Saturday, July 26, 2008
We had an absolute fabulous day! We woke up very early and headed off to into Hualien to catch a bus to Taroko Gorge - the most popular tourist spot in Taiwan. Once we arrived at the bus station, we bought tickets for a bus we thought would take us there. Thankgoodness that we went to the visitor's center to burn some time, and we found out that we had bought tickets for the wrong location! In the end, we got our money back and were able to take a taxi for about $3.00 more. Taking the taxi saved us a little over an hour's time, and we were dropped off at the exact location that we wanted!
Taroko Gorge is one of seven national parks in Taiwan. Click here to visit the website - it has some great pictures. The park was started back in 1986, but the roads and trails date back to the early 1900's. The land was originally inhabited by aborginal tribes. In 1914, Japan entered the gorge hoping to gain access to the forestry and mineral resources. They used brutal military force and most of the aboriginal people were forced from the land. The Japanese began carving roads and trails into the gorge, and in the 1950's the Taiwanese government extended many of these. Unfortunately, many of the trails are spread out from one another, and the only way to get from one trail to the other is to walk on the major road that runs through the park. Of course there are some amazing views seen from the road, but there are not many areas that are "pedestrian friendly".
Our first stop was the Tunnel of Nine Turns, this is one of the more popular trails in the park. It is only 2 kilometers long, but it is absolutely amazing. The trail highlights the depth of the gorge and the magnificent marble cliffs. I can definitely see why this is deemed the most scenic area in the entire park. Next, we hiked a little over 8 km to Tienhsiang, one of the large recreational areas in the park. We walked the majority of the time on the road that unfortunatley was also on an incline. Let's just say that I thought we would never get there! We did stray off and walked the Lushui-Hulia Trail that ran through some wooded forest area and then alongside the mountain. We had to go through a very dark and scary tunnel too. I'm glad that I had a strong, handsome man with me :) When we finally reached Tienhsiang, we had a picnic. I was very glad that we had brought our lunch. Otherwise, I think that we would've been eating fried tofu for lunch. I didn't see too many options among the food vendors. I had the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich, courtesy of my husband. We picked up some coconut crusted bread at the bakery last night, and it was wonderful for a PB&J. Anyways, after refueling, we decided to head out to another trail.
The Baiyang Trail is 4 km from beginning to end and it has many tunnels along the way. Some of them were very, very dark. I could not see my hand in front of my face! Thankgoodness that they weren't too long, and there was a hand rail to hold onto. At the end of the trail there is a tunnel that takes you back to a "water curtain". I did not walk back there, but Nick did and said that it looked like a small water fall. The area infront of the tunnel was filled with Taiwanese children playing in the rocks and water. It was a very busy area! There was also a small suspension bridge off the trail that we crossed and had a wonderful upclose view of some waterfalls. This was definitely a great hike!
After walking the 1/2 mile or so back to Tienhsiang, we decided to check out the Siangde Temple. It is a buddhist temple and was completed in 1968. We walked up many stairs to reach the top. When I saw a sign for the Heaven Summit Pagoda, I knew that we were in for a long trip! This was a tall structure about 7 stories high. There are stairs on the inside that you can walk up, and I was able to reach about the 5th floor or so. Heights are not my thing, particularly when there's not much room between you and the short railing the separates you from plummeting to the concrete floor below. I was able to get a few pictures taken before I carefully descended to the security of the ground floor. This area offered some amazing views of the gorge, but both of our legs were burning on the hike back down.
We hiked back over to the visitors center area to await the bus that we thought would be picking us up at 2:40. Let's just say that some how we missed the bus, and we were forced to wait until 4:40 for the next one! We even tried to get a taxi back, but we could not find one that would take us into Hualien. We were very glad to see the 4:40 bus, and quickly determined why we had missed the earlier one. It was nothing like we were expecting!! I'm just glad that we found the bus, otherwise I may have become a very, very grouchy person. The bus ride took a little over 2 hours!! We thought we would never reach the train station.
We finally were reunited with our scooter and headed across town to the annual Stone Carving Festival. It was nothing like we expected and it had very few food vendor booths. I'm just glad that we found some eadible food - chicken and beef "wraps".
We were never so glad to finally reach our dorm room. After a very long day, we were ready for a shower and some rest. I think that Nick may buy a motorcycle when we get home, he's watching "Wild Hogs" (the movie with Tim Allen and John Travolta) and laughing quite frequently.
I've posted a link to our pictures under "Taroko Gorge". Enjoy :)