I went to Taroko (太魯閣)! It was Amazing!! Here’s a whole bunch of drawings from my trip (click ’em to enlarge). We passed rice fields mirroring the sky and sporting fancy egrets while on the train along the East coast of Taiwan. Also a sketch of the comfortable old gentleman across the aisle. When the train sped along the ocean he nodded benevolently at Elisa’s and my excitement, stretched a languid arm towards the blue, and gave us a thumbs up.
Aaaah the colour of the water! And the lined rocks! And the high green mountains! And the perfect weather! And also signs telling us to watch out for rockfalls, poisonous snakes and killer bees, not to swim, and not to loiter or linger, because of landslides and more rockfalls. These frequent messages in combination with walking along narrow cliff-hugging paths, often roofed and dripped on by overhanging rocks really gave me a sense of how crushable I am. In what I am sure is a very laudable, traditional Chinese landscape painting sort of way, though!
There are many trails to choose from and this is a beauty, though you have to go back the same way you came. If you’re entirely on foot like we were, you have to brave the long tunnels on the road as well…
We stayed two nights at a hostel in Tianxiang, a tiny place far into the gorge, with a view of Xiangde Temple as seen above + a bright white statue of Guanyin. Some Taiwanese travellers staying there kindly lent us their tea equipment + bean snacks when they headed off to find food. We waited for them on one of the hostels rickety balconies as it grew very very dark, insects chirping and water rushing far below.
On our second morning we trekked along the scary road, climbed down a mass of wooden steps along the rockface plunging into the jungly gorge, caught a glimpse of monkeys, swung across a suspension bridge and found the Wenshan hot springs! It was so hot my feet thought they were being boiled, and slightly stinky, but brilliant! I couldn’t stay in long so did a messy watercolour instead amid steam and waterdrops falling into my paints. The three other bathers demanded to be given the painting as a souvenir, but I couldn’t tear it out so did a quick sketch for them on some paper Elisa supplied. They offered us a sweet potato bun thing in return [which was wonderful as breakfast does not exist in Tianxiang, except in the very pricy hotel I think]. Climbing over the edge of the natural marble hot spring pool you could wade a little in the cold green river and stand under the steaming hot spring waterfall.
Penned views. On the left: we took the Lushui(-Holiu) trail which sidles high up along the cliff with beautiful Liwu river-views. We had to brave a very dark narrow 30m tunnel with only Elisa’s phone-light to guide us. I cowered behind E, clinging onto her shirt blind as a mole until I figured out that if I just stopped being ridculous and straightened up I’d be able to see the end of the tunnel, the light of which was blocked by E’s shoulders. Har har. Anyway – there was an excellent suspension bridge at the end, by one of many waterfalls.
We went to the Eternal Spring Shrine on our last morning, and climbed high up the mountain above it. The righthand sketch shows a sliver of the view from the Bell Tower, whose bell is supposed to bring peace and comfort to the spirits of those who died while forging the pass through Taroko.