[Spending a little over two weeks traveling with Dad to Taiwan and the Philippines.]
We left Taipei today on the 0620 train bound for Hualien (NT $400 each) – a pleasant 2-hour ride. Once at the train station in Hualien, we walked to our lodgings and dropped off our bags. Then we bought a 2-Day Pass (around NT $400 each) to Taroko Gorge National Park. This 2-Day Pass (they have a 1-Day Pass option as well) allows you to jump on and off the shuttle at various points in the park as often as you like. Pay attention to the bus time table however – the shuttle doesn’t hit each spot all-too-often, and if you don’t arrive early to the bus stop, you might be standing for a long ride (they do pack the buses tight!).
Within 40 minutes we were at the Visitor Center (one of the stops the shuttle bus makes). We went inside and asked one of the Park Guides at the information desks about a recommended hike. She suggested we set off on the hike to Dali (grab a park map while you are there, and you'll see the trail on it). The hike starts at the visitor center and then is straight uphill, giving a great overview of the park. The first part of the climb is up a seemingly, never-ending series of constructed stairs. Then the stairs end and you are off on a seemingly, never-ending series of dirt (mud in our case today due to the morning’s rain) trails, switch-backing at pretty significant grades. The view make it worth it. We started below the cloud bank, then climbed up into it, and then nearly got out of it, with some sunlight filtering onto the trail once more.
Formosan Rock Macaque - https://soundcloud.com/forestshadows/formosan-rock-macaque
Taipei Tree Frog??? - https://soundcloud.com/forestshadows/rhaco-taipeianus
Once back at the visitor center we headed off along the Shakadang Trail. This is a much more leisurely hike, on a well-established trail, which starts at the Visitor Center. While we had the trail to Dali much to ourselves, there was a lot of foot traffic on this one. However, it doesn't matter that much because the views are well worth putting up with a crowd.
The trail snakes along the cliffs with spectacular views of the arctic-blue river below. The creamy tones of the boulders combined with the densely tree covered cliffs rising above up into the clouds all compliment the crystal blue of the water impossibly well. Truly, every curve of the trail leaves you a bit breathless in the wonder of it all. Many of the boulders had a lovely, wavy sedimentation to them – I want to research the geological explanation of this at some point. All in all, you feel a bit like you are walking among a landscape that is surely make-believe. It is good to be reminded of what "awe" feels like, something our soul needs more than just once-in-a-while. So, if you are past due for awe - head to Taroko Gorge.