and I needed to refresh my memory a bit; but peculiar bits of information tend to be a magnet for me 🙂

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