After five hectic days in Taipei City, we wanted fresh clean air and a change of scene.
Taiwan’s Taroko National Park was ideal: it covers 1200 square km, is 90% mountainous with 27 peaks over 3000m (in contrast Ben Nevis is less than half). The Liwu River twists and turns through the steep-sided 18km long, marble-walled gorge. It was designated a national park in 1986.
There are a number of ‘must see’ sights in the park.
At Eternal Spring Shrine we passed through a Chinese style temple arch, crossed over a red metal bridge and walked alongside the edge of the gorge to reach a pavilion where the spring gushes permanently. The shrine was built to commemorate the 262 men killed in work related accidents during the building of the Central Cross-Island Highway in the late 1950s.
Hard hats were required for Swallow Grotto as we walked through a tunnel cut out of the rock with the gorge on the other side. The views were stunning and the tunnels amazing. One rock resembled the face of an Indian.
We saw people bathing way down below us in Wenshan Hot Springs but decided not to do the steep descent and cross two long suspension bridges to join them.
Unfortunately the Tunnel of Nine Turns, a 2km pedestrian tunnel was closed due to rock fall.
Taroko also has numerous hiking trails. We walked the 1.8km Baiyang Waterfall Trail which started with a 380m tunnel: there are four along the trail. Using our torches in the dark tunnels allowed us to see how water had affected the rock formation with lots of spectacular colours and shapes. It was a lovely flat walk high up along the river gorge. On an open section of the trail we spotted a Formosan Rock Monkey and got a couple of reasonable photos before it scampered off. The main waterfall was appreciated from a viewing area over a suspension bridge where we could see the water starting off very high on top of the mountain and then cascading down in various falls. We eventually reached Water Curtain Cave, where we donned yellow rain ponchos which someone had kindly left. We entered the low tunnel and walked along a narrow ridge with the water running a foot down below us until at the end, the water cascaded down in a sheet. We were glad we had our torches as in some places the rocks hung really low and we had to stoop.
On the way back along the trail, the monkey put in another appearance and this time decided to pose. A group of students approached from the opposite direction and the monkey darted off to grab the plastic lunch bag from one of the girls. As she was trying to get something out for it, the contents of her handbag spilled out and so we used our walking poles to keep the monkey from getting more than her lunch until her friends helped pick up everything.
On another day, we drove 30km up on a narrow twisty road which hugged the side of the mountain. Buses are banned as there’s lots of low tunnels cut into the rock and we only saw a few cars. We continued up until we were in the clouds around 1400m and then turned round and came back down considerably quicker. It was a truly spectacular drive and we kept stopping to look at and photograph the stunning scenery.
Our memories of Taroko are full of tree-covered mountains, the marble gorge, a turquoise river, rocks, tunnels, Chinese-style pavillions and suspension bridges.
This is truly a spectacular park and we were lucky to avoid the large tours from mainland China. Whilst we walked the Baiyang trail in relative solitude on our return we saw four huge groups (one of 50+ people with a microphoned guide) and at Eternal Spring Shine we counted 14 buses first thing one morning.
Although there are 12 tents available at Heliu camping area, high up on a ridge with the rushing water below, we stayed at “Silks Place”:https://taroko.silksplace.com/en/index in Tienhsiang.
“Taroko National Park”:http://www.taroko.gov.tw/English/