This incident took place in early 2014, during a trip to Taiwan. I was studying at University of Hong Kong at the time, and during a break in the semester four of my friends and I decided to go on a short holiday to the country’s capital, Taipei. Since I was already half way through my year in Hong Kong I wanted to travel around Asia as much as possible, and by this point the only other place I had been was Thailand. So, needless to say, I was super stoked when we arrived in Taipei.
We did all the touristy stuff you’d expect: checking out the city, going to the top of Taipei 101 and, of course, “appreciating” the local bar scene. A lot of drinks were had, and a lot of vomit was spilled. But the people there were so friendly, and despite the embarrassing state that we were all in, we still managed to make some friends on the street whilst shot-gunning beers outside of a convenience store.
Essentially, we all fell in love with the city, and after exploring the urban areas extensively, 3 of us decided to get in touch with Taipei’s natural beauty by hiking to the top of “Elephant Peak”, just outside of the city. It didn’t seem like a long or arduous trek, and just sounded like a fun way to spend one of our days there. It would also provide us with an awesome view of the city.
So, on the morning that we decided to go, two of our friends went to further explore the city, whilst my friends Nick, Greg and I put on our proverbial hiking boots and caught a train to the bottom of the mountain.
We began our journey to the top, and my memory is a little hazy but I think we didn’t take the usual route since we didn’t encounter anybody for a long, long while. Obviously this was fine; the three of us were happy to simply be soaking in the outdoors away from the bustle of the nearby city. It was all just general forest that surrounded us, but because it was in Taiwan it had that exotic vibe that made the hiking experience feel fresh and new.
It was about an hour into the trek, and we still hadn’t seen anyone. We weren’t even sure if we were going the right way, but since we were confident about the way back and had already come this far, we just kept venturing further into the forest. We reached a path that led up to the a steep hill, and from what we had researched were all sure that this was the way up to the first checkpoint of this more obscure trail. We started hiking up, when something catches my attention. I point it out to Nick and Greg. Out of a bush on our right appeared a dog. A wild dog. No collar, and mangy looking. It wasn’t growling, but was staring us down, standing tall and strong like one of those Chinese “Fu Dog” statues.
The three of us stopped and stared back at it. “What’s he doing out here by himself?” I thought.
Unfortunately for us, this was only the alpha. When we finally took our eyes away from it we noticed that a large number of other dogs had appeared out of seemingly nowhere, almost as if they had snuck up on us. There must have been around 20-25 of them, all medium or large sized. Strangely they were was a variety of breeds. I don’t know much about wild dog packs, but I assumed they would all be of the same breed.
None of us said that we were scared. In fact the three of us didn’t really say anything. There was some nervous joking from Greg about how he “hoped we all had our rabies vaccination,” and the like, which was followed by some similarly nervous laughter. But it was obvious that we all thought something might go down.
I remembered back to our accommodation in Hong Kong, where we would regularly hear wild dogs in the hills behind our complex go crazy each night as they fount each other or hunted for other creatures to kill. My mind couldn’t help but to jump to the conclusion that this group of wild dogs had similar bloodthirsty intentions.
By this point we were basically surrounded. I had a large, sharp rock in my hand that I had picked off the ground in case they came charging at us. Not that the three of us would have been able to fight off this many dogs, but in some warped, animalistic way I suppose I might at least be able to take one with me or something. I guess in situations like this instinct takes over, and that seemed logical to me in that moment.
Since I have 2 dogs of my own, I knew that in “dog language” eye-contact was confrontational. I remembered that to convince a dog you weren’t a threat that you should yawn, lick your lips, and not look them directly in the eyes. This might all be rubbish in reality, but it’s just what I remembered. So we all just averted our eyes, focused on the trail, and slowly walked past them, continuing up the path.
Looking back, we could see that they were following us, at least 20 sets of intense eyes locked onto us. As tempting as it may have been to have run up the path, any idiot knows that those dogs could have outrun us, so we tried to keep our cool and just continued upwards.
When we reached the checkpoint we saw the first sign of human life in a long while. Just a normal looking guy, chilling at the viewpoint with around 10 other dogs around him. I think of this guy as “the king of the dogs”, since from the way they were interacting with him it was clear that they were all his. At this point the dogs that had been following us had caught up, and returned to their master.
We all said a silent THANK GOD to ourselves. The scraggly old dogs weren’t strays after all. Or maybe they were, but they were at least not man-eaters. We had a quick look at the views from this point, and then swiftly moved onwards.
After about 5 minutes we reached what can only be described as a makeshift ladder that we had to climb in order to continue. It doesn’t look particularly safe, consisting of a few loosely nailed planks of wood and a chain handle grip all the way up, and would require some upper body strength since it was close to a vertical incline. We debate about what we should do for a few seconds, when we are interrupted by something once again. The sound of an extremely loud horn, followed by a chorus of about 50 dogs howling in unison, all going nuts. Like, really nuts. It was like something out of a Lord of the Rings battle scene, like a horn of war. We all drew the conclusion that the king of the dogs was summoning his hounds, and ordering them to hunt us down. “We’re climbing up this thing right now!”
Long story short: we make it to the top of this fairly dangerous, rickety ladder-ish thing at top speed and encounter nothing strange for the rest of the hike. In fact we made it to the top of Elephant peak. It was alright, nothing mind-blowing. We took a few pictures and shared a few laughs about the whole ordeal.
The rest of the trip was awesome, and the three of us are all pretty confident that the horn and the guy with all the dogs were harmless and probably unconnected. So I hope that wasn’t too anticlimactic for you all. In hindsight I’m quite glad this all happened as it has given me a fun story to tell whenever someone asks about travelling or whatnot, but at the time I have to say that I was certain that we were going to get torn apart by wild dogs. But don’t let it put you off going to Taipei, that place is extremely awesome.
And to the King of Dogs… you’re probably an OK guy, but as long as you’re hanging out with all those mangy, crazy dogs and blowing the horn of Gondor for seemingly no reason, let’s not meet.c