Getting Lost in Hualien
I’m lost. Again. Perhaps this is why I should travel alone. I’m in Hualien, on Taiwan’s east coast, with three friends. Last night I reluctantly agreed to meet the rest of the group at 8:30am for our day’s adventure, but that is to me a very late start (considering our day’s plans) so I decide to go for an early walk and buy breakfast.
However, I failed to pay attention to my surroundings and my direction changes, and before long I realize I am completely disoriented. Every street looks the same, especially after I have returned to the same intersections two and three times. I have money and water, but no map.
I was annoyed that we were getting a late start, and now I’m going to delay our start even more…
First priority. Food. I will think clearer after eating. I buy a banana and some bread, and things start to look better. I know that store! I recognize this corner! I just need to go that way. Which I do, for 15 minutes, well past the time I recognize that I am NOT going in the correct direction. I reluctantly turn around.
What I do know is that my hotel is near a Mazda dealership. If I can just find the Mazda dealer, I will be fine. I ask a few people on the street “Mazda?” But with no context, they probably think I am out of my mind. I give up that tactic.
In a rare turn of events, I find myself a little bit scared – I am lost in a city I arrived in only the evening before, without a map, and I don’t even remember the street name my hotel is on, or, more importantly, my hotel name.
Finally I make my way back, 40 minutes late. A casual 30 minute stroll turned into 2+ hours. I return to the hotel, embarrassed and a bit humiliated.
Off to Mukumugi. This little slice of heaven is a protected area near the town of Hualien. Only 300 or 600 people (I’m not sure which, as I see both numbers online) are allowed to enter each day. No vehicles allowed, you have to hike in.
I spend most of the walk talking with Olivia, which I enjoy very much. I’ve never had the opportunity to talk with her alone. She is wonderful to talk with, and I’m sorry we didn’t do this before.
We arrive to a series of crystal clear pools in the river. Although the water is cold, I’m sorry I didn’t bring shorts. I didn’t really understand where we were going, so I wasn’t prepared. I would love to swim. In the US I would probably just strip to my underwear and jump in, but this is Taiwan. It’s a little more conservative here.
A few of us goof around, doing “yoga” poses on the rocks. Good times.
Eventually we make our way back, stopping for lunch at a trailside restaurant halfway through the hike. The rice is cooked inside a bamboo stalk, which strikes me as an ingenious solution.
(as always, click on any of the photos to see them in a much more reasonable and fun size. Money back guarantee)
Back in Hualien, I realize I need some solo time. Cranky-pants Kevin has not quite recovered from his morning adventure, and the bad mood persists. Map, money, and water in hand, I go for a run while the rest of the group takes the car and goes to dinner. After a mellow 6 miles, life looks a lot better.
Next day. We have agreed to meet earlier, and I wisely avoided early morning strolls. Time to see Taroko Gorge National Park!
Even half a day at Taroko confirms what I had already suspected – I could happily spend a week in this beautiful place. The centerpiece of the park is an incredible marble canyon, though apparently that is only a small portion of the park.
We hike a short distance (maybe 1.5 miles?) up one of the popular trails. Perhaps inspired by the crystal-clear water and lovely canyon, we repeat our silly-poses photos.
Back in the car, we explore further up the canyon. Last stop, a temple. It couldn’t get much more cliche, and I love it. Nestled in the cliff walls with a waterfall running under it…. perfect.
Dinner…. have I mentioned before that Taiwanese people love to order lots of food? And the food is typically REALLY good?
This dinner was heaven. And cost about $25 for 6 people.