God put beauty in one place - Taroko Gorge
Last year when in Ushuaia, Argentina, we met a lovely couple, Noelle and Irwin from Taiwan. They were astonished that we had heard of their country. They’d be even more astonished to know we were here. Noelle passionately told us that God put beauty in one place - Taroko Gorge. We had to see this for ourselves.
As we didn’t have a car, the best option was to find a tour. The ones from Taipei sounded dull with only a couple of places to visit. In my extensive research, I came across The Better Taroko Gorge Tour. With an affordable price and a fun-packed itinerary, it was a no-brainer.
Our guide Allen picked us up at 7:30 am, and we collected the rest of the group, Josh from Brisbane and his Thai wife Peach, Bobby and Helen from London and Si Xian from Singapore. It wasn’t long before Big C was the centre of our conversation. We were quite shocked to hear that Bobby and Helen, both born in London of Chinese descent, had experienced people move away from them in the London tube. How awful.
During the Vietnam/American war, their parents, all of Chinese descent, managed to get to London by boat. What a coincidence that their families had similar experiences, and fascinating to hear some of their stories.
Our first stop was the Shakadang Trail, also known as “Mysterious Valley Trail”. I wonder why it was called this. Was it because of the crystal-clear turquoise water or the incredible marble rocks? Or was it because people would suddenly disappear, never to be seen again?
The many tribes who used to live in this area were headhunters, and I am not talking about people looking for executive talent. If a person strayed into another person’s hunting ground, the consequence would be they were quickly beheaded with one cut – even if they were brothers!
Allen later informed us that these Taroko tribes imposed a fierce resistance to the Japanese army, many lost their heads. Eventually, the invaders’ modern weaponry was too much against bows and knives of the indigenous people. Sadly, communities were spilt up and exiled from the area.
I digress, back to our trail. We walked down the 72 steps to the pathway, careful of the low overhang of rock. Down below was the river, flowing gently through the ravine. Shocks of turquoise peaked through the bushes – the colour of the river was incredible.
Allen shared that we are no longer allowed to climb down to the river or enjoy a hot spring here. Sadly, a person was killed by a rockfall, and the family sued the National Park, sending an Administrator to jail for three years.
He said that before that time MacDonald’s was going to build a restaurant here; just a faded sign can be seen. We were astonished that such a company would be allowed to build in this place of beauty – and tried to locate the sign. Ah, Allen was pulling our legs – the marble pattern on a rock looked like the logo of the fast-food chain. Very funny!
We enjoyed the peacefulness, seeing nature all around us. There were ferns galore, some unique to this area, and some the indigenous people cut off the tender tips to eat after noticing monkeys doing the same. Allen pointed out hardwood Myrtle used for weapons. We saw many butterflies and birds, including a Plumbeous Water Redstart, which was blue, not red, let alone the glorious scenery of the rocks and river.
Along the path were a few stalls run by the Truku tribal village. These people still own, but cannot live in some of the lands in the National Park, which the public is prohibited from entering. We tried some of their indigenous food delights, sausages for the meat-eaters and sticky rice cake for us vegetarians. It was extremely sticky!
Back in the van, Allen would drop us off at key spots so that we could walk and appreciate the most magnificent views of Taroko Gorge.
These included Swallow Grotto where we had to wear hard-hats due to regular rock falls. The river made an almost perfect 90-degree turn here. I especially loved the suspension bridge we walked across with some stunning rock formations below.
Cimu Bridge was another stop. This red bridge, which stands out against the green vegetation and white rock, is the only bridge built of Hualien marble, also called the Loving Mother Bridge. A mother used to bring food to her son and his colleagues while they were working on the road here.
We were fortunate that the Tunnel of Nine Turns was now open. It was closed for reconstruction for six years and opened less than a year ago. The Taiwanese have such style; here, the columns had delicate patterns imprinted on them.
The 700m trail one way is high on the mountain edge of the gorge with a deep drop to the roaring Liwu river. What magnificent scenery. We love looking at rock formations.
The folds, layers and colours were formed four million years ago when the Eurasian and Philippine plates clashed forcing the metamorphic rock upwards to create the Central Mountain Range in Taiwan. And these tectonic plates still cause movement to this day, with earthquakes happening frequently; 91 major ones in the 20th century.
Over time the Liwu river has slowly cut through the softer rock to create the gorge. I have read that this is the deepest marble gorge in the world – another world record?
It was lunchtime, and Allen took us high in the hills to Taroko Village Hotel for lunch. A delightful man, Daniel, introduced himself and explained about the local tribes. His grandmother used to have a tattoo across her face (like a face mask), and the men would have a tattoo vertical down their faces. This showed that they were responsible for having a family.
Our food arrived, another delicious meal at a fascinating place, in a fabulous location surrounded by mountains. Jac suggested we return here, but sadly it’s way beyond our budget.
We headed back out of the National Park to drop Si Xian to go quad biking while Allen took us up to a viewing area, where the old road used to be and we had lots of laughter, chatting and meeting lovely dogs.
Later we returned to pick Si Xian up and spent time on Pepper Beach, enjoying the sea air. with Tim trying to outdo my stone tower I did the other day, before the end of our glorious day.
Allen was a star, with excellent English, informative and great humour, and the trip? We can understand why Noelle said that God put beauty in one place - Taroko Gorge is stunning.