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Gorge Soaring – The Views of Eagles along Taroko Gorge’s Trails (Day 2)

July 13, 2013 DESTINATION No Comments Email Email

Zhuilu Old Trail
This was our two-day high point, in every sense.  This is also part of the Old Cross-Hehuan Mountain Trail; you head high uphill from the Liwu, cross Zhuilu Cliff, rest, and come back the same way. 

The trail in fact continues from the rest stop, coming back down to the river further west/inland, but this section is closed for the next while.

250x250pxYou start by crossing a long suspension bridge over the Liwu at the east mouth of Swallows’ Grottos, perhaps the gorge’s single most popular tourist attraction (more later).  Afterward there is a fair bit of steep climbing, mostly up steps, especially in the first 30 minutes.  Along the way you pass by a cave used for ammo storage by the Japanese, the ruins of an old Japanese station that had a small police office, inn, and school, and another suspension bridge over a deep ravine.  Your final rest stop before returning is a small, covered cliff-edge clearing where another Japanese police station once stood.  I could not help but imagine how lonely, isolated, and dangerous these postings were.

The trail highlight, of course, is your traverse across the face of Zhuilu Cliff, a massive face of marble over 1,200 meters wide.  You’re about two-thirds of the way up, about 500 meters above the Liwu, and for about 600 meters the path is only about a meter wide.  Need I say your excitement level will be very high?  If you’ve a desire to soar like an eagle, the Zhuilu Cliff is calling.  I just hope that our photos somehow reflect the emotions I felt that day.

(Note that a special mountain-access permit is needed for this trail.  Details are available on the Taroko National Park website: www.taroko.gov.tw.)

Swallows’ Grottos
We finished our trip by walking along magnificent Swallows’ Grottos tunnel, its east end right beside the Zhuilu Old Trail trailhead, gawking up at opposing cliffs skyscraping so close and high above the pedestrian-only walkway that direct sunlight reaches the floor only around mid-day, and doesn’t stick around long.  The countless cliff-face holes, large and small, were either carved by the Liwu long ago, the drill-stones, which burrowed into the stone, still inside many, or carved out from within-places where underground waters have found mid-air exits.  There are indeed swallows here, zipping past while riding the gorge-swooping breezes.

Final Recommendations
In our two days we could tackle only a few of the trail adventures the park offers.  Happily for me, though I have visited numerous times, the three trails introduced here were all new experiences.  For your own adventures, I also specially recommend the Baiyang TrailWenshan Trail, and Eternal Spring Shrine Trail.

Getting There, Getting Around
On this trip we took the train between Taipei and Hualien, to soak in the wonderful coast and valley scenery between Yilan County and Hualien City.  The ride, one-way, is a bit more than two hours with the fastest trains.  We then rented a car at one of the many car/motorcycle/scooter rental businesses right outside Hualien Railway Station.

Those not interested in self-driving should check out the all-in-one tour packages offered by Taiwan tour agencies (see the Tourism Bureau website at www.taiwan.net.tw).  You should also check out the hop-on/hop-off Taroko Tourist Shuttle service (www.taiwantrip.com.tw).  Both the Tourism Bureau and Taroko National Park websites also offer a wealth of other practical and general information.

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