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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This tunnel hugs the mountainside, and is reinforced to protect drivers from falling rocks.
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.”
This Taroko demonstrates in a nightly cultural show how to make music from spun silk.
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.
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.
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?
It rained for much of the time we were there. Our Lotus Pond Trail hike was a wet, muddy affair.
Ropes were tied around tree trunks at steeper points along the trail.
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.
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.
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.
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.