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.
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.
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.
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.
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…