Photo Locale of the Month – February 2016

News footage this past week has been rife with images of destruction following the 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck the Taiwanese port city of Tainan. At time of writing, 59 people have perished. Over 500 people have been injured, and another 76 are still reported missing.

Such natural disasters, tragic though they may be, are all too commonplace in “Ring of Fire” countries such as Taiwan. I visited the small island nation with a friend in 2010, and was floored by the spectacular topography. We spent several days in earthquake-carved Taroko National Park, and I am sharing of my park pictures with you today.

Taroko NP 45

The national park is named after its star attraction, Taroko Gorge. The gorge was formed after ocean sediment settled inland and was compressed into limestone over several hundred millennia. Another hundred million years of plate tectonics polished the limestone into marble, over which flows the Leewoo Ho River.

Meiyuan-Jhucun Trail 24

The river, which aided earthquakes in carving the gorge, is seen in the above pic from a footbridge on the Meiyuan-Jhucun Trail, one of several dozen hiking trails.

Lushui-Holiu Trail 13

Frequent storms and tremors wreak havoc on the park trails, which are in various states of disrepair. The Lushui-Holiu Trail, which passes through a mountainside as seen in the image above, seems promising until it ends abruptly at a rockfall.

Taroko NP 47

A paved, two-lane road winds through the breadth of the park, connecting it with both east and west Taiwan. The road passes through countless tunnels. The tunnel seen above must surely be one of the longer ones along the way.

Taroko NP 59

This tunnel hugs the mountainside, and is reinforced to protect drivers from falling rocks.

Leader Village Taroko 14

Leader Village, in the center of the park, is a “naturalistic” lodge run by descendants of the indigenous Truku Tribe. In their language, “Taroko” means “human being.”

Leader Village Taroko 24

This Taroko demonstrates in a nightly cultural show how to make music from spun silk.

Leader Village Taroko 35

A nature trail runs behind the lodge. A sign warned hikers to “beware venomous snake,” (with no “s” at the end) so I was relieved to only encounter this docile snail.

Hualien 74

If you were wondering, most visitors access Taroko National Park via the coastal city of Hualien, pictured above as a hub of neon and traffic. Hualien is just two hours by train from Taipei, and the park entrance itself is less than one hour from Hualien.

Lotus Pond Trail 10

The Lotus Pond Trail at leads to a hidden pond high in the mountains. Access to the pond is on the other side of this Indiana Jones-esque footbridge, which spans Taroko Gorge. Would you cross it?

Lotus Pond Trail 54

It rained for much of the time we were there. Our Lotus Pond Trail hike was a wet, muddy affair.

Lotus Pond Trail 80

Ropes were tied around tree trunks at steeper points along the trail.

Tienhsiang 3

We never found the pond itself (thick fog made visibility difficult once we reached the trail’s high point), but we saw these water-logged lotus flowers later that same afternoon.

Lotus Pond Trail 63

We also saw – for the briefest of moments – monkeys scampering in the trees…and lots of spiders. A tighter zoom would have brought out the details of this spider’s markings, but I focused instead on the dew glistening off the web.

Tienhsiang 58

The rain cleared on our last morning in the park. We headed back to the travelers’s village of Tienhsiang, two-thirds of the way along the park road, to catch our bus back to Hualien. Tienhsiang plays host to a hostel, a hotel, a few restaurants, and a Buddhist temple complex. From atop the temple’s Heaven Summit Pagoda, pilgrims and gringo bloggers are treated to this heavenly view. A fitting conclusion to our visit to Taroko National Park.

Tienhsiang 63 - Earth Store Buddha

I dedicate this blog entry to the victims of the 2016 Tainan earthquake. You can help by donating directly to the Taiwanese chapter of the International Red Cross.

All pictures were taken with a Nikon DSLR camera. All images are the property of GringoPotpourri unless credited otherwise, and should be used with permission only.

Author: gringopotpourri

Gringo - aka Scott - was born outside of Chicago and has lived most of his life in or around big cities. He spent two years of his adult life in Mexico City (talk about big cities!) and fell in love with Mexican food and culture all while weathering the challenges of life in a city with over 20 million people. Life's unpredictable journey has since brought him to Tennessee, where he is close to family and to the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Scott also enjoys movies, hiking, top ten lists, and travel in general.

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