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Reisverslag The outdoorsy east coast
27 januari 2014
The outdoorsy east coast
The train system in Taiwan is said to rival the Swiss one and I could see why. There is a schedule that is being followed by the trains to the minute, there are plenty of signs telling me how many minutes I need to wait for my train to arrive. The trains are very clean and comfortable with plenty of legroom.
Hualien turned out to be a bit dormant since I am here in what appears to be low season. Still there are as always plenty of restaurants and other food vendors to keep oneself entertained and well fed. A short bus ride would take me into Taroko national park the next day where I decided to take the bus uphill and then continue to walk the 20 or so kilometres back down again. There were some spectacular views along the way as you keep on walking next to the gorge with its white marble walls and blue / greenish river. The majority of the other tourists were Chinees but the odd Westerner could be spotted to assure you that there are indeed more white people present. After a long but satisfying hike, I went for a drink with some Swiss friends and played an old but familiar game of shithead (is there any traveller who doesn’t know this card game, I wonder sometimes).
Having had my fill of hiking in Taroko national park I jumped on a train to go to Yuli to hike there in another national park. To get there I had to cycle in a fantastic landscape, it’s a valley full of rice paddies and other plantations with green mountains on either side (hence the term valley …). The last 5k were a challenge for an out of practise cyclist like myself, since they were far steeper than I cared for. My previously leisurely ride turned into a mountain of the 4th category (tour de France fans will understand this) and my dry t-shirt turned into a wet t-shirt. Half an hour of hard work got me to the top and now I could start my hike.
It was a little embarrassing seeing a bunch of elderly people strolling around and giving me strange looks because of my sweaty condition, they must have thought I am in a terrible shape (which is coincidentally true). I could’ve pointed out that I had not come up here by tour bus but I am not yet that well versed in Chinees.
The hike was pleasant and the views were great and the suspension bridge with other people on it great fun, since I tried to come as closely to jumping up and down on it without being told off but rocking the bridge enough for them to feel uncomfortable. Karma didn’t take too long to show its ugly head and a sign for black bears was enough to make me feel less comfortable also especially since I seemed to be the only one following the trail past this point. No bears were spotted till the return point so I assumed I would be in the clear since now I’d be doubling back.
It was in fact just before reaching the beginning of the trail that I heard some sounds to my right. I’d guessed it was about 10 to 15 meters to my right and was waiting for one of the many monkeys to show its face. Whistling at them had been enough to scare them and to scurry them off. This time my whistling was greeted with a sort of growling sound and the sounds of something as heavy as me or heavier moving about on the fallen leaves. This had me a little worried.
I tried the whistling again and was again on the receiving end of a less than friendly sounding growling, when the sounds of the leaves being stirred came closer I decided that I didn’t feel much for outrunning a bear on a descending rocky trail so I continued walking (though in a slightly higher pace than before). No bear followed so my heartbeat returned to normal and I could now get excited over my 5 km descent down the mountain. In less than 10 minutes I was down and could continue my day in the lovely surroundings of Yuli.
The next day was again spent in the surroundings but the owner of the hostel took us to the ocean for a change of scenery. Good times were had, picked up some sashimi and were back in Yuli to visit the nightmarket, as apparently any village, town or city has one of these night markets. I wasn’t particularly hungry but I could eat. Being surrounded by Taiwanese youth and being the only white guy they suggested I try duck head and neck. I like duck, I like duck a lot as it happens but it never occurred to me to eat its head or neck when other body parts are available. Not one to shy down from an eating challenge (if you can even call it that) I ordered the head-neck combo and ate it to satisfy the youth. As it turns out it was a tasty as the “normal parts” of the duck so it was delicious. The other girls I was with offered me some of their treats as well which turned out to be chicken heart and coagulated pig’s blood-and-rice. Obviously they didn’t tell me till after but these things I ate before so it wasn’t a new experience.
With one day left before having to be back in Taipei I trained it down south once more, to the city of Taitung. There I was picked up from the train station by Jack, the owner of a brand new hostel. The hostel would be my private quarters for the night and there were bicycles I could barrow. There were many trails to choose from and somewhat by accident I rode many of them while trying to stay on one of them. It was a Saturday and it was good to see so many locals like me had thought cycling was the ideal way to spent their day. Cycling is really popular here in Taiwan which has ensured that there is always a place to rent bikes and maps with trails are widely available.
Much of my Sunday was spent in a train watching the landscape glide by through my window and who would’ve thought it was just as pleasant as seeing it on the way north as it was on the way south.
(Had to edit this entry because for some reason I made the mistake in saying west coast rather than east coast. After my initial mistake I never gave it another thought until today when I realised I was an idiot, so to clarify things I saw the east coast not the west coast. But not to leave you deprived of tales of the west coast I am travelling there now to make sure you get all the information.)
5 februari 2014 11:49 | Door: frans
I know a Jack who was planning to set up hostel, met him in traveling in China a few years back. Great guy, would be a funny coincidence if he and 'the owner of a brand new hostel' in Taitung are one and the same