Taroko Gorge

Philip, Dawn, and I left Saturday, September 25th for what turned out to be a bit of an adventure.  We took a bus up to Taipei and stayed the night with some friends up there. We went to the main train station in Taipei and saw a ton of people and some really cute Taiwanese dancers.  They reminded me of the days of Rhythm 'n Motion and performing on little stages.


They were pretty talented with their hoops and castanets! In between their dances they had a pear peeling contest.  People in the train station entered and peeled pairs as fast as possible and the dancers walked around passing out pears to onlookers.  They were some good pears!!!

Waiting for the train......

We went to Hualien on Sunday and walked throughout most of the town.  It looked pretty much like any other Taiwanese town.  We stayed at a cheap little hotel next to the bus station so we could get an early start into the Gorge on Monday morning.

This is me taking a picture of myself in order to get a picture of the man behind me.  You can't really see the guy but he looks like a very traditional old Taiwanese man.  Grey hair, pointy goatee, wrinkly skin. If the picture had turned out I would have been happy, but the story that started because I wanted to  take his picture is pretty funny.  Dawn and I were sitting and waiting and I was saying how I really wished I could speak to these people because I would love to take the guy's picture.  As soon I said that, he started spitting.  He spit for about 10 minutes straight and by the time Philip came out of the bathroom, the guy had a HUGE puddle around his feet.  It was disgusting, but it was one of the funniest things too.

Dawn waiting and listening to the marathon spitter.

We got up to Taroko by about 9:30am.  We took a bus to the visitor center so we could do the hikes around the base of the mountains.  We spent quite a bit of time walking and looking at all there was to see down at the base.  The Eternal Spring Shrine is at the base of the gorge and is a memorial to all the lives lost in the construction of the highway into Tienhsiang and through the rest of the gorge.  We didn't understand the reality of why so many people were killed until later in the day when we really started our walking adventure.

Here is the Eternal shrine and some sights nearby.

This is from the steps of the visitors center

Blue river water......I have never seen blue river water....and it gets better!!

Wow!!  We went down to this pool in the river.

I don't know how many times I said "WOW" on this trip!

That is Philip.  Enjoying a blue river.

That is the monastery that is above the shrine.  We couldn't get up to the top because the trails were closed from the last typhoon.

The man made tunnels to the shrine.

That is the Eternal shrine.  The path to get there is in the side of the mountain.  You can see the hole in the side of the mountain.  It was all tunneled out by men, which is how the roads all the way through the mountain were done too.

I can't believe I am here really seeing all this!!

This is the entrance to the tunnels to the shrine.

Shrine                                                                    Philip below the shrine

When we got to the shrine 2 Taiwanese men were sitting in one of the pagodas and came out to talk to us.  He spoke very little English, but he told us he loved us and gave us bananas and moon cake.  Tuesday was the moon festival/mid-Autumn celebration so there are moon cakes everywhere. This man gave me the first one that actually tasted good.  The cakes all have really odd things in the middle like green beans or red beans.  But the ones he gave us were actually good.

Here we are.  The shrine is behind us, but we are taking our own picture. So you have to imagine the shrine behind us!

Crazy suspension bridge near the monastery that takes care of the shrine.

Okay.....Are you ready for some real beauty? 

We were supposed to be able to catch a bus to Tienhsiang from the visitor center, but it didn't end up coming, so we had to walk all the way back to the shrine and see if we could catch a bus from there.  We walked a lot.  When we got back to the shrine the bus didn't come there either!!!  So we decided we would walk.....HA HA!  We walked about 3 miles.  At least it was beautiful, but we were TIRED and hungry!  So when a local farmer pulled us over and offered us a ride we took it!!! And thank god we did because we never would have made it walking.  IT was a lot further to our campsite than we could have imagined and the roads..............wow! Tunnels and curves that make driving through the Foresthill canyon look like freeway roads.  Simply Amazing!!!

Those are some tunnels.                                        They still have a lot of work to do!

Back of a farmers truck.

Dawn and Philip happy to have a ride!!!

The gorge and river.

This is the Pagoda in Tienhsiang.

So we made it up to Tienhsiang which is about 3km past our camp site, but it was about 6pm and we were hungry!! So we got dropped off in the tiny town that had a hotel and a couple places to eat.  We ate and decided to keep on walking to go to the hot springs cause we were sore.  Well......we walked a long time and had no idea where we were headed and it started getting dark so we decided to turn around and go down the hill back to our camp site.  But when we got back to the town we met some foreigners staying at the hostel and one of them spoke Chinese and asked some of the owners of the restaurant about getting us a taxi up to the springs cause they thought we should see them.  There was no taxi so the owner of the restaurant packed us in his car and drove us up the hill.  From where he dropped us off there were stairs and more stairs. But we made it through tunnels (that remind me of the lines into a Disneyland ride-totally reminds me of the tunnels into the Indiana Jones ride) and suspension bridges and finally made it to the hot springs.  The hot springs sat in a big naturally carved out rock and the river flowed right passed them.  One of the pools actually was down in the river but was blocked by a huge rock so you would get hot and cold blasts while you laid in the water.  The pools were HOT!!!  The pool next the river was the most comfortable.  Then there was one that was hot, but tolerable, then there was the scalding hot one that I could not even get a whole foot in, but the old Chinese men were just hanging out in it!  Crazy that the earth can make water like that!!!

These pictures are dark, but you can see the hot but tolerable pool here.  The stairs that lead up are straight ahead and go up the cliff.  The river is to the right.  Just beyond the end of this pool is the REALLY hot pool.

We met a bunch of foreigners here.  There was a group of them that were up there camping as well and after spending the night talking with them at the springs, they took us to the camp ground so we didn't have to walk in the dark!  It is really a blessing to be a talker and have talkers around you.  Good things just kept coming and working out for us!

So, we had a good time walking around the camp grounds with the nearly full moon lighting up the whole area like it was dusk instead of late night.  We slept with the sound of the river to lull us to sleep.

Tuesday morning we woke up knowing that we would have to walk 3km to the town that had buses, so we got started but we were all sore from our climbing around the day before.  We walked up to the next campground that had a visitors area and restaurant.  We went in and looked around had some breakfast and just got ready for our uphill walk.  They had a bunch of aboriginal clothing in the store and a Korean guy got all dressed up!

We were going to the same, but we had a bus to catch!!!

So we walked out of the restaurant and were getting our packs on to begin our walk.  A man was standing out front with his kids.  Philip had taken a picture for the family at the view point and they had a bit of a conversation earlier so when we walked outside he asked if we were walking (between Dawn and Philip's little Chinese and the man's little English we could talk).  We said yes and he immediately said no we should ride with him and his family. So we lucked out again and got to ride down in a car and see more sights because the family wasn't done with their sightseeing yet. 

So here are the pictures I wouldn't have gotten if people didn't love English teachers so much!!!

This is Jacky.  He is the dad.  He was pretty funny!

I really am here!!! How gorgeous is my backdrop?!

Dawn and me

Philip and the boys of the family.

These are all views from the tunnel with nine turns.  It is a walking path.  Pretty amazing land!!

Philip working his magic with one of the boys, Michael.

This a small aboriginal run tour spot.  It is called Pulowan.  It is a visitor center

Dawn, Me, Philip, and Jacky

Meet our family for the day: Jacky, Baby, Norman, and Michael

It was a great way to spend the day.  We were all in awe at how a family could just invite foreigners to be part of their family for the day.  We were trying to picture whether an American family on vacation in Yosemite would pick up 3 Chinese people backpacking around and invite them to experience a place like this with them.  We couldn't see it happening.  It was great!!

So, it was a long day for all of us......... Just ask Norman (below)

So.....my first trip in Taiwan was a great success.  I have been humbled by the wonders of the earth!  Nature is truly amazing!  It has been a long time since I have taken the time to really enjoy the wonders that occur naturally.  Truly amazing.  The pictures do nothing to show the true enormity and greatness of this place!!  Mysteries of the land!!!!