(A Video: Exploring Taroko Gorge)
I have always wanted to do it: to pound every inch of the pavement, to see every detail, to slowly immerse myself between the marble rock faces, to hear the rushing sound of the water between the steep cliffs. I had attempted it once before but the winter weather didn’t co-operate and it rained my entire stay. Maybe it was for the best – it was Chinese New Year and traffic was bumper to bumper the entire way. Yes, I was determined to walk gorgeous Taroko Gorge from the entrance gate all the way up to Tiensheng. I wanted to get up, close, and personal, to experience the stunning scenic beauty of the gorge first hand. And nothing was going to stop me.
It was a gorgeous day in October, the perfect day to embark on a wonderful 18 kilometer adventure, to experience this pure natural wonder and beauty. The sun was shining but the high marble walls provided wanted shelter from the heat. We had camped on a rare grassy area facing Eternal Spring Shrine and were quite excited when we woke up to the sun creating a soft, warm, morning glow inside our tent.
After a quick bite to eat, we started out rather early. It was October 10th, a holiday in Taiwan, and soon the gorge would be flooded with loads of people and cars. As we walked, several people shouted ‘Jia You! Jia You!’ from the comfort of their cars (meaning Go! Go!). We walked for awhile and we were nearing an area called ‘Swallow Grotto’ when, low and behold, who do we see? Yes, it was the ‘Go! Go!’ cars stuck in a traffic jam. When I walked passed, I gave a ‘Jia You’ to them in return. They laughed, surely contemplating the irony in the situation.
Swallow Grotto is a beautiful place. Swallows nest in the holes located in the stones. It was a beautiful place to stop, pause, admire, and soak in the beauty surrounding me. A pathway which extends over the edge was built for people to get out of their cars and admire the beauty of the area. However, I happened to glance down where I was stopped and notice several holes in the concrete. A quick close-up look made me realize that I could see right down to the bottom. Not being a fan of heights, I quickly made my way out of potential danger to safety.
We continued to make our way towards Tiensheng. Going through the tunnels was a rather scary but thrilling and exciting experience. We turned on our flashlights to make passing motorists aware of our presence. The echoing sounds of our voices bouncing off the sides of the tunnels made for a fun experience!
We had been walking for awhile and the rumbling of my stomach signalled it was time to stop and have lunch. We found a small gazebo within walking distance from the road which provided perfect views of the natural landscape Equipped with a rather small portable propane heater, we boiled some water and did what any Taiwanese would do while out and about: enjoyed a meal of piao mian (instant noodles).
Passing through tunnels, making our way over bridges, step by step we were getting up, close, and personal with one of Taiwan’s top, if not the best national natural attraction. My husband and I enjoyed every step of it. We were pounding the pavement, 18 km of it, and we were nearing the most talked about, most spectacular, most dramatic area of the gorge, the ‘Tunnel of nine turns.’
The tunnel of nine tunnels was definitely the highlight of the entire journey and it completely exceeded my expectations. The area is now a walking area and is closed off to motor traffic. We nearly had the place to ourselves since parking is a problem, so exploring the area is only convenient for those traveling on foot or by scooter or bicycle. It was clearly indescribable feeling to be surrounded by towering marble cliffs and and the vast marble rock faces abruptly appearing as far as the eye can see! My words can’t paint the proper picture and my pictures don’t do the place justice!
We continued walking and soon we could see Tienshang in the near distance. With 18 km of road behind us, it was time to relax and explore everything this place has to offer!
Stay tune for my next blog post(s) about wandering around Tiensheng, our hikes around the Tienshang area, and getting back to our car (which proved to be a huge, unplanned adventure and a story in itself)!
In your opinion, what is the best natural scenic area you have been to?