Wed, Jul 20, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Going with the flow

Thanks to more flexible regulations it's now possible to go stream-tracing in the magnificent Taroko Gorge

By Derek Lee  /  STAFF REPORTER

A mountain view in Taroko Gorge.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE GRAND FORMOSA TAROKO

You may have seen or walked through Taroko Gorge in Hualien and been enthralled by its beauty. On a clear day, you may have even heard loud laughter as three or four Taroko Aboriginal tribal youths swam in a stream winding along the trail you were hiking.

This is a common experience for those who have visited this magnificent natural wonder of the world. However, stream-tracing -- hiking up a riverbed to its origin -- at Taroko Gorge is something only a lucky few have been able to do up to this point.

It's now summer, however, and the Taroko National Park Administration Center (太魯閣國家公園管理處) is taking a more lenient attitude toward allowing the general public to try this new water sport in Taiwan.

"Adventure-seeking tourists may register with the Grand Formosa Taroko Resort Hotel one day ahead of time, and they will be led by qualified coaches and local guides with the proper gear to enjoy the daring experience," said Grand Formosa Taroko's supervisor Sandy Wang (汪仁珊).

Different river-tracing packages are available, with a price of about NT$800 per person for a half-day tour covering around 2km of the waterway.

Indisputably, the Shakadang (or Skadang) Stream (砂卡礑溪), with its breathtaking scenery, has won over local Taroko tribal residents' and tourists' approval as a river-tracing stream. This stream runs along a narrow river valley with turquoise water flowing through it all year long.

As Lee Yen-jung (李晏蓉), a guide from the Grand Formosa, explains, "The turquoise water actually comes from the marble stones where the Shakadang Stream originates high in the mountains. The marble releases calcium carbonate into the stream, where it is constantly washed by the water passing by and sometimes even gives an unusually bluish-green color to the stream."

Shakadang Stream is a branch of the Liwu River (立霧溪), which cuts through rock layers 9 million years old to carve the Taroko Gorge. The Liwu River was first given the name of Turuboan (gold river) by the Dutch and Spanish in the 18th century. Panning operations to collect gold went on for about 20 years until they lost their commercial value.

The Japanese in the old days chiseled a 1m-wide walkway on one side of the Shakadang river valley in order to build a dam upstream of the river. The track, now popularly known as the Shakadang Walkway (砂卡礑步道), is only a five-minute drive from the Taroko National Park Tourist Center and has been a great tourist attraction for hikers.

The entrances to the walkway and the river bed are located at opposite ends of a bridge decorated with 100 small marble lions. The Shakadang Bridge, or Hundred-Lions Bridge, links up two curving tunnels on Provincial Route 8. From one of the bridge ends, you have to take a steep stairway down about six stories to reach the river and walkway.

If you are not a fan of water sports, you may simply hike along the walkway to observe your family members or friends struggling up the stream about 20m to 30m below the trail. A pair of binoculars would come in handy if you'd like to witness their facial expressions and to share the moments of excitement once a difficult barrier is overcome by the stream-tracers.

The most fascinating section of Shakadang Stream is about 1km away from the entrance. This beautiful section is banked by lofty marble walls on both sides, and the atmosphere has a dream-like feeling.

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