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Seeing David Attenborough out in the world of Nature, exploring and explaining one of its myriad secrets, is one of the enduring joys of television. But seeing a picture or hearing an account is not the same thing as the direct experience itself, as I learned many years ago.
It was my first Winter on the island of Taiwan, and as part of my 'acclimatisation', I was taken by a Canadian couple away from the flat paddy fields, the towns and villages of the Western plain towards the mountain ridge running down the spine of the island further East. Our objective was to get a view of the highest peak, Arian, as it was called in Japanese at the time. The only way of doing so was by a narrow-gauge logging track which had one rather primitive carriage for passengers, starting from a point on the main line North.

At first, it wound through comparatively low hills but, rising all the time, it reached the real mountains, winding through tunnels and across gorges until, late in the day, we reached the railhead and found the rooms we had booked in the rough wooden building which called itself a "hotel".

Next morning, we set off up forested slopes on a track which wound steadily upwards until we came out on to a plateau which ended abruptly at the edge of a deep gorge. At the bottom we could see a foaming torrent, flowing West towards the distant sea. But on the other side rose a massive wall of rock, towering up until, craning our necks, we could see the summit, now sprinkled with snow, outlined against a clear blue sky, it was Nature on a scale I had never seen before. We stood there speechless, indeed, words would have been an intrusion on the indescribable and majestic scene. The time crept on to midday and we turned away, retracing our steps, greeting some foresters on our way. What had been just a dot on the map, with the figures 3997m beside it had become something else, an unforgettable reality.

Then, as now, Christians around the world were preparing to remember that greatest surprise of all, the birth of a Saviour in a cowshed to a lowly maiden betrothed to a village carpenter.

God works in surprising ways!

Bob Weighton.

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