Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Taiwan Translated: Day 5 at Taroko Gorge

Taroko Gorge (Tailuge) is probably THE place to go if you ever visit Taiwan.  Taiwan at its wildest, the gorge is made of cliffs with marble deposits that tower overhead, and no descriptions and photos would do it justice!  (Plus, our lens is just not wide-angled enough!)  However, I'll just try to point out some points of interest along the way...

Soon upon entering Taroko National Park (of which the gorge is part of), you'll see the Eternal Spring Shrine (Changchunsi) of which you are bound to find a photo of in every Taiwan travel guide.  Near the shrine is a memorial constructed for the servicemen who died constructing the Central Cross-Island Highway (Zhongheng), which is the road that slices across the gorge.  The highway, of which many parts consist of tunnels boring through solid rock, was hacked out by hand.  This feat took 4 years to complete, and cost more than 450 men their lives.

The park is a good place to spend a whole day wandering around, as there are trails leading off to Taroko villages, as well as little pockets of scenery to explore, such as the Swallow's Grotto (Yanzikou). Though some of these were closed off, we managed to walk through the Tunnel of Nine Turns (Jiuqudong), which consists of tunnels slashing through marble cliffs.  The area is prone to rock falls, and we are reminded of this by our helmets, which we were made to wear to explore the area.

Further up is the Bridge of Motherly Devotion (Cimu Qiao), where we stop to take in the sights, and to scale the steps up a rock to a little pavilion that sits next to the bridge... There was so much more to explore, but we had to go, since it was time for lunch and baby J had to eat his food.

We stop for lunch and get our first proper glimpse of flowering plum trees.  Plum trees blossom in cold weather, and there was a whole stretch of them in full glory.  However, though walking through such loveliness should be a romantic moment, it was marred as the hubby was munching a Taiwanese sausage, which attracted two dogs who were following us rather hopefully!

This was followed by a windy drive up "Pear mountain" (Lishan).  While usually people flee to the mountains in the summer to escape the hot weather, the crazy J cube team had decided to book a night's stay in a farm (Fushoushan farm) at the top of the mountain in winter.  Needless to say, we were too frozen to take any decent photos, and spent the night in our room eating instant noodles (ah, but the Taiwanese beef noodle versions are really good!) and warming ourselves in front of the radiator!  We did buy persimmons and apples from the farm in the morning though!

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