An 80-year-old Rukai manfrom Pingtung County has won this year’s Best Trail Builder/Repairer Award from the Taiwan Thousand Miles Trail Association (TMI Trail) for his seven decades of work and sharing his experience with the next generation.
Ripunu Abalriini, who lives in Wutai Township’s (霧台) Adiri Village (阿禮), was nominated for the award by the Community Forestry Laboratory of National Pingtung University of Science and Technology.
Abalriini started to learn masonry from his father at the age of 10, he told TMI Trail in an interview.
Photo courtesy of Community Forestry Laboratory of National Pingtung University of Science & Technology
“The trails needed to be repaired once a year, by removing grass and other work, and I always accompanied experienced craftsmen and learned the skills from them,” Abalriini said.
It is not easy to acquire slate and shale, because they are found next to rivers in the southern part of the Central Mountain Range, the laboratory said.
Abalriini and other Rukai usually use hoes and crowbars to extract the rocks, break them into suitable sizes and carry them back to their villages, carrying about 20kg per person, the laboratory said.
Chen Mei-hui (陳美惠), a professor at the university, said Abalriini is one of the few Rukai tribal elders who learned traditional masonry skills, and he teaches younger members a range of cultural skills, such as hunting, and how to build stone slab houses and trails.
Masonry is an essential skill for the area’s Aborigines, because their houses and trails are made from stone slabs, Wutai Township Mayor Tu Cheng-chi (杜正吉) said.
However, nowadays, a blend of traditional masonry skills and modern architectural techniques are used, with faux shale and granite widely used to build housing, Tu said.
The association, a non-profit organization established in April 2011, aims to preserve natural beauty and create an eco-friendly environment in Taiwan by building and maintaining a network of hiking trails around the nation.
This year’s award ceremony is scheduled for Sunday next week at the Taipei Mayor’s Residence Art Salon, the association said.
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