Our walk today was a beautiful circuit through a small part of the Taroko National Park, which lies to the north of Hualien. We are back in the Liga Hotel in Hualien after a beautiful day of walking – around 18km of trails but no progress on the route to Taitung. That’s okay. I like to make time to explore the places I go through. From tomorrow we will start the “thru-hike” proper.
We started our day early to catch a 7:00AM shuttle bus from the railway station to the start of the Shakadang Trail. Like many of the paths in the mountains, it may have been an aboriginal path that was expanded for hydroelectric projects and other infrastructure. Apparently, the Japanese were prolific builders of tunnels and roads in this mountainous region, as they sought to tame the fiercely independent aboriginal tribes whose mountain settlements had been protected by their inaccessibility.
Today, a significant proportion of the local population has aboriginal roots – On our way up the trail, Tyson stopped to chat with a park ranger and a man with two dogs on a moped whose faces and accents were distinct from the ethnically Chinese majority. Apparently, it is possible to do multi-day hikes in the park, staying at refuges run by the Turiku tribe, after whom the park is named.
The landscape reminded me of the National Park at the northern end of Tenerife – geologically young mountains with extremely steep sides, covered in lush, tropical, vegetation. The water in the gorge was an enticing turquoise colour, but signs all along the trail warn of the risk of landslides off the path. On our way back down, we met a lot of tourists. It must get very crowded on holidays.
After the round trip along the Shakadang path, we headed to the National Park visitors centre and then along the road to the coast, where the steepness of the mountains plunging into the sea is visible. Apparently there are dangerous riptides on most of the beaches along this coast because the water suddenly becomes extremely deep just a short distance from the shore. We walked on the beach for some distance and stopped for a lunch of clams and vegetables by the sea before catching a bus back to Hualien. With the lack of pedestrian infrastructure – separation of pedestrians and vehicles, zebra crossings etc. – I don’t enjoy the experience of walking on the edge of the city roads. Tomorrow we’ll catch a bus to get out of central Hualien before starting the first of several days of walking south.
Temperatures today were quite warm – I was pretty sweaty by the time we finished and I can feel the effects of the sun on my face, despite applying sun screen. There was some heavy rainfall in the afternoon. If this is the way things will be for the rest of the week, I have a feeling that I have packed more warm layers than I’ll need and my waterproof layers will be severely tested. I feel pretty exhausted, even though this was a relatively short day. I need to rest now for the first full-on day tomorrow.