Day 20 – Hualien – Taroko Gorge

Got up and took another shower. On my way back from the shower I met some other hostellers who were also going to rent scooters and go to Taroko. So instead of heading out early on my own, I waited for them to be ready and went with them to rent the scooters. I was really lucky I decided to do that. Mind you, I’ve never been on a scooter before, though I took motorcycle lessons at one time a long time ago. Thankfully scooters are automatics! I was a little nervous that they wouldn’t rent to me, but I think because I went with a group and we had a girl who spoke Chinese, they rented to me without much trouble at all. Gettinging out of the parking lot, I wasn’t used to the sensitivity of the gas or turning, so I shot out into the road and managed to stop before hitting a taxi heading the other way, and the bike fell over. Never the less, I picked it up, dusted myself off, and headed off. We went to the nearest gas station, because they rent out the scooters without any in them to start, and after that we were on our way.

Soon we were traveling at incredible speeds towards Taroko Gorge. I was so excited being on the scooter. This is exactly one of the things I was looking forward to in my trip. Just getting on something new and zooming off. It was a pretty quick learning curve, so I had a handle of my machine fairly fast. I really don’t know the order that we saw the sights in because I was just following my new friends and they knew the way. Taroko Gorge was like a huge fairy land version of the Grand Canyon. It was huge and full of greenery and waterfalls and rock tunnels and a beautiful river going right through it. We saw Swallow’s Grotto, the Tunnel of 9 Turns, and drove the scooter all the way to Tiansiang, which is pretty far down the road. There were all sorts of great beautiful things. Supposedly it was even deeper than the Grand Canyon. We went on a small hike that required helmets due to occasional falling rocks. The hike was very pleasant.

When we were leaving the trail head with our scooters, I was still not used to starting up the scooter while making a sharp turn. I started to leave the parking space, but suddenly noticed I wasn’t making a sharp enough turn and was headed straight for a parked car. In a panic, I pulled on the gas and the bike shot out very fast, so I tried to pull it down to the ground before it hit the car. Things happened fast, but when all the motion stopped I was relieved to find that the car was untouched. The scooter on the other hand was a bit beat up. The front sheild’s plastic had broken up a little piece, and the headlights had been knocked off their plastic holders so were drooping a little. But the bike still worked, and I had a great scrape as a trophy on my arm. I tucked the piece of plastic into a pocket on the scooter. and we continued on our way.

While scootering, we would occasionally stop along the cliffs to take pictures and gaze down the beautiful valley. Then we went to a pagoda several stories high, which gave us a beautiful view. And we stopped for some pork fried rice at a nearby food place. Filled up to the brim and went on.

We went down to what I think was the Shakadang Trail to go swimming. We walked along a short while and found a place where everyone was. It was past a “Do Not Enter” area, but it seems all Taiwanese love to ignore those signs. We went swimming in the beautiful river. You could see the rocks on the ground under the water clearly. It was cool and refreshing, and we had a great time playing around, throwing rocks at a water bottle, and I skipped rocks for a while. We also found some “jade” which was really just a very green rock that seemed to be all over the place. Then we dried off and headed back. We made a quick stop to look at the Eternal Spring Shrine, which was a temple along the path with a waterfall.

We scootered back to the hostel, and asked Chi about a good place to eat. She also gave some good advice on the scooter ordeal. She said we should go to a repair shop she knew and get a quote on what the cost to fix it would be, and then either fix it or give the rental place the money equal to the quote. We did just that, and the repair man said to bring it in the next morning when the parts shop was open and he could give a more accurate quote.

We went to dinner at some Mexican restaurant. I didn’t see a single piece of decor to suggest it was actually Mexican. But the food was good enough. After that we went to the night market near the beach where we bought beer and fireworks. We also bought one of those paper lanterns that you paint, and then light up and they float away into the night. We drew our names, wishes and a naked lady on ours. We let it go and tried to watch it until it went out of view, which was quite a long ways. Then we spent the next two or so hours shooting off bottle rockets and whistlers. We tried to create all sorts of science experiments with the ways of setting off the fireworks. Sometimes we’d put them in bags, or in bottles, or set two off tied to each other, or sett off a whistler and a bottle rocket tied together, it was so great and we started to name our different experiments, and we just drank a whole bunch while doing this. It was such a wonderful day.

After a while we ran out of rockets so we went back to the hostel. None of the clubs were really happening so we just went to the lobby of Amigos, played UNO and drank. And after a very long day we all went to sleep.

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