Friday, October 3, 2014

Travel: Taroko National Park - Zhuilu Old Trail (Hualien, Taiwan)

For our second day in Taroko National Park, Cory wanted to do the Zhuilu Old Trail. You can find more information on this trail on roundTAIWANround. You need special permits to go on this trail, so we enlisted a local guide (who also provided transportation and lunch on the trail). Two polytechnic girls from Singapore also went with us.

I won't lie: I found this hike to be unbearable in the >40'C weather (after accounting for humidity). My fitness level is also not great, given my day-job. Our guide wanted to get ahead of an old-Chinese-people tour group and speedily went up the stairs at the start of the trail (which is basically a nonstop stairs up the mountain). About 30 minutes in (I think - I'm not too sure of the timing), I had to stop and vomit a bit. I don't know how long I sat there for. I didn't feel like I could finish (my vision was all blurry and bright), but also didn't want to let down my husband by quitting after he had looked forward so much to the hike. After some time, I asked the guide to go ahead and I would try to continue at my own pace and see if I'd make it. I unloaded my day pack onto my husband (who did not complain... at least not for another hour), and we carried on climbing (at this point, far far far behind the Chinese tour group). The heat and extra weight definitely bothered my husband after an hour, and he started getting snippy at me, but I couldn't blame him... I pretty much ruined the day :( Anyway, I guess 90 minutes later our guide met up with us about 20 minutes from the top and let us know he had set up lunch so it would be ready for us when we got there. We had a nice lunch with lots of delicious fresh fruit, and then headed back down the way we came (apparently, the rest of the trail is quite boring compared to this section with the sheer cliff).

Zhuilu Old Trail entrance sign. An attendant has to unlock the door for you, once you show your permits.

First suspension bridge along the Zhuilu Old Trail -- you see it from Swallow Grotto

The views from the first suspension bridge are gorgeous

I think this is about halfway up; there are some less steep areas with beautifully lush greenery.

The view from one of the plateau areas

While I'm mostly recovered here, I'm still taking it super slow and not carrying my own bag :p

Another suspension bridge with a fabulous cool breeze

Amazing view from the bridge

There's a sheer cliff part of the trail, which is not *too* scary, but still made me think "don't trip, don't trip, don't trip".

A panoramic shot of the view from the cliff (click to embiggen)

After our break at the top (where the old-Chinese-tour group triumphantly applauded that I had arrived -- I guess that happens with you heave/vomit as half a group of people walk past you), we headed back down the same way.

Check out the huge oncoming rain cloud! Apparently, it is normal for rain to come through in the afternoon in the park during this time of year. (click to embiggen)

We did not notice any snakes or wasps. Lots of butterflies though.

You can see the Singaporean girls behind me.

Snapshot of me and Cory

Overall, I would say the trail has amazing views and is not actually that physically strenuous, but if you are not accustomed to the heat and humidity, definitely avoid doing this hike in the summer months. And even September, because although it's technically fall/autumn, it was still the hottest and grossest weather I've ever experienced in my life. I think it was worth it in the end, though!

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