Fifth excerpt from my travel journal: Taroko

Happy Halloween! Read the previous journal excerpts, posted Oct 12 (and the day after), Oct 17 (and the day after), Oct 19, and last Thursday.

From my travel journal, Tuesday 27 September 2011, 7:30 PM in Taiwan (4:30 AM on the 26th in CA), train from Hualien to Hsinchu

We’re on the train home from Hualien, about 2½ hours into a 6-hour ride. The train is slightly different from yesterday’s in details, but otherwise essentially identical: same footrests, cup holders, purse hooks, and curtains.

Inside of train

This was the train to Hualien, but they looked very similar.

I’ve eaten my train bento and used the toilet… it’s in the entry vestibule and I was in it when the train lurched to a stop, throwing me against the wall! Then when I tried to leave, I found myself blocked by a stream of men in identical work outfits, all boarding the train; when I realized they were seeing me standing in the doorway of the restroom I retreated into it and shut the door and locked it behind me until I couldn’t hear them anymore. But when I entered the car again some of them looked at me in curiosity or amusement, no doubt thinking, “that’s the girl from the bathroom!”

I just had the most hilarious disappointment with a bag of cookies I bought on Sunday.

Donut cookies

It had pictures of frosted donuts on the outside so I was all excited to have mini donut cookies. I’d saved them for the train ride because I figured the variety would provide entertainment as well as snacks. But when I opened the bag, the cookies were all plain rings of what felt like puffed corn!

Disappointing cookies

Actually they were plenty addictive, with a light peanut flavor. But oh, the misleading packaging! After looking at it more closely, we concluded that the photos on the bag were of actual donuts. Bah.

Today was a pleasant day. We headed downstairs at about seven for a sweet (if peculiar) breakfast served us by an affable middle-aged man with that shaggy salt-and-pepper hair I always find very endearing.

King Cheng Hotel breakfast

Weirdest breakfast ever. Clockwise from upper L: cold salad w/sprouts and scrambled egg, plate w/fried egg and fries and pork floss and chicken nuggets, fruit, soup w/corn and egg drop, white toast. And yes, the green box in the upper left is tissues... lots of places in Taiwan supplied those instead of napkins. Photo by Devin & it's linked to his flickr set from the trip.

After breakfast we packed up and sat in the lobby checking our email until our guide arrived and introduced himself.

Emer and Devin

Emer and Devin

His name was Emer, or so it sounded — like the first half of Emerson. He was an older fellow (65 or 70, I’d guess), not too tall, sturdily agile, with glasses and a warm, older-relative-y smile. He reminded me very much of Erik’s dad. He was a native Hualienese and his English was accented (very much like Dad’s!), but very adequate. Unlike our guide from the day before, Emer didn’t drive us; the van was driven by a young man in grey Guess tee and sunglasses, who barely spoke at all during the day (though he demonstrated fluency in both Taiwanese and Mandarin, and sent us off at the train station with English: “thank you” and “have a good day”).

At the first stop, Qinshui Cliff, we established what became a pattern for much of the day: while Emer and everyone else walked a short distance to the main vista point, I sat in the shade and painted. (Still, my pedometer logged 2.2 miles of walking during the day — and both feet are quite swollen.) But I’m very happy with this arrangement: no one was held back on my account, I still saw beautiful sights, I rested as much as was possible, and I got in a lot of painting!

Qinshui Cliff

Qinshui Cliff

We saw the Taroko entry gate, the Swallows-something part of the gorge, two bridges, lots of huge spiders, a little walking area, aboriginal weavers (at Buluowan Center), and Eternal Spring Shrine — for the 200-something soldiers who “sacrificed their lives” (as Emer euphemized it) to build the roads through the mountains.

Sketches from Taroko National Park

L: Taroko National Park entrance gate, R: a bridge in the park

Gorge

Gorge!

Man Face spider

Emer said this is called a Man Face Spider. *shudder*

Weaving woman

Weaving woman. Photo by Devin & it's linked to his flickr set from the trip.

Eternal Spring Shrine

Eternal Spring Shrine. I actually had a nice seat for this one, so I painted for about half an hour.

We also ate an interesting tribal lunch, and had an unexpected stop when we had to wait for the road to be cleared of rockfall!

Tribal meal

"Tribal meal", clockwise from upper L: bitter melon & meat soup, rice steamed in bamboo, salad, yam/vegetables/pickles, what appeared to be (and tasted much like) salsa, mushrooms, fish. Photo by Devin & it's linked to his flickr set from the trip.

River sketch

The rockfall gave me a good opportunity to sketch the river. It looks like a decent sketch but...

River

... the real thing is SO much more amazing.