July 7th, 2005

Mountains at the back of Taroko Gorge

6 July

It was quite an OK guest house I stayed in last night. Since everything , including that it is a guest house, was written in Chinese, it would be very little point to given any directions to that place.

After breakfast at one of those sandwich breakfast place, I went back inside the Gorge. I planned to stay at Tse Eng, kind of halfway up the mountains behind TG. I made sure of a full tank this time from the start. Yesterday, it was kind of dicey. Petrol guages on bikes were not very useful. When the tank is filled up, the guage will register FULL. Then it hardly moved despite distances travelled. After that , the guage dropped everytime you looked at it. Yesterday, I had this dilemma of going up the mountain for another 20+ km to get to a petrol station or riding down 45 km to a petrol station with the guage showing a quarter at that time. I rode down and made it to the station with a few drops to spare.

On the way up, I would be passing a track which branched off from the main road proper. This track lead towards Tse Chun, or Bamboo Village. It was on my to do list many times when I came to TG. Some excuses or other lead me to never doing it in the past. This was supposed to be a good 6 hours walk in which literally meant you need to plan to stay overnight unless you want to walk out the moment you walked in.

The innkeeper of the night before told me that the footpath was upgraded to a track that could be ridden on a bike. AAhh! Just the stuff for a guy too lazy to walk for 6 hours! This track was a couple of km after the now-sealed-off WenShan hotspring. The track was nice. Looking ahead, I could see that the views would be superb. The track was about 3 feet wide. So if you dangle both feet off the bike, you could have some added safety. The drop down would be a couple of hundred meters or so. All was ok, until I reached a section where half that track kind of sheared off.

I eased the bike to a stop and took a couple of deep breaths, and even more again. If I remained courageous and kept both feet on the bike and very steady hands, I could easily crossed that section. I did not have my handphone with me. But to be honest, even if I had the handphone, I would not have tried it. It was kind of strange that when I was much younger with a lot more of life ahead, I would have done that without second thoughts. Yet now with less life ahead of me, I was making sure that whatever was ahead would remain ahead.

Regretfully, I turned back and got back to the main road. It is good to leave something to be done in future should I be back here again.

If any of you folks ever get to Taroko Gorge, do make sure that you do not turn back at Tiensian as is the case with most people. Best is to continue all the way to the top and the other side. But if not, do go just 8 km or so after Tiensian. At the 160 km mark, you will find a pavilion which overlook Tiensian town. From that vantage point, you will see the mountains that tower over Tiensian and that temple there are like hills compared to the mountains beyond them.

I went on up to Tsi En to find the guest house was closed. It was opened a year ago, but that was a year ago. Right at the top of that road would be Dayuling. At 2600 meters, I found it to be a very cold place to stay in. A friendly shop keeper told me of a hostel a few km before Dayuling.

The road upwards had stunning views that I would not even try to describe.

After asking and getting directions from a policeman at KuanYun, I located that hostel.

A strange feeling came over me. I was almost sure that this hostel was stayed in by me and Joy about 15 years ago when I first came to Taiwan. The road up from Taroko was incredibly bad and extremely dangerous that time. I had to ride my motorbike through tunnels so dark that the headlights could not pick the side of the tunnel. The floor instead was rutted and coated with hoarfrost. It was all I could do to keep the bike upright.

Then one December day, I made it to about this point with snow falling and I could hardly go anymore. Instead of a warm room, I found the hostel was closed as that was a weekday and they did not expect visitors. I broke a window to climb in and opened it to Joy. We buried ourselves under blankets and made it through. We left money at the counter to pay for our stay and the damage to the window. Since then, the few times we passed by, we tried to look for that hostel but failed to find it.



The main road had shifted in the past to improve motorability. That hostel which was beside the main road was sidetracked until yesterday. It could not be seen from the road and since we remembered it by the road, we tried to look for it by the main road and never found it.

It was cloudy when I got there. But the morning came without a cloud. Only then was I sure it must have been the hostel when the mountain tops loomed over me.


I went on further up towards HoHuanShan. The last time I came with Joy, it was raining and clouded over and never matched the descriptions that I gave her. The meadows and stands of twisted pines were hidden by rain and mists.

I was left more flabbergasted at what I could do in the past. From Dayuling to Wushe was a good 40 km up and down a major mountain even if Dayuling was itself at 2500m. I could only recall my walk then with a backpack to be such a beautiful hike as that was not a road then.


The last time I drove here with Joy, I found the drive to be so tiring.

I turned back shortly before the top as it was getting bitterly cold even in summer and I did not bring any warm gear with me on this trip.

I am back in Hualien now to stay the night and will be buying my train ticket back to Chiayi on Friday morning.