Saturday, April 29, 2017

Last Day in Taiwan: Touring Taroko Gorge

Here are pictures from our last day in Taiwan! 

It was a very action packed day - unbeknownst to me, my family decided that we would be able to drive through the entire Taroko Gorge (with all of its stunning scenery stops and little hiking paths), hitting a peak of just over 3,200 km (that's 10,498 feet!), often on tiny, very vertiginous, single-lane paths, and still get back to Taichung in time to check in to our hotel and meet for a 6:30 pm dinner. 

I wonder from where I get my inability to manage time!  Kidding, kidding.  We actually managed to do everything, so it worked out great.

The scenery on this trip was stunning, and Michael and I kept bemoaning that we should have stretched this part of the trip out over two days.  We are already thinking that we should make our way back here again. 

Here, a tantalizing preview at the entrance into the national park of what was to come.  The clouds in this part of the world are sheer magic.  They really seem to be alive, so adroitly do they slip through the narrow mountain passages and alight at impossibly low altitudes.
From here, we climbed steadily (sometimes slowly, sometimes swiftly) up, up, up.  Everywhere we looked, there were wispy white clouds, green, rolling mountains, and deep, narrow gorges.
Can you spot my mom, my dad and me?  Michael climbed all the way to the top of a hill at one of our rest stops and captured this bird's eye view.
 At one point, we stopped to scamper down a steep cliff-side, trying to find these natural hot springs carved into the bottom of the mountain.  Can you see the people relaxing in the pool down below?

 It felt like something out of the Jungle Book.  Below, the mountain stream rushed by.  The drawbridge was a little shaky, I'll be honest! 
 All too quickly, we headed back up.  Thankfully we were there on a clear day.  I can't imagine how scary and dangerous this trip would be on a rainy or stormy day.  Apparently during inclement weather the roads are closed because of the danger of mudslides and rock slides.  Yikes!
 We then drove for what like a very, very long time, although it wasn't that bad.  We just kept climbing, and climbing, and our ears popped a few times along the way.  When we finally emerged, it was to take pictures of a sea of clouds nestled in the valley below us.  This cafe had a great view!
 After that, we continued to climb!  The scenery changed quickly as we neared the top of the summit - suddenly, the clouds looked a lot closer and the mountains were less a lush, dark green and more of a straw-colored yellow and tan.
 We were at the peak!  I thought the scenery was very pure and so stunning.  I giggled as I saw the mountains with their weird bald patches.  Why did trees just stop growing so suddenly?  It was always a very clear demarcation.
It was COLD up here.  Suddenly my short sleeved denim dress did not cut it.  The wind whipped like knives and the clouds rolled through fast and furious.  Silly question, but do clouds always move quickly, and we just not realize it because we're usually farther away?

Of course, now that we had finally reached the peak, Michael wanted to give it a climb.  Clad in nothing but his shorts and thin white shirt (I cringe) he sprinted up the mountain.  Can you spot him?  It was a lot of steps and I think he did the entire trip to the top, over the peak, and back down in fifteen minutes.  I think he gave his lungs a real shock, running out into the thin cold air like that. Tsk tsk.  But at least now he has a 3,000m+ summit in Taiwan under his belt! 
My dad told us that there were 100 of such 3,000m+ summits in Taiwan and we were in absolute disbelief.  How can there be so many, for such a tiny island??  He said there's even a club, the 100 Peaks of Taiwan, which serious mountaineers and hikers in Taiwan aspire to complete.  I checked it later, and he was right! See here - it's pretty amazing.

After that full and scenery packed day, we went to dinner in Taichung and saw my cousin and his wife, and met their darling new baby!  She's not so happy in this picture, oops.
All in all, it was a great trip and we're so grateful and happy that we had the opportunity to spend our Easter holidays with family and friends in beautiful Taiwan.

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