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Taiwan Road Trip 2024 Part 3(b)

Route: Xincheng - Hualien

semi-overcast 25 °C

27 March - 30 March 2024

Following breakfast there was some laundry to be attended to. Then we headed back into the mountains to do a bit of hiking. As with the Central Mountain Range, accessibility to the Coastal Range is limited due to the terrain. However, a section close to the coast has been designated the Taroko National Park and it is here that locals and tourist can experience the natural wonders on offer.
We chose our villa for its close proximity to the park, this meant that within 20 minutes we were at our first hike. Known as the Swallow Grotto Trail this old bit of roadway follows the route of the Liwu River. It's an easy but dramatic walk next to the steep sided river gorge. Smooth marble rock formed much of the gorge whilst holes in the face allowed surface water to escape in the wet season. Although it was busy with other tourists, this didn’t detract from its splendour.

Swallow Grotto Trail

Swallow Grotto Trail

Inside the Swallow Grotto Trail

Inside the Swallow Grotto Trail

mountain river

mountain river

Marble canyon in Taroko NP

Marble canyon in Taroko NP

Further up the mountain road was our next stop. The Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail follows a stretch of the original mountain road as it cut through the narrowest part of the Taroko Gorge. Plagued by rock falls over the years, causing frequent closures, the trail is now completely covered. A concrete covered walkway now provides easy access to this incredible natural wonder.

Plunging canyon

Plunging canyon

You can really see the marble rock in the canyon below

You can really see the marble rock in the canyon below

Nice stone but we can't remember what it says.

Nice stone but we can't remember what it says.

Waterfall coming out of rock

Waterfall coming out of rock

View over the Tunnel of 9 Turns

View over the Tunnel of 9 Turns

A couple of more stops on our way out of the mountains completed an enjoyable day of spectacular mountain scenery. Whetting our appetite for a future visit in two days time.

Taroko National Park is one of the most popular tourist destination in Tawain and prime photo stop

Taroko National Park is one of the most popular tourist destination in Tawain and prime photo stop

Right on the very edge of the Taroko National Park the mountain cliffs descend steeply straight into the ocean. Transportation around this obstacle has been made possible by several long tunnels through the mountain catering for both road and rail.
This spectacular coastline and it's associated feats of engineering are what we went to see today. The best views of what are known as the Qingshui Cliffs are from various vantage points along a 22km stretch of road between Chongde and Herren. We left early in the morning to avoid the crowds and the worst of the traffic and were rewarded with some amazing views of the cliffs, the mountains behind and the network of tunnels.

Coastal Road on the edge of the Taroko NP

Coastal Road on the edge of the Taroko NP

Qingshui Cliff

Qingshui Cliff

Qingshui Cliff

Qingshui Cliff

Qingshui Cliff

Qingshui Cliff

A bit of travel admin filled the middle of the day and was followed by a beach side stroll. No more than a five minute walk from our villa was the ocean. So what better way to end the day than with a walk along the promenade. Although not the most attractive beach stroll, due to the beach Tetrapods (see below), we got the sea air and exercise.

When we looked out the window on our last day in Xincheng it was very overcast with a light drizzle in the air. The clouds out to sea were black and the mountains were barely visible. Our plan was to do a couple more hikes in the Taroko National Park, but the weather was threatening to put pay that. However, the weather forecast for the park looked better, so we stuck to the plan. We were so pleased we did. After about 20 minutes of driving and at an altitude over 500 metres, the sky was clear and the sun was shining.
Our first hike was the Baiyang Waterfall Trail. The trailhead is at the entrance to a long dark tunnel, our flashlight made negotiating that much easier. At the other end of the tunnel you emerge into a different world than the one you left. Not a mountain road in sight, just a fast flowing river cutting its way through a wooded gorge. Bird song filled the air and butterflies cloaked the path side bushes. At this point we had the trail pretty much to ourselves, as it was a bit early for the tour groups.

Entrance to the first tunnel on the Baiyang Trail

Entrance to the first tunnel on the Baiyang Trail

Inside the entrance tunnel of the Baiyang trail

Inside the entrance tunnel of the Baiyang trail

Butterfly on the Baiyang Trail

Butterfly on the Baiyang Trail

A well maintain path and several other tunnels guided us deeper into the forest. As we progressed the scenery became more dramatic, the rivers appeared to flow faster and the mountain slopes steeper. As with many trails in the forest the end of this one is quite abrupt due to landslide damage. Luckily though, at that point a spectacular natural wonder created a grand finale. The last tunnel was part river part path with a lot of water dripping from the ceiling. That dripping turned into a torrent at the end of the tunnel. Past earthquakes had opened cracks in the tunnels roof allowing water to pour in from the aquifers in the mountain rock above.

Tunnel instruction in Taiwanese

Tunnel instruction in Taiwanese

The English translation is quite short, using translation app, it is a bit more detailed

The English translation is quite short, using translation app, it is a bit more detailed

Rock fall warning,

Rock fall warning,

Taiwan Part 3 120 - 1

Taiwan Part 3 120 - 1

Inside the last tunnel

Inside the last tunnel

Baiyang waterfall, the end of the trail

Baiyang waterfall, the end of the trail

Baiyang Trail

Baiyang Trail

At this point we had to turn back and retrace our steps. Admiring the beautiful scenery, now from a different angle.
A short drive back down the mountain road got us to our second hike. Fortunately still at an altitude that retained the nice weather. The Lushui Trail winds into the forest then hugs the cliff edge until it reaches the village of Heliu. Or that is what it should do. A notice at the trailhead informed us that the cliff section was closed due to, you guessed it, a landslide. This didn’t deter us, we would just go as far along the trail as allowed.
The path weaved its way into the forest passing old specimens of the valuable Camphor Tree (see below). As with the previous hike, butterflies were everywhere together with a fair few lizards. Around the kilometre mark red tape stopped us progressing further and we turned back. A short but enjoyable walk all the same.

Camphor tree

Camphor tree

Lizard on Lushui trail

Lizard on Lushui trail

One more short hike completed our day’s activities. We had seen the Changchun Shrine from the road a couple of days before. Today we stopped and walked the trail to get a better look. A tunnelled pathway follows the cliff edge before emerging at small colourful shrine and waterfall.

Changchun Shrine or Eternal Spring Shrine, a memorial to Taroko NP

Changchun Shrine or Eternal Spring Shrine, a memorial to Taroko NP

Trail to the Shrine

Trail to the Shrine

Monastery

Monastery

It hardly seems believable but this was the last day of our Taiwan road trip. We had to return the car in the late afternoon but had time to do something until then. Our choice was a visit to Liyu Lake, not far outside the town Hualien. Nestled at the foot of the Coastal Mountain Range and surrounded by forest its a picturesque spot. From the car park we started our walk in a clockwise direction around the lake. The side closest to the town caters for all the lake activities with hundreds of pedalo lined up for hire. We declined the offer to take one out and continued on our way.

Pedalos on Lake Liyu

Pedalos on Lake Liyu

Today was hot and humid so it was a bit of a relief to feel the breeze across the water and to reach the more shaded east shore. Away from the town it was quieter and the foliage was full of butterflies, I am sure I counted at least 10 different species. Some as big as your hand and others not much bigger than a thumb nail.

Liyu Lake Scenic Recreation area

Liyu Lake Scenic Recreation area

The walk was around 5km and was perfect timing for the rest of the days commitments. We drove back to Hualien, filled the car with petrol, bought our train tickets for the following day, checked in at the hotel and dropped the car off at the rental office. The day was completed with a Taiwanese Hotpot dinner in a near by restaurant.

Taiwanese speciality: Hotpot

Taiwanese speciality: Hotpot

Little did we know at the time, but had we arrived in Hualien a few days later than planned all of the above would not have been possible. Whilst we were back in Taipei a massive earthquake hit Hualien and the surrounding area causing structural damage and loss of life. More of that in the Taipei Blog that will follow.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Beach Tetrapods
The east coast of Taiwan gets some pretty big waves. Hence its attraction for surfers. During the typhoon season these waves can get dangerously big, causing a threat to life and property.
To provide some protection, huge concrete Tetrapods have been placed along the shoreline. Each Tetrapod has three legs for stability, range in height from one to three meters and placed in clusters along the shoreline. The larger coastal towns of Hualien and Taitung have the most.
This action has created controversy amongst locals, who say they bloke access to the sea, spoil the beauty and cause environmental damage.

Tetrapods

Tetrapods

More tetrapods

More tetrapods



Camphor Trees
Camphor has been produced as a forest product for centuries. By the early 19th century most camphor tree reserves had been depleted with the remaining large stands in Japan and Taiwan, with Taiwanese production greatly exceeding Japanese. Camphor was one of the primary resources extracted by Taiwan's colonial powers as well as one of the most lucrative. First the Chinese and then the Japanese established monopolies on Taiwanese camphor. In 1868, a British naval force sailed into Anping harbour and the local British representative demanded the end of the Chinese camphor monopoly. After the local imperial representative refused, the British bombarded the town and took the harbour. The "camphor regulations" negotiated between the two sides subsequently saw a brief end to the camphor monopoly.
Camphor has many medicinal benefits. Best known today for its balms and vapours used to relieve the pain of headaches and migraine.

Camphor tree

Camphor tree

Posted by MAd4travel 12:06 Archived in Taiwan

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