Taroko National Park (Part 1) : From East Gate to Shakadang Trail to Swallow Grotto
In my 3 days in Taiwan, I took a day tour during my 3rd and last day as my final adventure in the said country. I know that I haven’t seen much yet of the city but I wanted to see a national park during my visit in Taiwan and with that same reason, I booked Taroko Gorge day tour online before I ended my travel and before I flew back to Manila.
It was Monday, January 9, 2017. I put back all my stuff in my small luggage backpack and prepared myself early in the morning. I checked-out past 5AM in the morning and sit in the cafe within the hotel / hostel that I stayed in Taipei and waited for my tour to pick me up. In few minutes, the car arrived, I stood up and went outside and a man looking for me reading my name. I responded that its myself and he told me to hopped into the car. Inside the vehicle I found other tourists. Next, our car traveled to Taipei Main Station and from the parking area we walked towards the station that will bring us to Hualien. Our tour guide informed us that we will take the train and once we reached Hualien Station, we will meet Josephine, our guide in Taroko Gorge National Park. Then, he gave our train ticket. While we were waiting for the right train that we need to take, I introduced myself to the 4 people in the same tour. One couple from London, a French women student from Hongkong and a male solo traveler like me.
When the train arrived, we checked the train car from our tickets. The French woman and I had the same car in the train but our seats were apart from each other and the three were in another train carriage, therefore I traveled from Taipei Station without talking to someone. I set the alarm in my phone in case I may fall asleep in the train while traveling. And I did fell asleep but I woke-up from time to time. Since I was sitting at window seat, I was able to capture some photos along the way before reaching Hualien Station.
River border between Yilan County and Hualien County near the coast before passing Heping Station
River before reaching Xincheng Taroko Station
We reached Hualien Station and two of us from the same train car look for the rest of the three and came together in a group. As advised on us of our guide in Taipei, we have to specifically meet Josephine just near the stairs after we just get-off the train. We waited and went down, then we go back upstairs. Then we met Josephine. After she met us, we walked a bit inside the station and then she mentioned that there was another group that she was waiting as well, that’s when I realized that she handles more than one group travel tour company. She advised us to do what we need to do in the station while we were waiting for the rest of the group to be completed according to her list. Then, after we were assembled completely, we went out towards our bus at the parking.
Josephine speaks English in Chinese tone but its understandable. She’s friendly and lively when speaking and she tried her best for us to laugh a bit. She also speaks Chinese and Japanese while on the tour. That’s quite a skill, speaking 3 languages in a tour. Along the road she started explaining some of the places that our tour bus was passing by which shows she definitely knows the place.
Taroko National Park East Entrance Arch Gate (East Gate)
Taroko National Park East Entrance Arch Gate
Liwu River from Taroko East Gate
After sometime, we reached the entrance of the park called Taroko National Park East Entrance Arch Gate. Here, we stopped a bit to see the arch gate and its surrounding areas such as Jinwen Bridge and Liwu River. Near the gate, we had a glimpse of Zhongbu (Central) Cross-Island Highway. Next, we were back to the bus, we crossed Jinwen Bridge, we passed Taroko National Park Tourist Information Center and we stopped at Shakadang Bridge.
Shakadang Bridge, River and Trail
Shakadang Stream / River
Shakadang River along the Shakadang Trail
I had this tense and funny experience while in Shakadang Trail. Our tour guide, gave us time to get down to Shakadang Trail from the bridge so we can walk a bit in the trail to take some photos in the area. Not knowing how long the trail really is, because of my fascination with the beauty of Shakadang River, I walked probably more than kilometer distance of the trail that resulted me to be late 10 minutes of returning to the bus. When I was walking back, when Shakadang Bridge had been visible to me, I felt concerned because I was not able to see the tour busI had from where it stopped which just few steps from the bridge stairs to the trail when I got-off. Then I walked fast and hoping that I was never left behind. 11 AM was the return time to the bus and I was still walking in the trail. I did a walkathon and passed so many walkers along the trail, then climbed the stairs as fast as I can, my hopes rose when I saw buses after the bridge near the tunnel road. I was near the buses and don’t knew what’s next to do when I don’t even knew my bus tour plate number. So I checked the nearest bus to me and looking for a familiar face. Then I passed another one and Josephine was just outside the bus. I felt relieve when I saw her. I apologized to her and to the people inside the bus for being late because of my negligence to return on time.
Some snapshots while inside the bus looking towards Liwu River while we were driving at Zhongbu Cross-Island Highway after Ningan Bride going to Swallow Grotto.
Yanzikou (Swallow Grotto)
Swallow Grotto Trail
Swallow Grotto Road Tunnel/Thruway
Potholes on the Cliff Face along Swallow Grotto Trail
Cliff Faces along Swallow Grotto Trail
Swallow Grotto Trail Photos
I was back at the bus, the tension that I felt died down and I felt relax again as our bus were moving along road. Inside the bus, I looked at my window and continued to see the park while inside of it. We stopped a few minutes again, then I realized that Josephine picked-up the safety hats that we will be using as part of our itinerary in the national park and each of us get our own hat. The safety hat was not different from the hard hat that construction worker that are using, with that in my mind, I just thought that maybe its important as part of our safety in the tour.
The bus stopped again near Swallow Grotto or Yanzikou. Then our guide checked all of us if we were all wearing our safety hat and she signaled us that we can get-off the bus. It is a road thruway that looks like a tunnel where we had a chance to walk inside with viewing deck to see Potholes on Cliff Faces and portion of Liwu River.
Swallow Grotto Trail with Liwu River
The walk that we did which started from Swallow Grotto Trail ended up to Jinheng Park, just before Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail. When we reached Jinheng Park, we saw another scenic spot – a beautiful rock formation in the gorge. There was this thing that our tour guide was telling us to find in rock formation which is the “Indian Chief”, honestly, I was having a hard time to find it myself maybe because the way I looked at the rocks and the angle of my eyes towards the rocks. And in the end, I found the famous “Indian Chief” face that curves in the rock. After enjoying the scenery at Jinheng Park, I decided to go back to the bus and before I jumped inside of it, I enjoyed the view of Liwu River from Jinheng Bridge.
Indian Chief Rock formation
Liwu River from Jinheng Bridge
Ludan River from Jinheng Bridge