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Half-day Trip to Taroko by Scooter

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Back in May 2019, I visited Taiwan for a friend’s wedding over a long weekend. Instead of a rushed one like another wedding trip later that year, I had four days at my disposal. I wanted to experience more nature, so I decided to head down to Hualien.

I had never been to the eastern side of Taiwan, although the county is a well-known tourist spot. It is also the gateway to Taroko National Park, named after Taroko Gorge and purportedly one of the most beautiful hiking places in the country. Although I only had about two evenings in Hualien City, I made it a priority to spend a day in the Park.

The only challenge at the time was the fact that I could not yet ride a motorcycle, let alone a scooter. I could ride a bicycle, and I’m very familiar with riding the roads of Taiwan. But the Park is too far to ride to—a whole hour and a half! It made more sense to take a tour bus or a public bus. The former was out of the question as I didn’t want to adhere to a fixed schedule. The latter meant I had to do a lot of planning prior to the trip.

A stroke of luck

Making plans was a big challenge, as public buses aren’t frequent, and I needed to match the time I might spend on each trail. Taroko is huge, so in order to get from one trail to another, transportation is necessary.

I was staying at WOW Hostel in Hualien City when I made friends with a hostel roommate upon checking in. He’s from New Zealand and was there for only an evening. He had rented a scooter nearby to visit Taroko in the morning. Upon discovering that we both had the same plan, he invited me to ride with him.

Who wouldn’t say yes to a free ride? When morning came, I borrowed a helmet from the kind receptionist, and we were on our way!

How to choose a trail

While my research for a public bus was set aside, my research for hiking trails wasn’t. Taiwan is prone to earthquakes, being close to the intersection of three tectonic plates and one of the most seismically active regions. Taroko Gorge is characterized by rugged terrains and weak rocks. Put both together, and with the addition of frequent rainfalls and typhoons, and we get highly dangerous trails.

As such, Taroko National Park has an official website that reports daily on any trail closure based on various conditions. All I had to do was to check them in the morning and decide which to go to.

That said, a 6.1 earthquake hit the Hualien region nearly a month prior to my visit, so there were trails that remained closed as an aftermath. Despite so, I thought I was incredibly fortunate to have avoided the phenomenon altogether.

Shakadang Trail

Every blog and tour I knew recommended a visit to Shakadang trail, one of the easiest, longest and most beautiful trails in the Park. This trail runs along a stream of turquoise water, a natural wonder we don’t typically see anywhere else.

We didn’t have time to walk all the way, as it would have taken us nearly 4 hours for a round trip if we did. So we stopped at a pool about thirty minutes in, where we dipped our feet in the crystal-clear water and enjoyed a light snack before heading back the way we came from.

Baiyang Trail

We headed on to Baiyang Trail, keen to see the Water Curtain Cave for its waterfall. We were certainly expecting a spectacular view with the rainy season, and the tell-tale wet grounds pointed the way to it.

However, thanks to the earthquake, the trail was partially close, so we couldn’t get far enough to see the waterfall. We settled for marvelling at the natural cave before turning back around.

Despite the trail closure, we were still able to witness the powerful flows of the rivers outside the cave. Much of the park remains in its most natural state because of the care given to keep the area clean and untouched. I have so often seen trash in the rivers that I forgot how it’s like to view clear streams.

Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou)

Just as marvellous is the Swallow Grotto trail, although we only passed through with our scooter and took a short pause to see the many holes in the cliffside where swallows made their home. Along with them are the layers of marble that must have taken centuries to form.

Worth the trip

We couldn’t spend any longer in the Park due to my new friend’s rush to catch the train and the impending rainstorm in the afternoon. But our trip could easily be summarized in his words, “It’s like the New Zealand of Taiwan.”

His perspective of the little country was changed from bustling and boring Taipei City to a well-kept beautiful countryside. Yes, there is imminent natural danger, but the government is doing their best to keep the public well-informed. The rest of it is for us to stay informed and safe.

With that, I hope to return and finish the trails that I didn’t do. They are closed at the time of writing in April 2024 due to a disastrous 7.2 earthquake, and my prayers go out to the victims. May their lives and the nature in the beautiful Hualien County be revived soon.

Behind the trip

I’m Angie, a traveller, web developer and blogger behind A Head Full of Travel. I’m here to document my adventures through words and photography, kindling a love for life. You can trust that all content and advice shared here is genuine and from my own experiences.

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