If you are keen to explore this part of Hualien in depth and to make it a more challenging day out, go without a tour bus.
Arrange your own transport with a local taxi driver, who had knowledge of the National Park.
If you are lucky, go when the weather is clear and early in the morning, as the onslaught of tour buses and incoming traffic makes a slow ascent and descent deeper into the Gorge.
If I had more time left in Hualien, i would have definitely spent a whole day there, to trek through the trails provided. Also to obtain a less touristy perspective of the natural surroundings.
That said, having a tour guide and booking a tour bus is completely hassle free. With a meal provided, the opportunity to mingle with new people and if you are lucky an animated Tour Guide which I was lucky to have.
The only down side is, they will not be able to bring you any deeper or to places where a smaller vehicle can probably achieve and with a more flexible time frame.
I will not write much about the scenic locations and it’s history here, but more to my impression of the vast National Park.
I had visited the Tarako National Park during Winter, which added to a certain mysterious vibe at the first leg of the trip, when one gazes into the distance to fog and misty valleys in the distance. The cool weather was also refreshing in the morning.
Turning from the carpark towards Buluowan, which used to be an tribal village of the Taroko aborigines.
The view had already brought much anticipation within the coach. Offering views of the valley which was quite breathe taking really. Be sure to go up to the terrace for a better view. A good place for a weekend morning picnic or quiet afternoon reading or with company.
Foliage was lush, but as we travel further up, expect to view the Gorge in a monotone palette. Of Blue/Turquoise water, White and Grey of Stone and sometimes foliage of Green and Yellow.
The road up into the different viewing locations was a little precarious. With the width of the roads sometimes equivalent to only a narrow almost singular vehicle small lane and then some.
We have been warned that one of the trails had been closed off due to possiblity of landslide and the weather causing the particular vicinity to be a potential danger to visitors.
It was just a few months back (At the point of my visit), a man was killed by a falling boulder.
In many ways, coming to visit my first National Park had enabled me to somehow experience through listening and observing, how fragile yet unpredictable nature can be. Of course the history of human influences, natural wear and tear all plays a part in the degeneration of this place.
Somehow the acres of land, water and foliage kept me in awe. A certain peace behind the knowledge that there were once people who were able to live in these semi harsh conditions, also gaining sustenance from it’s ability to provide.
During the Japanese War, this had been an are where aboriginal, migrants and the invaders congregate. Where the Tribe has fought against the invader’s – against modern war fare and artillery. Fascinating.
A Dam was once built and now many years on, it’s purpose obsolete But the facade and appearance of it’s work still visibly existent.
Jiu Qu Dong (Tunnel of Nine Turns) didn’t do much for me. Albeit the warnings and the safety measures to wear a helmet. Though there is a small wonder when facing the cliffs so up close and personal. Scaling further, higher up above you, boundless. Somehow you’d get the proper introduction of Tarako’s scale. In terms of height.
What i would have loved is go through the suspension bridge below. Precarious of course, but closed off to public (Not sure if it’s just for the period).
Ci Mu Qiao (Bridge) and it’s surrounding Pavilions and Stone Lions – Evidence of Taiwan’s main religious belief, Taoism. Projects a certain reminder of Filial Piety and remembrance of a Mother’s greatness. Built with that purpose to commemorate by the two President Chiangs of Taiwan.
It had also been interesting for me to witness the existence of both the Japanese and Chinese religious integration. With the shrines and Temples built – Big or Small. Yet again evidences the historical penetration of humans into a once untouched land. With only the aborigines who resides within.
I had enjoyed the small trek below:
The Chang Chun (Eternal Spring) Shrine, while most would view at a distance. the fun park was walking beneath the Grotto, pass a short bridge with the rushing river below, wet from rain and into the comforting interiors of the caves. Arriving upon manmade grounds of colour and chinese culture. Did I mention that the location of the Temple have shifted a little to the Right (If you are view from the opposite) because of landmass and weather erosion?
So the Gorge has it’s own character :) And whatever that men has built there, might not last forever.
Roads that cannot be widened, streams that seem to flow by it’s own character.
There can be a feeling of desolation sometimes, considering how huge the landmass is. The old derelict, government maintained and also newer constructions from the passing times of human evolution of this place. But also a feeling of adventure, to see as much as possible.
My camera died quite early in the trip. What a shame. But I had a Lomo Camera on hand :)
My second favourite, was Lunchtime. When after the meal, we get to explore the area with more time on foot.
I came across a Tian Xiang Catholic Church, and loved the interior for it’s semi shabbiness yet, representation of rickety un maintained architecture. Climbing up to the top of it’s terrace and staring out into the distance from above. A true moment of quite and solitude away from the tour and visiting crowd madness.
There is the The Youth Activity Center located beside, for cheap lodging. I must say it has one of the Nicer views compared to Tarako Village Hotel. Somehow more rustic and genuine. THAT only if you can cope with simpler necessities.
The Buddhist – Tianfeng Pagoda on the opposite Valley, seemingly built nearly to the edge of a cliff. So small in the distance, yet significant in it’s existence. Really nice perspective. With the misty tops from the fog.
I wonder how the actual original Tarako People had lived. And if I could still view the real living environments today, that would have been the Bonus.