Feeling Home I – An Austrian in the Taroko Gorge

I am an alien. I am a legal alien. I am Austrian in the Taroko Gorge

For all of you singing the song in their head while reading, I sang it while writing too. And I keep singing it, because I am very happy that I saw this awesome place. As an Austrian, so far from home, it is not easy to live with the natural surroundings of Tainan. Everything is flat, they even have an ocean. Not really what I am used to as a proud resident of the mountainous country without a coast.

Before getting homesick to rocks and high-level moss, our little group decided to visit one of the “must-see”-spots in Taiwan, the Taroko Gorge. This gorge is the entrance of the mountain road through the island and located at the east coast of Taiwan. There are a lot of scenic spots and we had some awesome days at the other side of the island. So many things happened, that I have to split up this article into three parts.

The title of part one is *drums*:

DAY 1 & 2

Awesome, right?! The working title is “Bad Karma: an unexpected Expectation” but that sounded to dramatic. Before starting our adventurous journey, there had been some preparations, I will just browse through. We planned to go to Taroko National Park for four days, especially to hike the Old Zhuilu Trail on Monday; the other days we filled up with plans for hiking and sightseeing. Our bases should be two Hostels near the mountains in the city of Hualien. To go to the 350 kilometre distant city, we decided to reserve four cars for 16 people. That’s the origin, now let’s begin!

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Day 1

Friday, 8 something o’clock, way too early. Our motivated group arrived at the car rental. Borrowing itself was no problem, we managed to distribute almost every person to his dream passengers, and off we went to hit the road. First stop should be a place to gather the cars to build a convoy. From that moment on it seemed that our inefficient communication and management of the groups was caused by bad Karma. (Or maybe just because of the lack of communication and management of the groups).

We never made it to the gathering point, a gas station near the highway, together. The car of my crew – let’s name it Postrany (Poland-Austria-Germany) due to the nationalities of the passengers – drove directly to the highway, because we had no clue, where the gas station is. My task as the Co-pilot was to inform the others that we will meet at our next stop on the south route around the island, the eastern City of Taitung. So we moved on as we assumed that the other cars did too.

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20 minutes after we left Tainan City we got a terrible call. The car – here the name is Dermawan (Denmark-Germany-Taiwan) – had an accident. A piece of metal laying in the middle of the highway destroyed a tire of the car, thus left them waiting for a repair service to get a new pair of tires. Luckily this car was inhabited by two Taiwanese girls, so the translation of reparation procedure was not a problem. Afterwards a short trip to a mechanic they hit the south-route again.

While driving along the western coast line of Taiwan, I talked with car number 3 – which should be named Gerswizech (Germany-Switzerland-Czechia) – about the next stop, where we could finally meet. In TAIwan we are not used to names of cities and so Postrany and Dermawan headed to TAItung, Gerswizech and the fourth car drove in the direction to TAIchung. So instead of going south, they had been bound to the north route over TAIpei.

To shorten this first day up, I will not further talk about major details of the journey. After 13 hours exhausting car ride with heavy rain and Taiwanese traffic, Postrany and Damawan reached their destination Hualien, while Gerswizech and Czeniam (Czechia-Vietnam) arrived a two hours earlier. After we arrived and ate dinner, we were happy to have a bed instead of a car seat to sleep in and so the first day ends.

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It can’t get worse, can it? – Day 2

For the second day, we planned to go for a hiking trip into the gorge which is labelled as tourist friendly. In this eastern mountain side there a lot of short and shallow trails available for people of every age. Unfortunately, Taiwan faced a really long typhoon season which had not ended before our arrival in Hualien, so we checked every five minutes if the trails are open for the public mass or not. For our displeasure two of the most amazing scenic spots – Baiyang Waterfall and Tunnel of Nine Turns – had been destroyed by the previous typhoon and won’t open until summer 2017.

On Saturday morning, the official national park website declared most of the path open, so we packed our hiking gear and drove off to the entrance. The weather was not so bad, it seemed to be a sunny day. The first spot we wanted to hike was the Shakadang Trail.

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Here the path leads alongside the beautiful river, depicting the fresh water in a mild turquoise tone. The massive rocks, in which the path is craved into hang above your head. After 40 minutes of walking you should reach a 3D-cabin showing the beauty of Taroko national park. It would have been so nice, if the tropical storms had not happened. The water was of a beautiful ash grey – brown colour spectrum, it started to rain, so every rock built its very own waterfall on your head and it started to rain after a little while, so the park rangers closed the second part of the trail.

Optimistic as always we pursued to go to the next scenic spot to try our fortune with the god of tourism. Apparently he did not like our prayers, because the Entire Spring Shrine Trail was also closed to today’s weather. Taking nice pictures from a safe distant, I pledged to sacrifice a wooden goat before going to the next sightseeing adventure.

Broken hearted we acknowledged that it does not make any sense to put more effort into going to the next closed trail, so we headed back to the dorms. The mood was a bit down and we started to get hangry – an infamous condition which lets you get angrier the hungrier you are.

Food solves all problems

As the evening approached we all gathered and were happy again. We walked to the night market in Hualien but before a part of our group stopped for a bite to eat at the best restaurant in whole east Taiwan, Salt Lick – an American BBQ dream. I really enjoy Taiwanese food, but Spareribs are not biblically mentioned for no reason. We also drank craft beer and the world was fine again.

With a full stomach, we strolled through the night market, eventually driving back to our hostels again. There we sat together, planned the upcoming day and drank one or two or three beers. We did a great job on team building and group dynamics, so the day was saved.

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To recap Day 1 and Day 2, you might think I will say something like: “meh, it was not good but okay”. But you are wrong. Sure a lot of stuff did not work out as planned, weather was against us and so on, but all in all it was amazing. It was the first trip with the majority of the foreign exchange squad that lasted longer than 15 hours – Kaohsiung – and we had been to one of the must-see places you have to visit when in Taiwan. For me it is really easy to see things positive, so check out PART II of our Taroko adventure. Because it was not common marvelousness we faced on Day 3, but advanced awesomeness!

To increase the excitement, I will end with a …

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Deutsch

Um das Heimweh zu unterdrücken machte unsere Gruppe einen Viertagesausflug in den Osten Taiwans zur Taroko Schlucht. Am ersten Tag hatten wir eine anstrengende Hinreise, doch wir meisterten alle Hindernisse. Am zweiten Tag machte das Wetter einen Strich durch die Rechnung, sodass wir nur einen Bruchteil des Nationalparks sehen konnten. Tag 3 hingegen verspricht das Highlight der Reise zu sein.

 

 

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