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Published: September 18th 2009
(Day 524 on the road)
A three hour train ride south on one of Taiwan's comfortable and reliable trains brought us to the city of Hualien on Taiwans' east coast, the stepping stone for the magnificent Taroko Gorge. Or shall we call it, as the English translation in the tourist brochure does, "Extreme beauty of the world and a pleasing delight of hills and water"? Catchy!
We had missed the last bus for the day to Taroko Gorge and thus spent the night in Hualien. That was not bad actually, as this way we set off the next morning on our own rented scooter, which gave us a lot of flexibility in the remote mountains where we were heading.
It was the first time that my mum was riding on the back of a scooter, and she was rather nervous about it. She made no secret of it either by constantly telling me to drive slower. At times I felt that if we went any slower we might as well walk. In any case - slower we went. And the higher we rode into the mountains the steeper and more treacherous the road became, so taking it slow wasn't a
bad thing after all.
We soon found a clean and reasonably priced twin room in an old catholic house in the village of Tienhsiang, and were soon out and about again exploring some of the many hiking trails of the area. We were very happy to have our own transport, as the distances between the trails and long and far in between, impossible to walk. So without your own transport you are completely dependent on the local bus (which we never saw in two days) or on hitch-hiking.
The main trail of Taroko Gorge is called the "Tunnel of the nine turns", which runs right by the edge of the gorge and offers splendid views of the narrow valley and the river deep below. The national park office makes you wear helmet for this trek, as stones are frequently dropping down from overhead, some of them as big as a tennis balls. We didn't witness any rocks on the trail, but were almost hit by falling rocks twice as we were driving along on the road in our scooter. Some of the stones were missing us literally by centimetres and hitting the road just next to our scooter.
We were especially impressed with our next hike, the Baiyang waterfall trail, which the tourist brochure aptly names as "one of the cream of Taroko Gorge's trails." Despite the tour buses that we witnessed on the road, we had the trail and the two waterfalls at its end completely for ourselves. It was a lovely spot, and we thoroughly enjoyed a leisurely afternoon there.
The highlight of our stay at the gorge however was undoubtedly a visit to the wild Wenshan hot springs. The area has been closed since 2005, when a landslide and falling rocks killed a tourist and injured several others. The path to the springs was blocked by a heavy steel door, but we could see some people bathing down by the hot spring the valley below. There had to be a way. We considered climbing around somehow (not a good idea looking back), but after a while a women opened the door for us from the inside - how lucky! There would have been no way to get down there at all otherwise...
And the hot springs were just amazing: The hot water comes out right next to the river and mixes
with the cold water from the mountain stream. The locals have used some rocks to build a few makeshift pools in the river, where the hot spring water flows in from the back and the cold river water from the right, mixing it all to a good temperature. Sitting in the warm river, way down in the deep and narrow valley was just an amazing experience.
Next stop: Green Island (Taiwan).
To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com
. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon
(and most other online book shops).
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