Hualien, Toroko Gorge – Day 29, April 22

Ladies and Gentlemen – We have a tie!

I did not think it would be possible for me to find a national park that equaled Iguazu National Park in Argentina and Brazil. Today, in the mist – not even the sparkling sunshine – I think Toroko Gorge NP is as impressive and beautiful as Iguazu. Yellowstone NP was previously my number two. Or it still is, but Toroko Gorge and Iguazu Falls are tied for number one.

It was not an ideal weather day, though I did like the cool temperatures (70F) and the misty effects of the clouds on the mountaintops. I’m sure it would have looked even more impressive in the sunshine.

Toroko Gorge is a wonder both naturally and as an engineering masterwork by the Taiwanese. They are absolute experts at tunneling. I went through at least 50 tunnels today. Their many bridges are impressive too. Toroko Gorge is comprised of towering green mountains and rushing rivers that cut through marble and Gneiss rock lifted by tectonic plate movements. They have set the park up perfectly for visitors, counting visitors so certain areas don’t get too crowded and monitoring wind speeds to make sure walking over bridges isn’t dangerous.

I’ll admit that I didn’t have a plan when I arrived by train in Hualien (pronounced Wah-leen) to see Toroko Gorge. All I can say, is I am mostly winging it on the trip. Usually, things work fine. So I booked a tour after I got here and they asked me to be ready at 7:30 am Saturday morning.

I tried the breakfast in the hotel, which was impressive in scope. There was a place to make my own noodles, pasta, fried eggs, bread, coffee, and about 100 different dishes I didn’t even recognize. There were little seaweed salads and fishy things. Nothing that looked appealing to me for breakfast. And here’s the thing with all those dishes – I saw the same ones out yesterday for lunch. It just didn’t work for me. I ate some pineapple, a piece of toast, two eggs, and the granola with Greek yogurt I purchased yesterday at the hypermarket. I don’t see any whole-grain bread anywhere. I guess they get their fiber from vegetables, but it can be hard to find veggies on menus, even here.

So, I checked my e-mail and did the Wordle. Then I saw that my tour had been canceled. So, long story short, I booked a taxi for the day and everything worked out fine. The driver was very nice but spoke almost no English. He took me everywhere I wanted to go and even places along the coast I didn’t even know about.

On the way to the park entrance, we passed through some tropical farms that looked a lot like Vietnam. I saw all these crops growing on small and medium-sized plots: cabbage, dragon fruit, paw-paw, mango, small pine trees, some plant where they protect the fruit (whatever it is) in little bags, bananas, and citrus.

This area of Taiwan is very popular for cycling. The scenery looks fantastic for biking.

I had packed snacks and enjoyed a fresh mango smoothie along with a fruit-filled waffle kebab from the sole food concession in the park.

When we got back to town, my driver stopped by the train station and I purchased a ticket for the next leg of my trip.

The revolving sushi restaurant got my dinner business again and it was fun and excellent. People actually spoke to me a bit. I get stared at all the time. I think they are still surprised to see visitors after the Covid shutdown and a tall, solo woman is always unexpected.