Thursday, October 28, 2010

Taking your breath away in Taroko

Day 6 in Taroko National Park deserves a second entry for this Blog. I think I said it before, but it's the most beautiful place I've ever seen. Takes your breath away. I'll try to show pictures, and use the right adjectives, but you'd have to see it to believe it.

We drove up and down a number of times, and most rode up and then all rode bikes down the red highlighted portion of the canyon (22km). First night was in the serene Leader Hotel, off on the Southern side of the canyon up a very steep road. The next day after riding the gorge we were driven to Silks Place. A luxury hotel that also deserved more time for one to appreciate it.

At the Leader Hotel's breakfast we saw this photo of the same location we rode rode the day before in Hualien, with Typhoon waves crashing the breakwater walls. We seem to be a group that skirts all the bad stuff, rides in the rain, and has the luck of having a fantastic tour leader, stunning accommodations and group dynamic that makes me sing. We are already family, and already having a trip of a lifetime.

Leader Lodge is a peaceful retreat that one night is not enough to soak it in. We met a nice couple from Australia - that saw monkey's on the Bamboo Nature Path. Alas none of us were able to get the timing right, but we knew they were there. Leaves that could wrap around you like a skirt with their huge jurassic park water catching scale that was hard to believe.

Just when you were admiring size, you might accidentally run into a somewhat colorful spider, that is the size of your hand from toe to toe. Do Spiders have toes? I hope not actually.

We adjusted bikes from another "Giant Cycling Station" below the National Park entrance and began the day's adventure. I assembled any blinky light I could, as the some of the tunnels were frighteningly dark. Surprisingly it was not a rainy day, which the group was not used to, but appreciated! It also seemed traffic was less than the day before when we drove up.

The girls coordinated in our Taiwan Cycling Festival Jersey's, the retina burning colors were hopefully going to keep us alive from the double decker buses rounding corners over the double yellow line, if there was a double yellow. Safety was on my mind. Niamh was on my mind, as she was a super novice rider, and this descent could get fast, wet, technical w/ a mere guard rail to keep you from the cliff diving exit possible. Kate was equipt with here GoPro helmet cam, and if we can get it to reduce file size - I will post the most amazing video of riding through this paradise.

When there were no cars- it was the dreamiest ride you can imagine. Waterfalls on all sides, steep marble swaths going up thousands of feet. Lush green plants with butterflies finding mates and pollen in tiny and large bright flowers.

Every tunnel had it's own personality. Different lighting, no lighting (yes a dark tunnel forced us all to "use the force" & pray it would all work out. Didn't breath for several seconds of total overcoming fear).

When you look at this picture of carved out overhangs and tunnels - t's easy to fantasize about the architects and laborers that built the road. The first pathways were built 1644-1911 during the Ching Dynasty. Rebuilt by the Japanese becoming a highway. In 1932 the Tunnel works were completed.

Self portrait, as with most these images, was taken while riding. It was a fun easy descent, other than a few blind corners, water draining water fall surprises at ends of tunnels or along the overhangs we rode under like awnings. Happy is an understatement of how I felt leaning left and right and looking everywhere as I easily rolled along the most amazing space I've been lucky to ride in.

Back at the highest point in Taroko we went, there was a colorful bridge that beckoned you to cross it and pass under the bright red entrance gate to Heaven Summit Pagoda. The silty grey water of the Liwu river below was super fast and intimidating. Boulders the size of RV's. The parks 100 peaks of up to 3,742 meters rise around you, hidden by low clouds, peaking out to surprise you. The gate backed by cement tiles that were backwards swastikas. Which alarm the average American, but are actually representing the Sun.

Up many stairs, which is a theme in general I find in Taiwan, something the average physically fit, injury free human might not notice, were shrines. Being that I've only started successfully managing stairs in the last month, post leg surgery - this was always a personal moment of choice, when I would approach another long ladder of stairs. I'd choose to call it a non-issue or physical therapy with a prize at the top! Usually a Pagoda, or as in this path, a couple of stunning golden Buddha's!

The stairs are so worth this view, and structures that are lovingly taken care of. Bright colors contrast with the almost monochromatic background of fog and deep greens. Said a little prayer here.

We all returned to our next night at another new amazing hotel, the Silks Place. Huge rooms with dreamy bathrooms. We all sighed at the site of the free standing tub. Really we are all getting ruined for future travel.

(images of me riding were taken with
my waterproof camera by Mark Blacknell)

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