Finally made my way out to the eastern side of Taiwan for a day trip to Taroko Gorge. It wasn’t quite the adventure I had hoped it would be, but it’s also not an experience that you should miss out on.
First, I should say how DAMN easy it was to get there and get around. I didn’t do a ton of research beforehand, but it was as simple as walking up to the train counter at Taipei Main Station and saying “Taroko”. I got on the 7:06AM train to Sincheng (Xincheng) Station and arrived nearly three hours later. I had assumed I’d be taking a taxi into the park, but there was a free bus service that might have been tied to the Chinese New Year holiday that streamlined things even further for me. I took the bus to the visitor center and refused to get on another one until I was ready to leave.
So the question that needs to be answered here: WHY THE HELL RUN A BUS SERVICE THROUGH A PLACE THAT LOOKS LIKE THIS?! You see that tiny little bus in the picture? It’s zipping past beautiful vistas and natural rock formations. Oh good, you got a blurry picture on your cellphone through the window as the bus rocked by at 40MPH. The first thing you need to do is put on your walking shoes and hit the pavement. These buses, I honestly don’t understand them. Dodge a few cars, shit your pants every time a bus comes screaming by you, but please… don’t take the bus.
Grab a free map. From the visitor center, take to the tunnels. The Shakadang Trail is nearby. Pray that it’s not too crowded. I say “trail” because that’s what they call it, but it’s a saunter. And about half of it is closed due to damage. It’s a very pretty walk along the Shakadang river, with some scenic overlooks and great views of the fast-moving water. Keep an eye out for the erosion patterns on the rocks and walls you’ll see along the way.
But it’s still no adventure. At the “5D Cabin” where the trail currently ends, there’s a huge rock field and a chance to actually interact with the river.
Incidentally, it seemed like the only place anyone was having any fun. Maybe they were all looking for a bit more risk from their trip to the gorge.
Heading back, you get a different perspective and arguably some better views.
There are some other trails marked on the map nearby, but they’ll have to wait for another day. I continued up the road to the Eternal Spring (Changchun) Shrine. Took a picture. Left. Not my thing.
Next up, another long walk down the road to Xipan Dam. Totally worth it. This bit was absolutely the best stretch to walk along as the road stayed close to the river bed and the mountains on each side are nearly 2000M high. Walk slowly. Take a look around. Breathe. Wave to the sadsacks in the bus. Smile as you see that some have drawn the curtains on their windows.
A bit past Xipan, I started getting frustrated at the trail closure signs. The Swallow Grotto up ahead was closed as well. I wanted to end my day at Buluowan and saw a trail that would take me off the road and into Buluowan. And then I saw this:
So I jumped it. Life’s too short. Most of the day gone and I finally had some of the peace and quiet I was looking for. There were more signs warning about venomous snakes and I worried a bit as the trail hadn’t seen use in a while. Didn’t spot any.
Sure, there were stairs, but also a healthy sense of danger as landslides had washed away parts of the trail.
Now we’re getting perilous. This huge rock landed right in the middle of the trail.
I’ll readily admit that the views from this trail weren’t amazing. Through the dense forest, you’d get occasional glimpses at the river below and the tops of peaks above. But it was the only part of the day that felt the least bit wild, and I was glad of that.
I left a bit disappointed. I didn’t even make it halfway through the park, but the parts I saw felt very sanitized and “tourist” friendly. Maybe the western end has more hiking and nature to explore. I hope to find out when I make the trip back. The map at the visitor center didn’t include many of the side trails, so more research will need to be done to see about getting on top of some of these mountains.
Took the shuttle bus back to Xincheng from Buluowan. 45 minutes in line, 25 minutes on the bus. Bought my ticket back to Taipei Main. Standing room only. Three more hours on my feet. Home by 7PM. A lot more National Park to explore. See you again, soon.
Photos taken on my Pentax K-S2 (18-135mm kit lens), perpetually in the wrong mode, and edited with Adobe Photoshop Express on my Surface 3. Sorry about how shit they are. I’m working on it.