Rock, you rock
If you haven’t been to Taroko Gorge, you should go. If you have been, go again. Its marble cliffs, some of which stand over 300 meters high, are stunningly beautiful. They are majestic, breath-taking, awesome; I could write adjectives all-day and still not do them justice. Photos might help to give you an idea of what I’m writing about. Really though, the only thing for it is to go and see them and, wherever possible, to see them up close.
If, like most people, you approach Taroko Gorge from Hualien you’ll find many places to stop, get out of your car, and look around while on the road to Tienshiang, the largest village in the gorge. Two of the more impressive and more interesting sites would have to be Swallow’s Grotto, and the Tunnel of Nine Turns. At Swallow’s Grotto, named after the little birds that used to nest there, you’ll see gnarled and curving orange and white marble cliffs that are amongst the tallest in the area. The Tunnel of Nine Turns is even more imposing. From this twisting cave, hewn out of the rock, the magnitude of Taroko Gorge is unmistakable. Nowhere else do the opposing marble cliffs come so close together, nowhere else do they seem to soar as high. Looking up and down at these close walls of patterned stone, feeling the heavy weight of rock looming over your head, the effect is dizzying, and it truly takes your breath away. Walking through this tunnel however, one should silently remember those who paid the ultimate price for its construction. Many of the estimated 450 people who died making the Cross-Island Highway, which runs through the Gorge, met their end here.
Tunnel of Nine Turns
As stunning as the Tunnel of Nine Turns and Swallow’s Grotto are though, neither would rank as my favorite place in Taroko. Just before Tienshiang, directly before the road bridge which leads into that village, is a short pathway which will take you right down to the river’s edge. This lowly and seldom visited spot is the best place to experience that for which the gorge is famous, marble. While you may be surrounded by the stuff from the moment you enter the park, down here it’s a little bit different. You walk in amongst, or even climb on and over the rocks and boulders, some of them as big as a house, that have been washed downstream from all different parts of the chasm. Given their various origins, these marbles come in a beautiful variety of colors and patterns which range from orange and brown, to blue-green and purple, to snow white.
The other great thing about this site is that it doesn’t stay the same. Due to its position next to the river, rocks, tree trunks, and branches, get washed in and out after every heavy rainfall.
Visiting the area last weekend, I was fascinated to see what had changed from my previous visit. The tourist information centers in both Hualien and Tienshiang will be able to provide you with more leaflets detailing the area. The center in Hualien is especially good and has English speaking assistants. No doubt both centers would point out that the area is rich not only in marble deposits, but also in a wide range of both plant and animal wildlife. They would also direct you to the area’s other tourist locations. The temple and pagoda in Tienshiang are well worth a visit. Even if you’re not religiously minded, the views from the top of the pagoda are excellent. The beautifully situated Eternal Spring Shrine is another interesting site. Built to commemorate those workers who died constructing the Cross-Island Highway, this picturesque Zen temple is well worth a visit.
Eternal Spring Shrine
If you’re still not sure why Taroko Gorge is one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist destinations, then its time you went there and found out for yourself.