To the East Coast - Two Days in Taroko Gorge - CycleBlaze

August 15, 2022

To the East Coast

Shakadong Trail

 When it feels like 38°C - just over 100°F - cycling doesn't seem like such a great idea. Nevertheless, I've pencilled in a plan for a short trip over on the east coast and Debbie has decided to come along for the ride. 

 The plan stems from a local airline magazine having asked me to write a  piece about cycling and hiking in awesome Taroko Gorge, so that's where we're heading. The last time I was there was a couple of years ago and I've a few self-timed photos from that ride, but I don't have any 'hiking' ones and I certainly need some fresh cycling shots. Thanks to Debbie, I've a brand new camera - a Canon GX7 Mk III - and she's going to be my model.

 Our bikes have been sent ahead to Xincheng Station and we've bought ourselves train tickets for a 9:10 departure that arrives there at about 12:30. Once off with the panniers, it's not far to the first, fairly short hiking trail, which is called Shakadang - an aboriginal word.

 We'll just see how it all pans out. It'll certainly be sweaty.

Waiting for the 9:10 train with our bag full of panniers, handlebar-bags and saddlebags
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Bear with a bike-bag on the 9:10 to Xincheng - near Taroko Gorge
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Debbie getting tickets for our return express train back to Zhongli tomorrow at about 5:00
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 It's nice to be in a cool and comfortable AC environment. Tall aparments and the backs of drab warehouses zip by the train window as it first heads north to Taipei, then arcs over the top of Taiwan before starting to head down the east coast. The moving LED display at the end of the carriage names the stations we'll call at, but I don't see Xincheng. Weird. It just jumps from Loudong to Haulien, which is the end of the line.

 That's because this train doesn't stop at Xincheng. 

 I have no idea what the ticket clerk was thinking the other day, as that's what I said my destinaton was. It was actually wrtten down. 


 Debbie uses her phone to look for info' on the TRA's website and sees that if we get off at Loudong, hopefully it'll be possible to hop on an express that arrives ten minutes later, one which will actually stop at Xincheng.

 It's all up in the air and it's a bit manic as once off, Debbie has to go over the footbridge to the ticket office and pay extra for a pair and it's only because the express is running three miutes late that we're able to catch it.

 Panic over.

 Thirty minutes later we're at Xincheng and our bikes are there waiting for us and after our various bags are clipped on, we head off towards a string of small hotels a couple of kilometres away. After having microwaved meals in a 7-Eleven, the humble hotel I'd earmerked is just another minute's ride and it has rooms as expected and we book in one and dump the panniers in the lobby, then ride to where the Shamadang Trail starts. 

 It's gone 1:00 already. Humidity is about as high as it can get.

After a few kilometres, we book a room in a simple hotel and leave my rear panniers there
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 We cross over a bridge spanning the river that flows through the gorge and ride up towards the toursm centre. The sunshine that had frazzled us as we rode away from the station has gone and it's now overcast, with a burst of blue sky visible out to sea.. 

 There's a long tunnel and we ride half way and venture down an escape route thinking it will lead to the trail, bt it doesn't. It's a dead-end. However, one emergency exit not far along des have access and we drop down a steep winding concrete path and get to the primary red-painted bridge where the most scenic leg of the trail begins. 

 It starts to drizzle. I was hoping to get photos with a nice, blue sky. Magazines like that sort of thing.

 Our bikes get locked beneth the bridge high above that can be reached via a set of metal stairs and hope it keeps the Brooks leather seats dry.  

Dead end
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Near the start of Shakadong Trail
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Debbie modeling how to hike
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 The trail is one a local aboriginal tribe made centuries ago. Once the Japanese colonised Taiwan in 1895, they made the route more suitable for transporting goods and mined the area for gold. They chilseled away at the rockface and my guess is they were a bit shorter than me, as the overhanging rock is easily within head-height. It'd be a painful and likely bloody experience if my bonce were to knock on the jagged surface. 

 There are not too many other visitors and it's a great, tranquil walk. A shallow river runs slowly through the narrow passageway, which is not Taroko Gorge, but a northern branch of it. The walls are veined with marble and huge boulders are dotted along the bottom, with rock pools formed here and there, daming the flow of clear water, which is a turquiose colour.

 Here are there I ask Debbie to pose while I take a shot, so our prgress isn't very fast, but we've got all afternoon and it's the first 1.5km that are said to be the most photgenic. With the sides of the gorge being vertiginous and so high, it's easy to exclude the grey sky and the light is still decent and brings a subtle tone to the landscape, without any stark shadows.. 

Turquoise pool with marble rocks
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There's low headroom along a lot of the trail
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The drizzle becomes heavy and humidity is sky-high
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 Five market stalls manned by local aboriginies are offering snacks and drinks and mark the spot where the trail opens out. For us it's the turning point, which is just as well as it starts pissing it down as we get there. 

 We sit on a wooden bench sheltered by a canvas parasol and enjoy a cold drink. About a dozen other hikers, some with young children and armed with umbrellas, have congregated and are also waiting out the rain. It takes about 20-odd minutes for it to ease enough for us to opt to start heading back. 

 The rain comes in waves and the rocky overhang comes in handy, providing a dry route along some sections.  The bikes are mostly dry and it's just drizzle when we wheel them up the steep concrete path to the long tunnel. 

 The tunnel ispart of a one-way system and we decide to just wheel them along the raised footpath that's so narrow that it makes riding a bit risky. It's only 500 metres or so before we see the light and then pop into the imposing tourism building. Its shop is empty at this time of day and we just buy a pack of eight postcards and cruise back to the hotel, getting drenched as we do so.

It rains and we buy a drink and wait for a while before turning around
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On the way back in the rain
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The rain is heavy, but there's some shelter
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We collect the bikes from below the bridge, then ride back to our hotel
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Today's ride: 8 km (5 miles)
Total: 8 km (5 miles)

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Suzanne GibsonBeautiful pictures - you must have a good camera... Ha ha, often heard comment. I know you usually prefer bright sunlight for strong contrast, but these shots are great. Love the picture with red and green shirts and red bridge arching over you two. Have fun with your new Canon!
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1 year ago
Graham FinchHi, Suzanne - great to hear from you.

I wanted to just replace the GX7 mark II that got smashed in the UK, but we couldn't locate one and Debbie spend a bit extra (30 eurs) on a mark III, which cost about 600 euros. It's my belated birthday gift.

It has a nice feel to it and obviously the controls are basically the same, but there are some things I need to read up on.
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1 year ago