Taroko National Park is one of the most beautiful areas in Taiwan. The morning my friends and I went was warm, sunny, and foggy with a prediction of showers. We hired a taxi driver to pick us up from the B&B we stayed at Hualien and spend the day driving us around the various scenic points – and, boy, are they scenic!
The drive up set the mood with the mountains shrouded in fog, a railroad winding in and out of new and old houses and farmland, palm trees, the occasional food stand and gas station. We made a quick stop at 7-11 for water and a bathroom break before we hit our first stop of the day – Quingshui Cliff.
Quingshui Cliff: It was about a five minute walk to the cliff from a parking area. On the way, we saw people looking up and turned to see what was so interesting. The trees were moving, and it took a minute before I saw them – monkeys! I get so excited when I see wild animals in their natural habitat, and monkeys are one of my favorites. We joined the crowd taking pictures while they were in sight.
From what I’ve heard since I’ve been in Asia, you never know what you’re going to get when you see monkeys in the wild. Depending on the location, they can be aloof or they can be aggressive. Some of the very touristy areas have aggressive monkeys who have been spoiled by tourists with food and now demand it. Sarah saw monkeys in Africa, and they peed on her head and laughed. So, like I said, you never know what you’re going to get! These monkeys stayed in the trees, much to everyone’s relief, and scampered away while we stood there. We headed on toward the edge of the cliff.
When the Pacific Ocean came into view, I was stunned. I had never seen water like this before. There are three distinct blue tones, and it looks like a watercolor that isn’t quite finished. On top of that, there is the contrast to the design of the stones on the cliff and the white sprays of water hitting harsh rock in the middle and white bubbles caused by who knows what. The trail down to the water was closed, but we still got a great view from the cliff. I could have stayed there for hours just taking pictures and absorbing the view.
Shakadang Trail: This was the best hike of the day, and we had to turn around way too soon. I’d love to go back and go further. There is a river bed with marble rocks below as we followed a trail literally carved into the side of the mountain. At times, it felt like we were walking through a lush jungle then other times we were practically in a cave with stone walls around us. It was so cool.
Swallow’s Grotto: Here, we were required to put on helmets because of possible falling rocks. This was a walk through a short tunnel with holes in the sides that allowed us to view the rocks below. It was pretty but pretty tame as well. There is a hike here that you need to get a permit for, but we were just doing a quick tour today. The taxi driver showed us the suspension bridge that starts out the longer hike, and it looks like the views would be amazing.
Cimu Bridge and Pavilion: The bridge was built to create a way to get through the Taroko Gorge here then the pavilion was built as a crown on top of a frog-shaped rock in memory of President Chiang Ching-kuo’s mother. This is a good place to stop and take pictures, but that’s it. We walked over a suspension bridge to get a few more shots then on to lunch.
Eternal Springs Shrine: We weren’t able to hike up to it. This was very disappointing as I’d heard the hike up and inside the shrine itself was interesting. But the trail was closed for repairs due to falling rocks. So, we were only able to take a few pictures that mirrored every other picture I’ve seen of the Eternal Springs Shrine then the tour was over.
Final analysis: I was glad we went early because we passed buses filled with tourists on our way out. Our taxi driver said we timed it well as the majority of the tour buses come in the afternoon. The driving tour was a nice way to get an overall view of the whole park, but I’d love to go back and do one of the long hikes and explore the mountain. Still – it was a fun day with friends in a beautiful place!