Taroko National Park
Yesterday was a travel day where I took multiple trains to get from kaohsiung to Hualien, on the east coast of Taiwan.
Taroko National Park, Xiulin, Taiwan
With the 08:40 bus as my target (next one was at 10:50), I woke up early and headed to the nearby 7-eleven to get lunch for today's trip. Breakfast was provided by the hotel in the shape of a Club Sandwich with fries, not a bad start to the day.
Even though the advertised time was 08:40, I barely managed to get on the bus when I arrived at the train station at 08:25. This proved to be a foreshadowing about bus punctuality in the Taroko National Park.
The first stop for me was the Lushui Heliu Service Center at the back of the park (at least, the back of where the public buses go). Unfortunately due to a Rock slide, the first planned trail of the day was cut in half, meaning I had to back-track to the service center, instead of making it to the next bus stop.
The trail was pretty short (about a Kilometer), but the tunnel was a nice touch. Luckily all phones have flashlights these days, you'll need it.
Now the bus shenanigans began, there are multiple companies providing bus routes through the park. The two you should know about are the bus route from Hualien station (route 1133A) and the route from xincheng station (route 203). Both are provided by different companies and you can buy day passes for both of them, but those day passes are only valid on either one, or the other route/company.
A better way is to get an Easy Card (public transport card) and top it up with ~200-400 NT$, you can use the card on both routes, doubling the amount of busses you can take in the park, and that's needed as they both run about ounce an hour-ish, if you're lucky.
The posted times on the boards at the bus stops are mere suggestions and I had to wait about 20 minutes after the advertised times before a bus showed up. The delay was pretty consistent throughout the day, which meant I could better calculate when the bus would arrive.
Anyway, next stop was the Tunnel of Nine Turns. With a new tunnel in place, the old road was converted to a trail along the gorge.
With the Corona Virus going on, there weren't a lot of tourists in the park, at one point I was the only one at this stop.
Back at the starting point it was waiting time again, this time only 20 minutes before I could take a bus to the next stop, the *Swallow Grotto Yanzikou Trail *. Same as with the 9-turn tunnel, this was the former road (well technically it's still connected and you could use it, but there's a speed limit and the tunnel is way faster).
There were signs posted that you should wear a helmet (which you could rent for free nearby) and some people wore them, which seemed silly, untill you take a better look at the surroundings...
The last stop of the day was the Changchun Shrine, which is the image you usually see when you google "Taroko Gorge". It's a memorial shrine for veterans and due to several landslides, this is version 3.
The problem is, that after this stop, the next one is the park entrance, and there's a trail I wanted to take before that. The road on this side is one-way, which meant I had to walk to the trail head, across bridges and through tunnels. Luckily traffic was very light.
The trail is called Shakadang Trail and takes you along the bottom of the gorge. You start by descending from a bridge across the river and following along the banks, carved out from the rock.
One side is river and the other "jungle"
About a third of the way there's a small market with a man roasting sausages. If he's there, buy a sausage, they are delicious!
Once back at the trail head, you can either go up the bridge and through the tunnel back to the park entrance, or continue on to the Xiaozhuilu Trail, which also takes you back to the park entrance, but you'll get to cross a cool rope bridge and a tunnel.