Killer bees and mountain roads

The east coast of Taiwan is the more rural part of the country, where indigenous tribes still live in the mountains and one can enjoy a scenic coastal road with the ocean on one side and green hills on the other – we didn’t need much more to be convinced. After some hours in the train, we finally arrived in Hualien, which is not a particularly beautiful town, but it’s perfectly located to visit the Taroko national park, which was highly recommended by several sources. This time we decided to stay at an AirBnB again and met Sophia and her friendly cat, who came by often and just wanted some deserved belly rubs… all the time (just the cat). 😀 

In the next morning, Sophia took us to the train station, where the bus to the national park would leave. Unfortunately we missed the first bus as we were waiting on the wrong side of the station, but the second one was ours 🙂

After some time we arrived at national park headquarters, where we got all information about tracks and most interesting destinations we needed and headed out to the first track beginning just there. Interesting fact: there is no entrance fee for the national park. The track lead us through a jungle path to the first view point, where we had a look on what was to come: A fast river between marble cliffs and a wild jungle on top of those cliffs – a lot of wild beautiful untouched nature. We also saw a small dragon and quite a big spider along the way, but nothing really dangerous. When we arrived at the bus stop to get to our next trek, a sign warned the visitors of the dangers in the park, especially of wild animals and killer bees (!!!) – that was a new one. 😀 Fortunately we didn’t see any killer bees, but had a really cool walk along the way with lots of views on the river and the stunning cliffs. Although there is only one road through the park, we somehow managed to walk too far and were in between of two bus stops, both being over three km away. We were quite tired and walking another three km sounded like a lot. And that’s where Taiwanese friendliness helped us out again – a bus was passing by and although there was no stop, we hailed him and hoped, he would stop. Against our expectations the bus stopped and brought us to the next stop. 🙂 That saved us energy and time. We had some lunch at the final bus stop, relaxed a bit and took the bus back to Hualien.

Back in Hualien we organized a rental car to drive down the coast to Taitung, next major town on the east coast as the coastal road is scenic and reminds of Hwy 1 in California. But when we got up next morning, we realized, there is no point in taking the scenic route as it was raining the whole morning and the forecast predicted rain for the rest of the day. So, quick change of plans: we took the train down to Taitung, somehow explained the Taxi drivers where our homestay is and slept there until the evening. 🙂 When we went out to discover our neighborhood (looking for food), we realized, that the two convenience stores are the only food supply in the walking radius, but it could be worse. It was not the last time 7-11 supplied us with what we needed… they have everything! Convenience stores in Taiwan not only provide frozen food and heat it up for you, but also have tables where you can sit down and have your meal, a proper restaurant substitute.

On the next morning, the weather looked more promising and so we asked the family we stayed with to help us rent a car. We seemed to be the first foreigners, who came to this rental company’s branch and so it took some time to get the paperwork done and roll off their premises. We headed north on the coastal road and enjoyed a mix of sun and clouds. Did we mention that we had unlimited data? So we switched on the German Radio, Alsterradio for the perfect road trip music along the way. Every now and then there were small stops and vista points decorated with wood work of the local tribes or artists. One of the main attractions on the way is called “water running upwards”. We didn’t read anything about it before and so didn’t know what to expect, but when we saw the sign, we decided to pull over and have a look. We instantly knew, it must be something important as the parking lot was full of busses. When we walked over to the other tourists, we saw a small stream, which actually looked like it would run up the hill. Some people dropped leaves into the water to see the effect even clearer. Well… you could say it’s a miracle… or you could say the landscape is not really going up hill, but jsut appears to do so… whatever it is, it looked very unusual and we didn’t regret pulling over. 🙂 After this short stop, we drove up to the Sansiantai Island, which is famous for it’s unusually formed bridge. Interestingly, there were busloads of tourists coming to see the bridge, but once we walked over to the island, we only saw a few people, so we walked on the cliffs directly at the sea, met some crabs hiding from the birds and climbed up the lighthouse hill – that was a real challenge! But the elderly lady behind us, who didn’t seem to have any difficulties with the climbing was a real motivator for us – if she can do this, we should as well! 😀 Back at the car, we decided to take the mountain road back to Taitung instead of going back the same way. It looked just a bit longer and we had the time and were looking for a beautiful road – It’s a road trip in the end 🙂 At this point we should mention, we were driving a Hyundai i30, a rather small city car, nothing fancy but good enough for what we were planning.  The road began normal, paved, two lanes all good, we even saw monkeys sitting on a bridge. :))) At some point it started climbing up hills and the lanes were gone, pavement became more and more worn out and then we started seeing an increasing amount of earthquake damages in the road, which were not fixed and were just marked with a traffic cone. And suddenly there was no pavement at all, just mud and water, but it was kind of too late to go back as we just had a bit more than 3km to get back to a “normal” road and it would be over 20km going back… There probably was the reason, why we didn’t see any other cars coming our way. However, Michael got out the car, tried to check the depth of the puddle and mud in front of us, but he couldn’t see anything. The fact, that there was no mobile signal and we didn’t see any other cars for several kilometers just added to the drama in this situation, but hey, no risk no fun! We took our chances and crossed this puddle and the next couple mud patches and places, where the pavement just disappeared – our small city car turned out to be a nice off-roader. 😀 Back on the normal road, we were rewarded with a view over the whole valley with nobody around, just birds and other animals making noises and the rain moving over the mountains. A view which again reminded us of Jurassic Park, just without the dinos!

Back on a paved road, we headed to the last point on our agenda for the day: hot springs! Taitung is famous for natural hot springs and our hosts recommended us a place, which should be especially good (she even had a half-price voucher for us :D). When we arrived there, it turned out to be a hotel with a number of outside pools with thermal water. We kindly asked how it works and after purchasing a shower cap were directed down to the pools. The other visitors (all elderly Taiwanese) have recognized, that we’re pretty lost and used sign language to explain us how it works. J They showed us where to change, that we cannot go with shoes to certain pools, etc. Everyone was very helpful and so we finally got into one of the pools. The water was really hot and so it took us a while to recognize the excavator standing casually between all the pools. 😀 It turned out, that the place was under some kind of re-building / pre-opening or whatever, but it was still fun to get so much attention from the regulars there and in the end it was really relaxing after the adventures on the mountain road. After a well-deserved rest in the hot springs we headed back to our favorite convenience stores for dinner and then back home.

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