The original plan for my trip had included getting up to some of the less-visited parts of the Taiwanese highlands, but the constant rain and once-a-day buses ended up dissuading me from hazarding it. However, the one spot I wasn’t going to miss regardless was Taiwan’s premier attraction, Taroko Gorge. Thankfully, the only two sunny days I got in the country corresponded with my trip there.
Taiwan’s West Coast is its most populated one, and its beaches and cities draw the majority of its tourists. The East Side is comparatively barren, outside of the Gorge I was going to, and you begin making your way down the coast you can see why. The imposing mountains that run down the center of the island form a near-vertical wall along the its east side, separating the thin coastal lowlands from the rest of the nation. They make for spectacular scenery, especially around Hualien, the nexus of my trip.
I wish I had had more time to explore Hualien, whose prime location makes it a good jumping off point for several outdoor adventures in the area. Instead, I devoted my two days there to Taroko, a gash in the mountains with a thin road running up it and more trails and beautiful lookout points than you can shake a stick at.
I went at the end of the Chinese New Year festivities, which proved both good and bad. As always, the crowds of people accounted for the latter, but ameliorating that was the copious free transportation. I would have been hard pressed to see as much as I did of the Park as I did without it.
I closed out my day of hiking with the local favorite Shakadang Trail, which meanders next to a small river through some of the greener, less imposing, but no less beautiful parts of the park. For me, the most interesting aspect of the trail were the brief glimpses of the indigenous population, who have a territorial claim to the park and still work and in some cases live within it. Seeing them huddled around a small cooking fire further down the trail than most tourists venture was an interesting counterpoint to the brightly clad masses shooting up the paved road just a few miles away.
In lieu of trying to describe more of the towering bluffs and rock walls, the green mountains and achingly clear water, and the picturesque temples and bridges tucked away within it, I’ll let my pictures try and do Taroko Gorge a measure of justice…