Tag Archives: Highway 20

East Coast Adventures II

24 Oct

Camera was dead at this point so no pictures of this crazy crazy crazy ride home…

According to the lady at our second hostel HWY-20 going through the interior of Taiwan was the quickest way for us to get back to Kaohsiung as you didn’t have to go as far south as HWY-9, great!

We looked on a map and the GPS and from where we finished rafting the road would take us through the mountains and we would be to Kaohsiung in four hours, wonderful!

Due to the fact that when we received our car from the rental company it was almost empty we wanted to be sure that we didn’t give them any more than they gave us, bad mistake #1.

We then embarked on our journey into the mountains, imagine the drive from Alberta through British Columbia, take the worst section of road, remove the guardrail, add construction and some dirt road, and you have what we were driving on for about 75 km or 2 hours into the mountains. We reached the summit where you would think we would start heading down the other side but SURPRISE… the road no longer existed. There was only the remains of what looked like used to be a road under a gigantic rockslide that wiped out the entire road. At this point we also were starting to get low on fuel, the GPS had told us there was going to be a gas station in 8 km on the other side of the non-existent road; trusting the GPS, bad mistake #2.

End of the Road, Picture from Jonathan S Muller

Our Plan B was now to head back down the mountain and let the second car with us go ahead to the nearest gas station. We would go as far as our tank would take us and they would then be getting gas and coming back to rescue us.

On the way down the mountain we happened to see some local men who were just packing up to leave the construction sight for the day, we pulled over and asked if anyone spoke English, No. So via a pocket translator, showing them that our tank was almost empty, and looking like lost scared foreigners they managed to communicate with facial expressions and gestures that there was no way we were going to get down the mountain. Did I mention that the sun has completely set by this point? Oh boy… BUT they showed us to follow them because they knew where someone could get us gas close by back up the mountain, what a blessing!

They took us to some sort of forest ranger station where there was a man who could speak English; they sent someone on a scooter and during this time we found out the road had been damaged by a typhoon 2 YEARS AGO and it still has not been fixed because it is too dangerous. The people who helped us did not want to take any money but we shoved it in their pockets anyways, I do not think they realized how grateful we were. At this point we had been up for over 12 hours and found out that our journey home would most likely be another 7 hours, however; we had a half tank of gas and were going to be able to get out of the mountain to Taitung and from there home to Kaohsiung, YAY!

Arriving into Kaohsiung 6 hours later than expected and having to pay an extra day for the car rental is a small price to pay for arriving home safe and sound. I have to say thank you to the people I was travelling with for staying so outwardly positive or silently scared, we were all thinking about how scary the situation was but still managed to try and be optimistic. Surprise, surprise at one point all my emotional wreck self wanted to do was cry, but I held it together because I knew in a car with four other girls, this would only make matters worse.

I know I have talked about it before, but after this past weekend once again I cannot say enough for the people of Taiwan, they are amazingly kind hearted and caring people. I doubt any of the people who helped us will ever see this, but I have to say that I am so extremely thankful for their willingness to help us and genuine care that we made it down the mountain. After getting us the gas they lead us down a majority of the mountain and made sure we were safe, we definitely had many guardians watching over us as we wound down those mountainous roads.

Xièxiè – Thank You

Xièxiè – Thank You

Xièxiè – Thank You

PS. On the way home we joked about writing a letter to someone who would care about the fact that HWY-20 had no signage at the bottom saying that it was no longer accessible to cross (There may have been one in Chinese, but it was so dangerous that there really should be one in English too; even the maps they have in the airport show the road is still good). After everything we went through, I think I may actually take it seriously and do this to help other tourists in the area… good or bad idea?

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East Coast Adventures I

24 Oct

Before I begin to share my adventures about the East Coast of Taiwan I need to tell you some essential travelling rules I discovered this past weekend:

  1.  Always have a Plan B (This can be for transportation/ accommodation/ or simply where you are going to have dinner)
  2. As nice as they may seem, the ladies who run the hostels may not know everything about everything
  3. Hostels can end up being anything from sketchy ‘VIP Lounges’ to a home away from home
  4. When it comes to mountain roads, do some research (Never trust a GPS also is included in this rule)
  5. This last one is more of a life rule, be sure to have a full tank of gas when embarking on mountain roads (Gas tends to be guzzled up rather quickly)

Our initial itinerary was planned as follows:

Wednesday – Pick up rental car after Chinese class (yes Dad I did attend class before leaving on my trip, don’t worry I am actually still going to school here) Drive to Taitung where we will stay the night and catch the ferry to Green Island in the morning

Thursday – Take the 7 am ferry to Green Island and return on the last one leaving to be able to experience the snorkeling and hot springs, as well as meet the second car of people at our hostel that evening

Friday – Drive HWY-11 along the coast stopping at interesting check points along the way, the final destination being Hualien

Saturday – Spend all day at Taroko Gorge National Park, including a natural hot springs, and camping in the middle of the park that night

Sunday – River rafting Siouguluan River and then making our way back to Kaohsiung via HWY-9 to have the rental car back by 8:30 PM

Our actual itinerary was this:

Wednesday – Stayed on schedule and worked out great, we arrived to Taitung to our ‘VIP Lounge’ where the lady at the front desk called our room key a vegetable?? and told us not to lose it. She also told us the first ferry to Green Island was at 7 AM, oh and that we were all very beautiful. haha

Our rental :)

Our rental 🙂

Thursday – We arrived at the ferry to find out is does not leave until 9:30 AM and only returns at 2:30 PM. We then found out that the 2:30 PM boat is full, so you would have to stay the night. We quickly pull out the Lonely Planet and National Geographic guide books and series of maps so that we can find a Plan B. Chiphen Hot Springs & Shanyuan Beach it was. Worked out to be a lovely day and I am thankful that I didn’t have to see if I would survive the apparent ‘puke barge’ of a ferry to Green Island.

Friday – Our stop by stop plans worked out very good, we only made one bad stop along the way to Hualien; this was the ‘Water Running Up’ Attraction… not so exciting. Amazing stops included the an area just past Donghe we stopped at a bridge to explore where the river enters the Pacific and went for a swim. From here it was on to the Platform of the Three Immortals on a small coral island. We arrived at Sleeping Boot Backpackers Hostel to be surprised by a very excited and wonderfully hospitable proprietor in a clean and trendy house. Complementary tea, Wi-Fi, clean rooms, and hot showers ❤ She even was so kind to give us all the tips on Hualien for dinner, Toroko Gorge the next day, and helped us book our rafting trip for Sunday.

Platform of the Three Immortals

Platform of the Three Immortals

Saturday – Spent all day at Taroko Gorge and found the Wenshan Hot Springs to finish our day. They were so amazing and I cannot wait to take my family there when they come to visit! (Which is exactly 2 weeks away!!!) This night we decided we wanted to camp, and for me this was an after thought when I was packing for the weekend but I did manage to bring a pillow/blanket… long pants/sweater/other camping essentials would have been a good idea. It didn’t get too cold, but the mosquitoes were a bit of a bother. It was amazing to wake up in the morning with the grander of the Taroko Gorge surrounding us; I haven’t been camping in the mountains back home for a long time but this feeling would be one comparable to waking up in the middle of a valley in the Rocky Mountains with the sun just coming over the peak and the crisp fresh air waking you up.

Going down to the Hot Spring

Going down to the Hot Spring

Sunday – Off we went to our river rafting. Now the only time I have been rafting is in Kicking Horse River, British Columbia and that was amazing… so I had some big expectations of this day. Let me just say the currents were moving so slow in parts that the tour guide boats would push up onto the side of our raft and guide us for about a kilometre until we got into a faster moving section and the rapids were minimal, we were surrounded by the beautiful mountains and finished where the river enters the Pacific Ocean, so that was cool, but nothing to really get too excited about. Now begins our journey home on HWY-20… this is a trip that was to take about 4 or 5 hours from the rafting center and it ended up taking about 10 hours, I think this trip deserves a whole blog post to itself.

Looking back on the whole weekend I really enjoyed it! The landscape of the East Coast is amazing and I can even say that I have drove in Taiwan, woo hoo! I am usually one to go with the flow and found this very helpful with this trip. I enjoyed simply picking each stop along the way and taking our time to really see the countryside.

The drive home will be posted shortly…