Exploring Taroko Gorge


taroko gorge

It was 2am on my first night in Hualien when I was awoken by a loud thud followed by muttered cursing and then silence again. Wondering if I was about to be killed, I stared into the darkness, straining my ears, listening for more noises.

Within minutes I could hear a faint whimpering and what sounded like a person dragging themselves along the floor.

I gasped in horror as the quivering silhouette pulled himself up and struggled to switch on the light. As the room was illuminated, his breath caught in his throat and he stood still for a moment, noticing the blood pooling around his feet.

Another victim of Taroko Gorge National Park.

During my brief stay in Hualien, I witnessed the same scenario many times over. When given the option between exploring the gorge by scooter or by bus, half of people would go for the scooter and return that evening groaning and covered in scrapes. Probably because they’d never ridden one before.

Although I was told by everyone I spoke to that I had to rent a scooter, I eventually decided against it as I didn’t want to die.

mountains at taroko gorge taiwan

I woke up at 6am and walked past the hardcore backpackers having fun and whizzing towards the gorge on their scooters and climbed aboard the bus where the average age of the passengers was at least 50.

Yeah, I know how to have fun, too…

With a list of something like 20 different trails to choose from, I decided to start with the Shakadang Trail for no other reason than its amazing name.

Jumping off the bus excitedly I was greeted by a large sign warning of  black bears, poisonous snakes, spiders and killer bees.

Perfect.

The Shakadang trail is about 5 kilometers long and needless to say I spent the majority of my time whimpering quietly to myself whilst staring at the ground and refusing to look up through fear of having an enormous spider fall on my face. They were terrifying.

On the few occasions where I built up the courage to actually look at my surroundings, I was able to take photos of the stunning mountains and gorgeous blue-green river passing through the gorge.

stream and hike at taroko gorge

walkway at taroko gorge hike

scenery at taroko gorge taiwan

river at taroko gorge hike

turquoise water and waterfall taroko gorge

boulders at taroko gorge hualien

After completing the Shakadang trail I was exhausted and, despite wanting to immediately fall to the ground and nap, I learnt that the famous Eternal Spring Shine was just 1 kilometre away.

The shrine is built into the side of a mountain above a series of waterfalls and commemorates the 212 veterans who died while constructing the Highway through the park.

Somehow I managed to find the energy to carry on, and was glad I did.

eternal spring shrine at taroko gorge

I am sure that had I rented a scooter for the day I would have been able to see so much more of the park than I was able to on foot but after seeing just how many people ended up injured and bloody, I would never recommend doing so unless you are a competent scooter rider.

Despite bussing it with the old people, I still had an amazing day exploring the gorge and only wish that I could have stayed another few days so that I could have visited such delights as the bridge of the Kind Mother, the hill of Yu the Great and Swallow Grotto…

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36 Comments

  1. Mike
    November 22, 2011

    I enjoyed this post!!!

    • November 23, 2011

      Thanks! :)

  2. Jaime
    November 22, 2011

    Okay wait… wow what amazing photos… this place looks amazing. Where is this at? What happened to the person who came in at 2am in blood? What is happening to the people that rent a scooter? How was the bus ride?

    Sorry for all the questions just curious!

    • November 23, 2011

      Thanks Jaime :) It’s in Taiwan. The person was fine – got his foot bandaged up and was good to go.

      Well the gorge itself is full of crazy bends and whatnot, and the people who were renting scooters had never been on them before, so they kept falling off and crashing and getting hurt.

      The bus ride was a little bit boring as the gorge is a 30 minute drive away, but once we reached it then the scenery was amazing!

  3. Chris
    November 23, 2011

    Nice pics, but yeah what happened to the bloody person dragging themselves into your whatever??

    • November 23, 2011

      Hahaha, they were fine :)

  4. jade
    November 23, 2011

    Ah, that last photo is incredible!

    • November 23, 2011

      Thanks so much, Jade!

  5. Sunee
    November 23, 2011

    Wow, look at how blue that water is! Beautiful! Exploring on a scooter would have been fun, I imagine, but not at those odds. I would have taken the bus ride as well ;)

    • November 23, 2011

      The water was amazingly blue! High five for being safe!

  6. James Cook
    November 23, 2011

    Great photos that shrine looks awesome and so isolated!

    • November 23, 2011

      Thanks James! If I hadn’t been so tired I would have spent a lot more time at the shrine.

  7. Angie Orth of Angie Away
    November 23, 2011

    Sounds like a beautiful nightmare! Great post.

    • November 23, 2011

      That’s exactly what it was haha! Thanks Angie :)

  8. Phil
    November 23, 2011

    Beautiful photos. Sounds like you made the right call as far the scooter goes ;)

    • November 24, 2011

      Thanks Phil! Yeah, with my track record it definitely wouldn’t have ended well…

  9. Grace
    November 23, 2011

    Wow, great photos. Sounds like you had quite an adventure!

    • November 24, 2011

      Thanks so much, Grace!

  10. Vicky
    November 23, 2011

    Looks beautiful!!! So jealous!!!!!!!!

    • November 24, 2011

      As you should be ;)

  11. Nancie
    November 23, 2011

    A couple of years ago I spent Christmas at Taroka Gorge with friends and loved it.
    Your photos are lovely.

    • November 24, 2011

      Oh, that sounds like so much fun! :)

  12. Mina Sameh
    November 24, 2011

    Amazing shots and great post!
    the place looks like it came out of a fairy tale :) love it

  13. Cole @ FourJandals
    November 25, 2011

    Stunning photos! Looks amazing, how cold is the water?

  14. Stephanie - The Travel Chica
    November 25, 2011

    A gorgeous place and a good tip on how to get there safely.

  15. Ryan Nance
    November 26, 2011

    Taroko Gorge is one of my favorite places in the world. When it rains and all the walls turn into waterfalls!! the hotsprings… the DRIVE! so amazing.

    great post. thanks so much.

  16. December 12, 2011

    There is a total lack of tourists in your photos…. I’m appalled. Glad to see you’re still hanging out with the oldies. :D

  17. Theodora
    January 4, 2012

    I love the classic “blood down one entire side of the body” scooter injury. Whenever I’ve come off, I’ve been going so pitiably slowly as to merely graze an elbow.

  18. Vicky
    April 5, 2012

    Beautiful photos – thanks for the tip about staying away from the scooters unless you’re an experienced rider. Think I’ll stick to the bus too.

  19. Brendan
    April 7, 2012

    I was based in Taiwan for a year, and this was absoulutely my favourite place in Taiwa…and possibly the world. I however came from the other end of Tarako, riding down towards Hualien from Jade Mountain…best scooter ride ever!

  20. Andrew Darwitan
    September 20, 2013

    Taroko is indeed beautiful. I was supposed to do the trail with Tunnel of Nine Turns, but unfortunately I arrived there just when the typhoon is forecast to hit that area so we didn’t get to do anything. =( Shakadang Trail looks positively gorgeous though, might return to Hualien again someday.

    • October 7, 2013

      Ah, I’m sorry to hear that Andrew. There was an earthquake the day before I visit Taroko Gorge so I was little bit nervous while exploring! I hope you get to see it in the future :-)

  21. February 15, 2017

    You walked alone?

  22. July 27, 2018

    Wow, that’s frightening. I’m still surprised by how narrow some of the roads are and how fast people drove in Taroko Gorge. Glad you were safe and able share some awesome insight!

    • August 4, 2018

      Thanks! :-)