After being warned by various people that taking our scooter on Taiwan’s East Coast Mountain road (Highway 9) was a very bad idea – due to cliff-top roads, notoriously terrible Taiwanese drivers, the unreliability of scooters (a friend of ours actually broke down out there in the middle of nowhere), the long distance of it etc. – we rubbed the raindrops off our scooter seat with the kitchen towel and headed for the Su-hua section of the highway going south from LuoDong to Taroko Gorge.
Having made a day-trip to Taroko during Chinese New Year in February, we swiftly decided we needed another dose of the gorge and a scooter to get us through it. The highway drive itself was beautiful, with cliff-top views of the bright, blue ocean, but driving through the gorge itself is incredible.
With very few places to stay in Taroko and many of them being heavens out of our price range, we luckily booked 2 nights at the most budget hostel there is – Catholic Hostel. So the boyfriend who believes God is just as likely to exist as fairies and his atheist girlfriend scootered on through, round the corner into Tianxiang, up a steep drive-way just after the police station and swerving into a metal lean-to to park our scooter. We had no real idea about where we were staying, but it turns out it’s nestled in gorgeous lush green mountains overlooking the tall Xiangde temple.
The guy spoke no English but motioned to us that we had a different room each night – as our twin room cost NT$ 700 (£14) for the first night and our double bed room upped to NT$ 1100 (£22) for the next night. Our twin room really was a cosy cabin, with an outdoor walk to the cold water shower. It didn’t matter though as we woke up to the eight o’clock sunshine peeking over the hostel roof in the middle of the most insanely lovely place.
Our upgrade was entirely worth the extra NTs though, as we had a little more space and a hot-water shower en-suite. Everything in the hostel is pretty outdated, and the twin room was fairly close to camping as the cold showers were rather close to nature as we had to share them with moths that’re bigger than me.We had a good view out the window too…
It was basic but it was everything you needed for the price we wanted :) And round the corner was three little eating places (for your fried noodles, meat, veg and rice) and a little shop with coffee (to stop me from grumbling in the morning).
Having arrived after lunchtime on Friday, we only took a short trail nearby – the Baiyan Waterfall. It was a dead cool trail which takes you through some dark tunnels. Flashlight recommended – we didn’t have one, of course, so we just dawdled until some uber organised folk with a light passed by our way and ambled behind them. It finishes at a cave which you can enter by going across some stepping stones; inside you can walk alongside the waterfall curtain. Raincoats recommended – we didn’t have ours, so we got wet.
We saw some wild monkeys that evening too!
When Saturday rolled around we decided to work our way back out and walked all of the Swallow’s Grotto trails, which led round some pot holes through the rocky gorge to a woman selling heaps of bananas, as well as up stone steps through a forest to a recreation ground. Ready for a rougher trail and finding Shakadang still to be partially closed (and we’d already walked the open part before), we looked at our apparently ridiculously outdated map and headed to the Dekalun trail.
The Dekalun trail, according to the map, is a physically challenging hiking trail of 300m elevation through dence forest. Having hiked higher elevations than that before I thought it’d be roses. It transpires that it’s actally a 3000m elevation up steep, red-iron framed stairs. So I climbed the stairs, in the rain, for 1300m until we reached a wooden sign telling us it was another 1700m up (and then turn around to hike down) or an alternate 1200m route down to the road.
It was getting increasingly rainy and I was pretty sure I would die or fall down if we did the same amount again upwards, so we took the down path. This however, had obviously not been checked by the park keepers in some time! After manouvering some tricky downward slopes (all muddy stone trail, no path) we reached a small rockfall, we climbed across. 10 minutes later we reached a huge landslide with a rockfall having destroyed the whole trail. So, errrr, much to my devastation we had to turn around and go all the way back!
When the sun rose for Sunday, the day we were heading home, we toured round the little pavillions and temples in the gorge which we hadn’t taken the time to stop at.
We also took a stroll along the Chongede Trail, which is outside of the park north along the coastline, where the amazing blue sea meets the grey rocky sands.
We were impressed with our second-hand scooter to have made it back alive, still purring along, and I was impressed with Luke who drove us the whole way with no gloves – it was cold and windy on the return journey, so we stopped to buy him a scarf, but alas no gloves were sold, so his poor hands were icicles. I stuffed him under a duvet with a hot water bottle and a hot red bean pancake as soon as we got back!
Now, still with a couple more trails left to do in the park and a decent knowledge of what to do and what not to do! we’re looking forward to the summer time holiday when we can take our families down to Taroko and not take them on the Dekalun trail.
The rest of our photos are, as always, on my facebook here.