Total Distance: 24 km
Altitude up: 0m
Altitude down: 450m
Today it's possible to sleep a bit longer and start slowly, as the main part of the walk is the 18 km spectecular Taroko Gorge. Only one day is basically not enough to do all the sightseeing and walk all the trails, but I have been here already many times and walked almost all trails, but never went through the Gorge by foot, so we want to stop at the small places along the way I usually drive by.
After a small breakfast on the terrace of the Regent hotel we begin walking at 9:00 am
. We try to walk beside the new tunnel using the old and abandoned road, but after a few hundred meters we have to give up and return as we get stuck in unpenetrable grass and bushes. In this wild environment nature takes back all that has been taken from it and covers everything with rocks, earth and new grass, bushes and trees in no time. We then walk the short (2,5 km) old trail, which has been part of the former aboriginal cross mountain trail, cut into the cliffs from Lushuei to Helio. Here we also see the entrance/exit of the Lushuei to Wenshan trail from the other side than seen yesterday. At 11:00am we have a long talk with the director of the Lushuei National Park Center, Mr. Huang Ching-Bo. It is really fun talking to him as he is very smart, clear, knowledgeable and engaged. He answers all of our questions, except one for which he tries to inquire the answer: a) explains the problem with the former Chiang Kai Shek house
( see my comments in yesterdays's entry ); b) land dispute between farmers and the National Park Administration
: The soldiers who came with CKS to Taiwan and helped build the Central Cross Highway were given land along the villages of the highway. They owned the land and used it for farming. Now that they are old and with the problems coming with the remoteness of their homes ( health, cut off from outside world by typhoons and earthquakes ) they prefer to sell their land back to the National Park ( places like Lotus Pond, Mei Yuan Tzu Tsuen, Fushoushan ). The National Park Admin. in the long-time past rented land to private persons for forestry, but many misused their lease rights and planted fruit trees, which have no good soil and water retention capabilities due to short roots and cut bushes and grass. Unfortunately no government agency stepped in, so the situation grew worse and longterm. Now, under the " National Land Recovery Plan " this misused land is taken back ( see my previous reports about clashes with police and the photos with banners ) with the intent to renaturate the mountain sides
. c) he shows us the collected and preserved road kill d) he introduces a dead tree cut by the Park and shows us the deep holes in it made as nests by the woodpecker bird. [ Please let me add a fact about Mr. Huang, a situation which I find very unfair. Mr. Huang has been the Chief of public works construction when in April 2005 one person was killed and 8 person were injured by falling rocks at the Wenshan hotspring. He later became director of the Lushuei National Park Center. The families went to court to claim compensation for their loss. On June 12, 2007 the court sentenced the NP for a 10 Mio NTD payment to the victims and Mr. Huang to a prison term. I have experienced this man as very competent and deligent public servant. I do not think that a natural desaster can be blamed on a person, and the whole National Park with its roads is predestined to be hit by natural desasters. How can someone be made personal criminal liable for such an event, as terrible as the event may be? ]
We experience the swinging of several suspenion bridges along the way and see the not yet opened bridge to a new 3.3 km long, very steep and narrow trail cut into the vertical wall of the canyon. I haven't done it yet and I am looking forward to try it out some day. We have coffee and sandwhich at the rest place for Eternal Shrine. It is a wonderfully serene place, at least until some busloads of tourists invade the place and we flee
. Another stop is at Swallow Grotto were after a short time also some busses stop. They have to stop here because the road is only opened for 10 minutes every hour due to construction work. So we are joined by tourists from Mainland China - I can immediatelly feel it as they do not get into any interaction with us. In contrast Taiwanese people usually begin a friendly conversation. A bit earlier we were lucky that we could pass the construction site just at the right time during a one hour opening from 12 to 13:00 pm when the workers had their lunch time and rest. [ You can see the photos of sleeping workers - sleeping after lunch is a very common habit, also in offices, when the lights in whole floors are switched off. Finding it a bit strange at first, I am now sure that it is very healthy and refreshing and a great option to 3 cups of coffee to keep the eyes open.] A group of tourists asks me whether I carry a baby on my back. I think that this is a very strange question as the backpack as such is quite obvious and completely covered by a rain protection, which would have long suffocated the poor child.
When we reach the last section of the Taroko Gorge and see the National Park Center it feels pretty good to see flat land and the openess of the coastel area after so many days in the mountains. On the right side, perhaps 150 meters up on a plateau is a cultural center for the Truko Aboriginal tribe and a Leader hotel with well equipped wooden cabins - it is absolute peace up there in the night
.[ Aboriginal tribe: Truku ( also called Sediq or Sejig )
- is the 12th tribe officially recognized in January 2004. The Truku tribe occupied the territory of Hsin Lin township, Hualien County. They were separated from the Atayal tribe, although they shared similar cultural customs, lived in the high mountains from hunting and farming. They had a strong fighting spirit. Toroko in their clan language means ' platform on the hill-side '. In Japanese times they were massacred, mainly due to their strong fighting spirit and resistance against the occupiers. They shed a lot of blood and tears to protect their land. The remaining Truku assimilated with the Atayal to escape persecution. That's why it took so long for them to be recognized as separate tribe. As of now they are the smallest tribe with only 5.000 to 6.000 population.
- Weaving : Among all tribes the Truko were the most skilled at weaving hemp cloth. The fibers were twisted between the fingers and no spinning wheel was used. They also used a seated back strap loom. Weaving was considered women's work and the quality of te weaving determined the womens' social status. They believe that the fabrics will become a bridge to link them to a wonderful heaven for them just before death.
- Tattooing: Men and women were made the facial tattoo at the age of 16 to 20 due to the 'coming of age' or to show their social order. Women did most tattoos and they were the professionals. Tattooing was done in Autumn and Winter and it took about four months to have the swelling gone. After the tattooing people will prepare some gifts ( garment, piglets ) as remuneration. ]
The end of Taroko Gorge is final when we step through the famous old gate at the entrance of Taroko Gorge. Now another 5 to 6 km to get to the homestay in Hsin Cheng not far from the coast. We have decided not to add another night in a secluded Buddhist monestary in Taroko Gorge near to Eternal Shrine. We still have the time and strength ( although Tsai Chin is getting a bit tired ) to walk in direction Hualien. We have spent quite a long time in The Gorge for the relatively few kilometers, but that happens when looking here and there, talking a while in the National Park Office in Lusuei and just enjoying the spectecular scenery. This last section we walk along the coast, crossing a wide river delta, which is luckily almost dry. Also here the scenery is fantastic ( see the last photos ) with the ocean on the left , walking on gravel in a wide delta and as backdrop the green mountains up to 2000m in hights. The homestay with japanese tatami rooms (but new building ) is Ok.