Wednesday, April 13, 2011

week 29_Hiking Taroko Gorge!

Just to give you an idea of how large the National Park is, you can check out a map of the trails here:
We managed to see about 3 of them... Guess we will have to go back for more! :)
Notice the red engraved Chinese characters in the mountainside
Hiking in Taroko Gorge was - as hoped for - spectacular! :)
Aside from having asthma and being completely out of shape, the hike was exhilarating and fun! We chose to use the hotel's tour service, and were lucky to adventure in a small group of 3 + the guide. I had initially hoped to hire a private taxi with an English speaking guide/driver to tour us around for the day (I hear that's a good way to see the gorge), but they were already booked for the holiday weekend and in the end we were very satisfied with our small group from the hotel.

Many of the mountainside stairways seemed like they might actually lead to eternity, but - steep as they may be - all of the trails were well paved and lined with handrails. Taiwan has obviously spent countless hours and money working to provide a quality national park for recreation and tourism... and it shows!
Eternal Spring Shrine
This is one of the places that we hiked to. We were intrigued to learn from our guide that the two piles of rubble at the center and right of the photo were previous shrines, fallen to earthquakes over time, and just the one on the left remains.
Eternal Spring Shrine
In addition to the magnificent landscape, the Taroko Gorge also has a culture of it's own, including an aboriginal tribe that still inhabits the area today. Our second destination on the tour was to visit the Buluowan (aborigine) Recreation Center. Our guide told us about the ways of the aborigines and some of their traditions. It was interesting to hear about some of their rituals - for example facial tattoos signifying the coming of age and responsibility. During the Japanese rule of Taiwan during the mid 20th century, the facial tattoos were not permitted and the tradition ceases to exist today. However, they do still paint their faces in the traditional method for celebrations and festivals. 
Taroko Gorge, outside of Recreation Center & Service Station
I love how no matter where we went the mountains seemed to just disappear into the clouds. We stopped in the center to admire some of the handicrafts made by the aborigines and decided to buy a handmade table runner as a souvenir. A great quality, hand-woven keepsake - it was a good choice. But the more memorable moment was when we asked if we could photo the little woman weaving, and the tini-tiny aborigine woman looked at me, patted the ground next to her, and smiled... offering for me to sit with her for a photo while she worked. 
Me with the aborigine lady as she weaves,
We bought an identical table runner to the one she is making in the photo
And what would a little adventuring in an Asian country be without some curious English signage translations?
English sign says: "What a spectacle except for the dam"
Although the dam does still operate today, the sign had a good point - it is the only thing currently standing in the center of the gorge and it looks out of place. Funny sign though. Can anyone confirm if it actually says the same thing in Chinese? :)

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