Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taiwan: Take Six: Tarako Gorge and Hualien

Sunrise at the campsite. The night before while we were having "dinner" and drinks at the campsite, we met by far the coolest person we met in Taiwan, perhaps in my life. This is Ronan and I with 'Alex' and his wife 'Sabrina'. Sabrina couldn't speak English, so unfortunately I couldn't get to know her as well, but she was a total sweetheart and kept us wined and dined while we hung out and talked with them. Alex was a late 50's year old English major that ran his own small business. When the job allows for it, they love to get out camping and hiking all around Taiwan. We spent hours just talking to this guy about everything, from family, to traveling, to politics. An incredibly interesting guy with a very unique outlook on life and a wealth of knowledge to share with us youngins. A real pleasure and honor to have met them.

Off to hike for the day around Tarako Gorge. Beautiful pagodas were scattered throughout the park.

If you have enough time in the park, you can get special permits to hike trails like this one, which started on a suspension bridge.
The Kelan River.
Panoramic of the Chimu Bridge and the winding Laosing River.
One of the more touristy spots because of the easy bus drop off and pick up points, The Tunnel of Nine Turns trail. Still very cool, though.

The Liufang Bridge.
A little river dipping point in the heat of the day.

The best site for butterfly spotting.
Can you see the three butterflies in this pic?
Probably not, because there are only two.

A beautiful shrine engulfed by the gorge.

The other big touristy 'scenic spot': Changchun Shrine (or, the Eternal Spring Shrine). It's dedicated to the 450 people who died making the Cross-Island Highway that runs along the gorge. I can only imagine.
That night we headed into the city of Hualien (pop 100,000) to rent a car and continue the rest of the journey on our own watches.
As we attempted to find somewhere to fill up with gas, we finally just asked on the people on a cycle next to us at a stoplight. He gave us precise directions, and asked where we were from. When we said America, he said, "Congratulations! Your new president is Mr. Obama!". And after days of blissfully not having Internet or media for that matter, that's how we found out how proud we really were to be Americans. There was a short celebration at the stop light in our rental car and much more celebrating to come.

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