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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Taroko Gorge

So we woke up early and headed out to Taroko Gorge.  I had been looking forward to going there for ages, because on all the pictures I had seen of it, looked truly amazing.  We had to leave bright and early to make sure that we could catch the bus, and make it in time for a full 6 hour trek of the best parts of the Gorge.  The nice lady in the hostel told us which route to take, and that if we could make it in time, we would see all the best parts.  


First we had to take the bus to the final stop, from Hualien Train Station.  Then we would walk for 2 - 3 hours, then take another bus, to another point of the Gorge, and walk for another 3 hours.  Then catch the bus back to Hualien Train Station.  We could only make it for the 8.30am bus because the lady in the hostel was taking back our bicycles.  We were really happy that she helped us with this, and we tried our best to show her our happiness...I am not sure it came across in our very English way, as it could of.


The hostel we were staying in offered breakfast. They had a small selection of sandwiches.  Being the carnivore that I am, I managed to select the only vegetarian sandwich there, and Steve being a vegetarian managed to select a one with meat inside.  This seemed to set the tone for the beginning of our trip to Taroko Gorge. 


We got our now customary dan bing on the way to get the bus.  It was actually one of the worst Dan Bings I have had since I came to Taiwan to live here, but I ate it all the same.  It wasn't that it was totally bad, in that I had to throw it away, its just that most of the others are superior to the one we went to.


We then got to the train station, and bought our ticket.  I asked the guy where we take the bus from, and he told us you just have to wait here. I asked him if he would tell us when the bus was here, he told us it was no problem and just to wait right there.  We were supposed to be getting the bus at 8.30am, and we kept checking the watch.  It was getting closer and closer to 8.30, and we kept asking the guy is the bus here?  He just kept saying wait, wait wait.....


Then disaster struck!  The guy told us the bus had already left, and we have missed it.  I was raging.  Now we would not be able to see all of Taroko Gorge!  Steve kept telling me I had to calm down, and it was clearly a matter of miscommunication, and misunderstanding.  I was still raging, because I said everything correctly in Chinese, and the lady in the hostel confirmed what I said was correct.  Maybe he just didn't like us foreigners, or maybe it simply was just a misunderstanding but, anyway I was raging for ages!!!  As we trudged back to the hostel, Steve mentioned how embarrassing it would be if we seen the lady from the hostel pushing the bikes back to the Giant Shop.  


Imagine what she would of thought, there she is pushing our bikes back to the Giant Shop, so that we can get to Taroko Gorge and have a great time.  I'm sure she wouldn't be impressed at all if she seen us two morons trudging back to the hostel with our tail between our legs.


So we had an hour wait, sitting around and deciding what to do.  We decided we had 2 options.  Either wait for the bus we were going to take that would arrive in 2 hours time, or take the bus that dropped us to a different point in 1 hour.  We decided we had no choice but to just leave, regardless of what happened at least we were closer to where we needed to be.  So we went back 1 hour later, and the guy who messed up our plans was really apologetic.  I thought he bloody well should be!  It was a calamity worse than calamity James would ever make!


We then managed to get the bus to a part of Taroko Gorge that we didn't want, or need to be at but we had no choice really.  When I was on the bus, after all the bother I realised I only had a few coins.  Steve didn't have too many either, and it turned out I didn't have enough money for my bus fare.  The driver was taking no shit, and there was no way I was giving him 100NT.  




So we kind of had a stand off, with him telling me in Chinese to pay him what I had to pay him, and me telling him, I don't have any coins man, give me change for this and you have yourself a deal!  He wasn't budging, he wanted my money....coins or notes.  The problem is in Taiwan you have to give the correct money on the bus, because you get no change from the driver.  There was no way I was paying 100 dollars, for a 20 dollars bus journey, or whatever it was.  


Then some American Taiwanese women decided just to add the other coins.  I tried to pay her back when I got of the bus, but she was having none of it.  I thought sod it then, I can't spend 3 hours here trying to give you 30 bloody pence!


Then we took the other bus to a point in Taroko Gorge where most people walk from, to the bus stop we were supposedly getting picked up from.  When we got of the bus, some American girl tagged a long with us, her name was Paris Lilly.  Apart from the normal American over the topness (which is to be expected) she was ok.  


When we started of on the walk, I already started to lag behind Steve and Paris.  This was because I was watching a man eat a chickens foot.  He saw me looking at him, and then thought I wanted to share his chickens feet.  So he offered me one, well it would of been rude if I told him ew no mate that's pretty gross!  So I took the chickens foot from him, and then I had a nibble just to show that I was all into it and that.  Then when he left, I stuffed back in its little bag and walked off.






When I caught up with Steve and Paris, I told Paris I had a present for her!  Ha and then I offered her the chickens foot.  Needless to say English humour didn't get me very far with this one.  I wondered off to piss, and find somewhere to dump the chickens foot.


Then after we had our toilet break, and what have you, we started our trek along Taroko Gorge. I swear the scenery there is absolutely spectacular.  The rocks hanging over the road, and how beautiful it looked.  I think it would be great to go camping there.  




The walk was a good pace.  I kept stopping to take photos and Steve and Paris ended up quite a bit in front of me a lot of the time, which was good in a way.  It made me think about life, and how peaceful everything was there.  Was alone, with all my own thoughts, and the scenery.  It was a great place to be alone with ones self.  Like those TV shows you see, where they send kids out into the country side to find out what they want from life.  I just enjoyed how peaceful it was compared to other places in Taiwan, especially seeing as I live in Taipei.





It felt like a Ray Mears survival adventure at times, with the earlier nibbling on a chickens foot (I wont say eating because I only had a nibble,) and the walk through the gorge.  All the hills and rocks, and the water flowing below us.  I love seeing the hills higher than the clouds.  I think it looks amazing, and I think it feels kind of mystical.  The weather was quite nice to walk in too, it was hot as always in Taiwan, but there was some light rain to cool us down.





There was no real path to walk along so everyone who was walking, just had to walk along the road.  There were signs everywhere telling you to watch out for falling rocks.  Some parts of the roads were closed off too because of falling rocks everywhere.  This made me look up a lot to make sure nothing was heading straight for me, and a killer blow!  




Some of the rocks on the floor were huge, and I really couldn't imagine one of them smashing me in the head.  It would be more than just a knock out blow.


It was great fun walking there.  I didn't think I would be able to manage to walk so far, but it didn't feel like we had walked for as long as we did, the views, treks, trails, scenery, water, and Indiana Jones style bridges really make it great fun, and the time definitely flies!  Although my bad ass chaffing the next day really disagreed with the fact I thought it was an easy walk.




While we were walking, I caught back up to Steve and Paris and they started telling me they had found something.  I was pretty sceptical because I didn't think they would of found anything more amazing than what I was already seeing.  They told me they seen a walk way around the top, which would blow my mind, and be a 'mindblow'.  I didn't think I would get a mindblow, but seeing as I was kind of outvoted to go there or not, I just walked that way anyway.  




When I was walking along the small trek it felt like I was just walking along the Derwent Walk back home.  You couldn't see the Gorge that well from up there because the trees blocked all of the view so that I felt it was a little bit of a waste of time, the best part about walking the small trail, was near the top they had a big rock, and then they had cut a hole right through the middle of it so that you could go straight around instead of having to be at a dead end!  




That's the upside of Taiwanese people really like everything to be convenient.  It was pitch black in there mind you and we had to take small tiny baby steps.


After that my mind was still firmly in the unblown category so we continued following the road downwards to where we needed to be.  Then I seen something that did kind of blow my mind a little bit.  I wouldn't use that terminology normally but, as it happens it got thrust upon me.


We walked right up to a bridge, that was straight out of some kind of jungle survival show, or as previously mentioned Indiana Jones.  It looked awesome, from a few miles up the road.  I could feel my excitement building when I seen it, I couldn't wait to walk across it.  As we started getting closer, it didn't look shitter at all, it just got better and better. 


I have never really been that excited about seeing a bridge.  This one was a little bit special though.  It really did look like something from one of those TV shows in the jungles, or from some movie. 


When we stepped onto the bridge, you could feel the whole bridge moving around when you walked across it.  Some women in front of me went first, but they only managed to go half way across because they were to scared to go any further.  I don't know if that was because I started walking on behind them, they were small and Asian, and then I came along stomping my way across the bridge, shaking them all over.  They just couldn't wait to be back onto land that doesn't move and doesn't have something like a 200ft drop below them.




When I got on it I loved it, I was lying down taking pictures and everything.  Making sure my camera was wrapped around my hand as much as possible.  It was great fun walking over there, I am such a child at times.  I say this because when I was walking across that bridge I was thinking about all the tv shows and games I have seen bridges like this in.  Then I was thinking about how I would be in those shows.  So stupid and silly, but I guess everyone one of us has a childish side to them.  







Then we had to be on our merry way, like the three musketeers, marching on down the Gorge.  We had a tight schedule to keep to if we wanted to make sure we caught the bus back home.  The idea of being stuck there with no way to get home didn't really appeal to me too much, especially when we were leaving for Taitung that night and we had nothing to sleep in.


So we were pretty much marching down the road, and I kept stopping at different points to snap a lot of photos.  At this point, me and Steve looked like we had been swimming through the Gorge never mind walking, the amount of sweat that was pissing out of us was unreal.  I would highly recommend that if you go there, you should take a spare T-shirt, or even a full change of clothes and a towel.


After we went passed the bridge and played on it for a while, the next cool thing that we seen was a part of the Gorge that everyone seems to have taken their pictures from.  I could see why as well.  The reason for this was because the road swings around to the right, and has quite a big turn.  That means when you are walking, you get to a point where you can snap the Gorge, with all the bits of rocks overhanging, and you can get to see the cars, and small amount of people going past.  This was an awesome viewing point on the Gorge for me, and it was just a shame I did not have a better camera to really capture the scene.  






I could of stood there for longer than I did, the view was stunning.  Watching the cars come round the corner, with all that around was a little bit surreal.  When we eventually managed to walk around this corner ourselves, the next thing we had to walk through was a series of tunnels.  Most of them were so dark, you had to walk really slowly making sure you didn't trip up on anything.  This part was slow progress but I liked it.  At this point I seen a whole section of the Gorge sectioned off because of falling rocks.  Some of them were bigger than my head!!!  I wouldn't want any of them landing on me, when I am having a nice peaceful stroll.


Just as we got near the tunnels, it started to absolutely piss it down.  I was completely soaked right through.  So much for the nice sunny day.  When we came out the other end of the first tunnel we went through the rain had stopped.  Typical that, soaked before I went in, then scorching hot when we came out the other side.  By the time we got to the last tunnel, it had rained a lot more for me to forget about the previous complaint.  






Near the end we overshot, and went too far along the route.  This meant we had to double back and look for our bus.  We walked back to where we had came from which was not far, and we met another guy called Roy.  I am certain he was from Holland, I can't quite remember what he done here, but it was to do with electronics.  


Then we waited, and waited, and waited..........but no bus turned up.  So we were stood in the middle of Taroko Gorge with no way of getting back to the train station.  Our new friend Roy called his hotel to let them know he might need a taxi because the bus has not showed up.  I told them all not to worry, I will flag someone down and get us a lift.


So when I seen a small van heading in our direction, I flagged him down.  Told him in Chinese no bus no bus.  I also asked if he could take us back to the train station in Hualien.  He said sure no problem, so we all piled in.  Steve tried to take some credit for supposedly standing behind me and throwing out a big toe, but I think it was all down to me personally.  He drove us all the way back to Hualien, he made a pit stop at his home but I don't remember what for.




Then when we got back we collected our bags, then went and took the train to Taitung, we were no on our way to green Island.