Taroko Gorge, Hualien

Wake up in our bunks at Wow and get moving. Slightly late rise on account of the Godfathers and absinthe. We’re getting packed up and I notice that my belt is on the bed but the jean shorts that the belt was on are no longer there. “Dude, are you stealing my pants?”, “Wha??”, “Where are the shorts that were attached to this belt?”, “Oh maybe I packed them”. Yep. Jamie stole my pants. Maybe we’re more hungover than I thought.

Queenie waking up in her bunk cave

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Find a breakfast joint down the street and scarf some more nummy danbing. I was able to order my coffee warm here. I’ve never seen that before, it just came out kinda warm, not scalding hot. It was great, I always wait until it gets to that temp anyways.

Finish up and back to Wow to rent some scooters from the scooter dudes out front. Worst. Teeth. Ever. One guy. Holymoly. Fwaang fwang fwaaang. What is going on there? Anyways, super nice dude, rents us some scooters. I don’t have my passport on me so I just make up some alphanumeric number. Decide to do the same thing with the phone number. I might as well have put my name down as Cobra, these forms are just formality.

These scooters have more gusto than our pathetic pandas we had the previous day. So we hop on and blast off in the exact wrong direction for a while and get lost immediately. Queenie asks a dude and gets us spinned the right way and we’re scootin to Taroko Gorge. It’s about 30 minutes away.

Queenie looks at a map!

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We stop at the tourist info center to get a map and some info. Our first stop is Shakadang trail. Shakadang, get it on, Shakadang! The scenery in Taroko Gorge is instantly amazing. High forested walls and a river running far below. The road we’re scootin on is a winding path in and out of tunnels and rock archways hewn from the thick stone walls. Views down into the serpentine gorge are magnificent. Scooters are definitely the way to go here, we’re weaving around slower moving cars pussyfooting it due to the curves and heights. I’m kicking myself for not bringing the GoPro on this trip now. Would have been ideal here.

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We come to a tunnel with a construction dude in front of it. Tha Queebs translates that it’ll be a 10 minute wait. We use that time to scoot up a side road to a place called Bullowan. Really fun drive, bramp braaamping up switchbacks, climbing further above the gorge. The foliage gets a little mossy and rain foresty, air gets moist and the temperature drops dramatically. We get to the top, I think there’s a hotel up there, and the view back down from where we came is great. Not much else to do up there so we bramp it back down the switchbacks. These scooters are fun.

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We follow the Swallow path along the ridge of the gorge, in and out of tunnels, across bridges, taking pics here and there (that probably aren’t doing any justice to how gorgeous the place is. (No pun intended)).

There’s a cool bridge, it may be called frog bridge, with a rock formation under/beside it that looks like a frog. They put a little temple at the top of it and it looks like the frog is wearing a crown. A giant frog prince under a bridge? Kaaa-snaaaaaap!

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After some sweet scootin we come to the Lushui Heliu trail. This is a cool hike up through the woods, along a narrow ridge on the edge of a cliff, through a cave (get that flashlight app open), across some bridges, and down to a mountaineering institute? It takes about 2 hours and is well worth doing.

Along the trail we passed a bunch of girls wearing bright white hard hats that looked hilarious. They were also in high heels. Apparently this is pretty common for girls to get gussied up for ‘hikes’ like this and force their boyfriends to take glamour pic after glamour pic. We saw a lot of this in the Eluanbi park too. I will say that some of the poses are quite creative. I think we all learned a few new moves in the last couple of days.

We peek inside the mountaineering building. Doesn’t seem to be anyone in there. Can we go in? Then a security guard comes around the corner and greets us with a giant, kinda strange smile. He invites us to come upstairs. When we come up the stairs we are greeted by something else, which may have explained the weird smile. The smell was vile and looming in the stairwell. Thanks buddy, real funny. There are a bunch of geological facts and displays inside a large open room. It’s kind of neat but I can’t read a thing because my eyes are burning and it’s also all in Chinese. Just do a lap and snap snappy snap.

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We walk back along the road instead of doing the trail in reverse direction. It ends up being way way shorter and we get back to the bikes in no time. The trail was kind of the last of the notable things to see on our map from the info center but we scoot up the gorge a little ways further just to check things out and climb up to a better vantage point. We pass by a cool farm, a bridge, some temples, and there’s an elementary school up here?

Further up up up we find a gazebo looking out over a vast expanse. There are a number of steep steep steps down so we take some time to investigate. These steps are crazy steep and lead down under a wooden arch and grassy plateau. Then more crazy steps. We go down a little ways. Grab a pic. Have an epic pee. Decide to go back up. Wow. Buns.of.steel.com.

We meet a guy under the arch on the way back up. He asks if we felt the earthquake. None of us did. We must have been scootin. Yeah, there was a 4.0 earthquake and this dude was going to check if anything was damaged at the temple down below. It’s funny, Jamie was just talking about how crazy it would be to be here during an earthquake, in one of those long tunnels or something. It would be scary. We didn’t even notice.

It’s on the cusp of dark o’clock so we figure it’s best to head back to Hualien. We bramp bramp it back through all of the scenery, tunnels, and bridges, and come to a line of vehicles waiting on construction through a tunnel. We weave our scooters up to the front where all the other scooters are congregating ahead of the line of cars and trucks. We wait and wait. It starts to drizzle a bit (fo shizzle). The orange clad construction lady removes the pylon and all the scooters rip off together in a chaotically cute scooter mob. 20 scooters scampering through the tunnel jockeying for some non-existent position, this was mega fun. And funny. We come to some sort of traffic jam with a narrow gap between a large dump truck and a bus with assorted cars on both sides in a line. 20 scooters slip through the narrow space left between the two lines of vehicles, fwip fwip fwip, I pull my knees in and almost lose balance and plaster my face against the dump truck, bramp ba-bramp bramp to correct, and emerge from the other side giggling to myself.

The drizzle threatens to commit to a full shower as we’re getting back to the beginning of the gorge again. We head out a slightly different way and I’m glad we did because we were able to catch a glimpse of an absolutely majestic temple sitting on the cliff side amongst some waterfalls. There was an arching white bridge over one of the falls and the whole scene seemed like something from a fairytale.

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We scoot through the drizzle back to Hualien and drop the scooters off. We’ve all got helmet hair and scooter face. We mosey around looking for a restaurant. One that’s completely empty tells us that they’re totally booked. Weird. Queenie gets a call about a car loan on our unlocked phone. “No Thank-you”.  Weird. We end up back across the street from Wow at some little street-side food shop. Grab a table on the sidewalk under an overhang and peruse the menu while the rain falls in the streets. Looks like we can crank up the anus tally here, there’s crispy asshole on the menu!

We order up a round of large Taiwan beers while we wait for the asshole. Jamie grabs the opener and goes for the first big green bottle. The table is a tad slippery though and as he goes to open the bottle it slides out from under him and smashes on the sidewalk at his feet. Beer and glass everywhere. People passing by are skipping out of the way trying to avoid the mess and still stay out of the rain. The wait staff are all looking at us puzzled. Queenie and I are laughing at Jamie and apologizing to everyone. They bring out a mop and get most of it, say they’ll get the rest later. The rain picks up and mingles with the beer on the sidewalk. It’s washed away in no time.

The three dishes we ordered show up with a fresh beer replacement. The item on the menu listed as crispy asshole turns out to be pork throat instead. It does look like asshole, but it’s a little different. Comes in a tangy pickled mustard kind of sauce and has a much different texture than the anus we’ve been getting. Tighter, crisper, not as chewy, hard to describe the difference… Imagine you’re chewing on someone’s throat. Now imagine you’re chewing on someone’s asshole. Queenie and I liked it a lot but again, Drisdelle didn’t like the texture. The taste was great.

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We pay up, thank the crew, and grab our stuff from the hostel lobby. Book it through the rain down the street to the train station. We’re heading to the capital for a few days. Next stop, Taipei!

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