[Spending a little over two weeks traveling with Dad to Taiwan and the Philippines.]
Friday the 13th! But no bad luck here. We got the 0700 shuttle bus (using our 2-Day pass we bought yesterday) from the Hualien train station into Taroko National Park for our second day of enjoying its landscape. We road the bus all the way to the end of the line, doing a few short "scenic trails" ("scenic" trails and "hiking" trails are distinguished from each other on the park's map, the former being much milder).
Our favorite was Swallow Grotto. You will likely have to share this hike with the "swarms of humanity," as my dad put it, because we had grown used to having so few other tourists on the other trails we'd hiked. But this one is one of the more popular in the park, and there were about 6 giant tour buses there when we arrived.
However, you quickly understand why the "swarms" are attracted to it. The views of the river below, in all its graceful bends, and the sound of the swiftly flowing water, and the severe cliff faces all around...well, it makes you eagerly join the swarms. In fact, the roar of the river mostly drowns the sounds of the crowds and cars in any case, giving you some semblance of solitude in drinking in the scenery. It is named "Swallows" Grotto due to the swallows that swoop agilely, like fighter pilots, to snatch up insects that are swept up in the breeze channeling through the steep, crowded cliffs.
As a Nature Nerd aside, the Lushui-Heliu trail (another short, 1 hour loop we tried today) not only has sightings of the endemic Taroko Oak, but also has great opportunities for birding. I recorded a few songs, but have only identified one singer with some degree of confidence...
Plumbeous Water Redstart or Taiwan Yuhina??? - https://soundcloud.com/forestshadows/plumbeous-water-redstart
White-eared Sibia - https://soundcloud.com/forestshadows/white-eared-sibia
Our calf muscles were rather fried from all the stairs of yesterday's climb, so we actually ended up riding the on-again-off-again shuttle bus for about an hour, just to soak in some last views of the river, and then returned to Hualien.
We randomly picked (Dad picked actually) a "cafe" for dinner, which was a rather modern coffee shop that served food and fancy beverages. Dad is, lets just say, more a "meat and potatoes" kind of guy, so I was more than a little amused when his meal (and mine) included a small piece of tofu on a tiny black-stone plate with a tiny spoon and a tiny dollop of balsamic vinaigrette. Always good to end the day with a laugh.