Day #123: Taroko Gorge

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Asia » Taiwan » Hualien » Taroko
August 2nd 2013
Published: August 14th 2013
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Taroko Gorge is the most popular attraction in Taiwan outside of Taipei, so it is well set-up for tourism: a shuttle bus ferries tourists from site to site within the gorge, and there are queues of coaches along the road. The highest concentration of tour parties is at Eternal Spring Shrine a temple set into the rockface dedicated to the workers whose lives were lost in building the road through the gorge, and away from that everywhere is much less busy.

The Gorge is one of those sites where everywhere you look there is stunning scenery. I first followed the Shakadang Trail along the river. There is still an Aboriginal tribe living near the river, and you are asked at various points to respect the environment and the fact that they might be working and causing noise / passing through on vehicles.

The highlight though was visiting the Baiyang Waterfall. To get to it, you follow a trail that goes through a series of unlit, pitch black tunnels built through the rock - if you don't have a torch it is unnerving as you have to hold onto a rail at the side of the tunnel and just keep walking along it until light appears again. Between the tunnels you walk on the open trail seeing the waterfall and the river. When you arrive at the end of the trail there is an unlit, unsignposted, uninviting-looking cave, also pitch black inside with cold ankle-deep water. Water pours through the ceiling of the cave and to go in you have to wear a floor-length plastic poncho like you get in theme parks for the log flumes. After 5 minutes or so shuffling gingerly along the edge of the cave on a foot-wide ledge, wondering if it really is worth it, you turn a corner and suddenly there is light and you are behind the Baiyang Waterfall, and it is very beautiful (I couldn't take photos though, as the camera would have been ruined by the water).

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