Monday, May 1, 2017

Taroko Gorge | Day One

Taroko National Park

We have just spent the last few weeks in Taiwan, our sixth country on our Asia trip. I hadn't done much research on Taiwan prior to the beginning of this whole trip, all I knew was that we would be going there sometime after Vietnam. Then, as our time in Vietnam started coming to an end I realised, I should actually figure out what we want to go and see in Taiwan! Well, one of the first places I came across on my research was Taroko Gorge, a spectacular canyon of marble, surrounded by forested mountains and sheer cliffs. This was definitely put to number one on our must see in Taiwan list!

As luck would have it, we found cheap flights from Hong Kong to Hualien, the closest major city to the gorge. We had originally thought of flying to Taipei, and then taking the train down to the gorge, but this worked out even better, as it meant we didn't have to backtrack to Taipei for our flight out of the country.

So, we flew into Hualien from Hong Kong, and planned to stay there for a few nights, as it is only an hour's drive away from the national park. However, due to the bad weather on our first couple of days there, we decided to extend our stay in Hualien so that we could spend two full days at Taroko Gorge in better weather. April is a typically rainy month in Taiwan, so we were lucky that the rain cleared up for our last two days in Hualien, and we were able to visit the national park in sunny, dry weather.

The narrow rope bridge leading to Shakadang Trail

Shakadang Trail head

The swirling patterns of the marble rocks

I honestly wasn't sure what to expect when visiting the national park, as it seemed like there was so much to see, and I was unsure of how we would go getting around. We decided to buy a two day bus pass, which meant we could take any local bus, plus the specially designated shuttle bus, around the park. This worked out great for us. Our first stop on our first day was at the park's headquarter, where we stopped to pick up the bus timetable and map, so that we could plan our day. The buses do not run very frequently, so it is important to plan how much time you will spend at each stop.

Marble rocks along the Shakadang trail

Day One
 The first trail that we walked was called the Shakadang Trail, which was actually my favourite trail that we walked. The trailhead is close to the park HQ, and begins with some sets of stairs and a walk along a narrow rope bridge. The trail was very flat and easy to walk along, and there were signs along the way highlighting different flora and fauna that you can spot along the trail. We saw many butterflies along the way, but didn't see much other wildlife. I loved the Shakadang trail because it was so peaceful and pretty, and we were able to see the beautiful marble rocks in detail, and observe their unique patterns, each one like a swirling painting. The river also ran much slower here, and the water collected in pools of rocks in a gorgeous jade green colour.

Buluowan Viewing Point

The view from Buluowan Viewing platform

Swallow Grotto trail

That day we also visited Buluowan Recreation Area, and Swallow Grotto trail. There is normally a trail that you can walk between Buluowan and Swallow's Grotto, however it was closed when we visited. We ate lunch at Buluowan instead, and then checked out the viewing platform in the lower terrace, which gives beautiful views of the gorge, and the dam below.
Then we took the bus one more stop to Swallow Grotto, a very unique trail with the best views of the gorge.

A narrow rope bridge leading to a nearby trail at Swallow Grotto

Swallow Grotto

The Swallow Grotto trail gets its name from the many swallows which have taken up residence in the little caves formed by erosion in the marble cliff faces. They can be seen swooping up and down the cliffs along the trail. The pictures cannot even go to show how vast  and sheer the cliffs really are. This trail is parallel to the road, which has many cars and buses driving along it, so it is not the most peaceful trail, but definitely one of the most breathtaking and slightly scary trails!

That's all for day one of our Taroko Gorge visit. I'll be back soon for more on our second day at the Taroko Gorge national park!

Thanks for reading,
Hannah xx

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