Day 2 – Exploring Hualien City and Taroko Gorge

How to describe today! It was nothing short of huge – massively huge! But I have to start with breaky!

As I have already said, language both written and spoken has been extremely confronting, an exciting adventure and an eye-opener. Trying to access a cup of coffee from the coffee machine was my first challenge!

Fortunately the people I have come across have been extremely helpful – even when they cannot understand me because I do not realise how fast I speak! That’s when they call on someone else and in this case it was the man’s daughter. She showed me and then I was set.

Next my challenge was to find something to eat – and yes I recognised the egg and rice but had no idea about the rest and took a bit of most things.

Actually breakfast was a winner all round – good coffee and tasty food. However, as I was eating – with chopsticks – I suddenly realised they was upside down. How embarrassing! But what was even funnier was that the people who had helped me had noticed but had very politely not said anything or made fun of me – but once they realised I knew we all started smiling and laughing.

After breakfast I was off to explore Toroko Gorge. Not having Gene with me I decided to use the shuttle bus where I could puchase a day pass and get on and off where I wanted. Mind you, it would have been awesome on a scooter – next time!

As I walked out from my hotel – for the first time in daylight – I saw the backdrop of the mountains behind Hualien and it’s train station. It really is breathtaking!

As I boarded the bus, I started to think about where I was going and what I wanted to do. After a while I thought I would go all the way to the last stop and work my way back. What a good choice that turned out to be – but I get ahead of myself.

The initial journey was along the coast line and we did have the option to get off and explore the beach. The scenery is magnificent and continually blows me away – so many ‘wow’ moments. I’ve tried to capture as much as I could along the way. This part of the world is like a juxtaposition of difference – mountains, the ocean, flat land like home in Shepparton right on the edge of hills, mountains and cliffs. Civilization, cropping and agriculture edged by green jungles-like forests where everything grows wild.

The trip through Taroko National Park is amazing. It is such an incredible place and it was everything I imagined it to be.

Not far from the top, the traffic came to a stand still. Two men we in a crane doing something to the mountain. I imagine they were securing loose rocks but who would know.

It was here that I made a new friend. As I leaned over the rails looking around me, I feel a tap on my arm and turn to see a young six year old boy smiling at me saying, “Hello Grandma”!

Later I found out that this boy’s name was Aaron and after initially going off to do our own thing, we caught up and spent the rest of the afternoon together. A beautiful family – and yes I was Grandma for the day!

One of the fabulous things about heading straight for Tianxiang was that when we arrived there were very few people. After we left the bus I went off on my own and came across the Visitors Centre. It was amazing inside and you could spend ages in there learning all about the Taroko National Park. I spoke directly with the lady there and we ended up enjoying a great conversation. She also gave me some great tips on where to go and what to see – including great tips on what things cost. It was also here that I found out that it is good to be mindful of which door you enter for the toilet. The first is obvious – ladies and gents, but then you need to look for the ‘seated’ toilet. And no I did not try squatting!

The first place I visited was a Christian Church. I only did this because the lady said it was a must-see. The church itself was beautiful and very peaceful but it was also about the walk.

After that I headed back to the 7-11 to get some water and then headed over to the Buddhist temple, tower and statue that stood out from a distance.

Crossing the bridge I took more photos of the gorge. As you will see, in one stream the water is very grey while in the second stream the water is crystal clear. Nature is so magnificent.

As I approached the temple we had to cross another bridge, maked with lotus flowers and walk through a spectacular gateway. This was then followed by a series of steps. Here I had to choose which path to take – the very steep yet more direct route or the steep and windy path. Just as I was deciding a man walking down the very steep stairs pointed towards the windy stairs. So that became my choice. Again a glorious way to explore a new environment.

At the top I came to the restaurant that was suggested to me by the lady in the visitors centre. Faced with a minimal selection of food, I asked the lady serving, which was here favorite and she said she preferred the tomato soup noodles so again tgat became my choice and I decided to try some icy-cold plum tea. It was absolutely delicious!

After that I headed up to the temple and then back via the giant statue.

By this time I was exhausted, hot and sweaty. The weather was sunny, balmy and hot although we could see clouds that were covering the mountain tops. It was here that I caught up with Aaron and his parents and we walked together back to the bus.

From here we went to Yanzikou – Swallows Grotto. It was slower going back, because there was more traffic coming up and way more tourist buses. Needless to say when we got off at Yanzikou there were people everywhere and they were wearing helmets. With nowhere to get a helmet, we walked anyway. And we walked withthe traffic. I have never experienced anything like it.

I would have loved to walk the entire way but we were hot and tired and by this stage I was feeling peopled-out. Throughout the walk Aaron was either holding my arm or hand or very close by. I like to think I gave his parents a bit of time together – at least a snippet here and there.

The journey home in the bus was funny – sitting with Aaron singing ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round’ in Mandarin, English and animal speak – yes as cats, dogs, ducks, bears, cows and pigs. To be honest I’m not sure who enjoyed themselves more – I so loved and treasured my time with Aaron and his parents.

After a bit of a nap and freshen up, out I went again. This time it was to the night markets known as Dongdamen. The place was humming and I tried the first thing I saw being cooked – because it looked interesting and different. But I didn’t enjoy them so settled for some passionfruit sorbet.

It then started raining and so I pulled my umbrella out and kept walking. I saw all types of food, lots of carnival stalls and the occasional place where you could purchse something. As I walked I came across a school kids orchestra, saw some Taiwanese dancing and came across a section where they sold jade and rhodonite – I fell in love with the rose rhodonite.

After that, I walked down some busy streets. All up I walked for about four hours.

When I arrived back at the hotel, I grabbed some ice-cream and sat up in bed to find that LOTR Retun of the King was on!

Told you it was a massive day!

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