a panorama (combined 4 photos) of the cliffs in an attempt to show how vertical and immense they were!
The big destination today was Taroko
National Park. We got started about 9am. Since I was the navigator I suggested we go up the coast first to see the famous cliffs along the coast. Tomorrow we would be taking the train north to Ilan so we may not see the view of the cliffs. When I came down on the train a few days ago I didn't see the view either. The coastal highway between Hualien
and Su-oa was very famous for its cliffs and spectacular scenary, and we had wheels so we could make stops as we wished.
We headed north along the Pacific coast (which was on our right) on the "scenic" route.
roadside cemetery with the miniature houses
It was kind of a small road, at times we went through alleyways which made us wonder if we were on the right track. We drove past the bay which would have been the northern end of the bikeway I took the first day here. We were probably taking a bit more time than I expected because the road was really not a major highway. Then the road went straight through a cemetery! We stopped for some photos because the graves were right next to the road, and they were these minature houses.
We were not lost although it felt like it a few times. Good thing we soon had the coast right next to us on the right, and some nice mountain scenery on the left. We came upon the Taroko bridge where the LiWu River 立霧溪 carved through the marble mountains and made the Taroko Gorge came into the Pacific Ocean.
Taroko bridge and Deats showing the way
The mountaintops were in mist and clouds, layers of mountains could be seen, it was very pretty. We stopped on the bridge to take more photos. There were very few cars going on, but I still worried when Deats went over to the other side of the bridge to take photos. It would be no good for our world traveler to get hurt here. But no cars came by and he returned safely. We each supposed the other could walked the bridge and be picked up by the other driving the car, but thought better of it and got back in the car.
I had been on this coastal road before when I was a kid and my dad took our family on summer trips to Taroko and other parts of Taiwan, but to be honest this was the first time I realized how beautiful it was. After having lived in California for more than a few decades and driving the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) a few times to see the scenery along the California Coast, places like Carmel, Big Sur and Monterey had great views of the mountains and ocean, and spectacular cliffs.
Not much traffic, but crossing the divider was still a bit much
This stretch of Taiwan is even more awesome but approachable. There are no places along Big Sur where you could easily stop the car and take in the views, there were no hikes or trails which you could use to enjoy the beach or cliff, but there were several here in Taiwan.
There were many tunnels along this coastal highway, which is an indicator of how much steeper the mountains are near the coast than in California. We stopped at the first tunnel (ChungDe)崇德隧道
and took in the view. Then we walked a short path down to the beach below. The waves were pretty impressive too! Some guy was there with a fishing pole, but we didn't ask what or if he caught anything. We would see more people with fishing poles along the coast in our travels.
Chengde trail near the tunnel along the coast, where we walked down to the beach
We enjoyed watching the waves, cliffs above, and the rocky coastline in the distance. It was drizzling and then the the rain drops a little bigger, so we headed up the path back to the car, but the rain never really came down on us. Deats thought it was so he ran up the path quickly, but I was not much for running up anything and didn't really get wet either.
We kept driving and stopped at another turn of the road which overlooked a cove with turquoise waters. It was really beautiful. We could see tunnels in the cliffs for the trains. The train was a new thing to this eastern part of Taiwan. I kept telling Deats that there used to have no safety concrete blocks between the road and the cliff below, just a few occasional boulders. We kept going through more tunnels, and at the 3rd major tunnel we got out of the car again to look around.
Deats at Chengde trailhead with the Chinshui cliffs behind him
Although there was a hiking trail, we decided not to spend more time so we would not miss the key attraction of the day. We should have turned around there, but we didn't know better. There was some road repair going on, and the road became one way, with some waiting. We ended up waiting to go north and then turned around near Hoping and had to wait again going south. Deats got out of the car (as everybody else did) and walked down the road to take more photos. Although I am usually the one taking the most photos when I travel, Deats is not far behind and he often went to difficult places across the highway, later down the waterfall to get his shots, and he has a good eye for framing the scene too, don't forget to check out his photos for the same part of this trip to see his perspective.
Taking photos of butterflies
Since I had taken an interest in portrait photography, I used Deats as a victim while we waited for the road to open. He is not an easy subject to photograph. Dodge said he is an English gentleman and she is certainly on the mark. Most photos of him in his blog showed a goofy or silly side of him, but the niceness and sweetness is more fleeting to capture in a photograph. After waiting for about half an hour, the road opened again and we drove directly to Taroko National Park.
Taiwan has a mountain range (the central moutain range) running north to south, with a peak YuShan over 3000m not too far from here. The mountains here were made with marbles and granite. When the LiWu river cut through the mountains to the Pacific on her eastward journey, a very deep gorge was formed.
view of the Pacific from the highway
About 50 or more years ago, the veterans in Taiwan under the direction of the highway bureau labored by hand and dynamite to make the SuHua coastal highway, as well as the East West Cross Island Highway, to connect the east coast of Taiwan to the more accessible and populated west side. In the process, they discovered the fantastic scenery in the Taroko area and this has been an attraction and travel destination for people in Taiwan, and later Japan. Supposedly they haven't done a good enough job telling the rest of the world about it because Deats had not heard about it before he came to Taiwan and we didn't see that many western tourists while there. But having seen some of the world's most beautiful places, we concluded this is one of the most beautiful and very unique too.
view of a cove with turquoise waters and the cliff
It's hard to get the scale of the gorge in small photos to show the full impact you feel in person, so look for the road cut into the cliff and use your imagination to join us on this part of the journey.
First stop was the Taroko forever green pavillion, where we could only admire from a distance because it was under renovation. But the best view of it and its waterfalls was from a distance. We had some light drizzle from time to time but the weather and not being a weekend probably helped to keep the place free from crowds.
Spectacular scenery just kept unfolding as we went on west along the highway along the river and gorge. The famous scenic points of Swallows Cliff, Nine Turns Cave were along the old highway which have been turned into a walking only road.
You can see the tunnel in the distance
Another tunnel without view had been cut for cars not sightseeing. So it was actually better than many years ago where you had to pull over the highway and did not have a lot of space or safety when you viewed these scenic locations. Deats was very impressed by the scenery and I was also seeing it again for the first time in 15 years.
We went to Tienshiang 天祥, a location where lodging was possible for people wanting to explore this area more. We were interested in one of the nature trails near it. This one called Baiyang白楊瀑
布, just outside of town. There was a parking lot at the trail head, with space for buses, but the lot was empty when we got there. Then we headed for the trailhead. This was certainly the first I had been to and maybe the only trail in the world which started in a tunnel.
looking north, more tunnels and cliffs
Luckily I always had a small led flashlight with me, as the tunnel was pretty long. Basically we went under a mountain and emerged on the other side, then we walked along a path along a river (not sure if it's LiWu river) for about 2km. The sound of water got real loud when we went through another shorter tunnel and emerged to find a waterfall making that huge sound, but in the distance we could see where the water came from, there was a waterfall up real high, and then another one half way up the mountain. Very beautiful indeed. But that's not all. Nearby is a cave called Water Curtain Cave 水濂洞, we went over there and were about to walk in when some people came out. They took a look at us and said we needed to take off our shoes, roll up our pants legs, and cover ourselves in a raincoat! Hmm, although by chance I had a raincoat I got in Hualien yesterday, Deats had only his semi-waterproof jacket.
at the beach of Chengde trail looking north
One of the guys handed his raincoat to him and said he can use it because they were done with it. Very nice of them! We re-prepared ourselves and went into the cave, first walking over some rocks half emerged in water, I had my flashlilght and walked in carefully. This was not something I had expected at all. It was a waterfall inside the cave, water was coming through the roof of the cave in a curtain, and we had to walk along the edge carefully so as not to falll in or get drenched. I did not get my camera out, but Deats managed to take a few shots, but they don't truly show the experience. Come prepared and it is truly a special place. If not prepared, you will be wet but still take home great memories.
It was getting dark and we headed back as quickly as possible, giving the raincoat to some other fella who was completely clueless as to what is to be expected as we left.
at the beach of Chengde trail looking south
By the time we got back to Hualien, it was dark. We returned the rental car (after making a wrong turn into downtown and then backtracking) and they gave us a ride back to a restaurant near my hotel.
We had a dinner that included my favorite fish - milkfish, and green scallion fried beef and a few other dishes. The milkfish is a strange fish at least in terms of its bones. It's supposed to be the national fish of the Philippines but Deats didn't have it while he was there.
Thus concluded our second full day in Hualien, lots of great sights to be sure.