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Monday, April 7, 2008

Road Trip Taiwan, Day Three, Part One

Day Three found us traversing one of the most amazing mountain roads in Taiwan, the Central Cross-Island Highway, and of course the world-famous Taroko Gorge, which is actually the first 15 miles or so of the CCIH. Much has been written about the Gorge and the Highway, so in order to save valuable cyberspace, I'll let my photos do the talkin' and others do the explainin' - here are a few links about the history and sights of the Taroko Gorge and the CCIH:

Taroko Gorge

Taroko National Park (the eastern part of the CCIH)

Story of the CCIH

More pix from the CCIH

This trip takes you from banana plantations by the Pacific all the way up to the highest mountain pass in East Asia (3275 meters) which is covered in snow from December to March, and back down to sea level, all in one day. Hence, I decided to split this day into two parts: the first features the Gorge and the ascent, the second the icy realms of the pass area.

The gate to Taroko Gorge

The Gorge

Out of the gorge, and into the hills

Things to remember

A different fauna and flora: this nasty-looking piece of work is a local nettle, Urtica thunbergiana, aka "Cat That Bites" in Chinese (咬人貓). It forms huge bushes with fat, dripping poison glands on the large leaves. Touching them will guarantee the end of your boredom for at least two solid days.

As to fauna, we saw a Formosan rock macaque staring at us at eye level from a roadside tree when we came out of one of those narrow tunnels. I guess he was less surprised than us, but decided to haul butt anyway, just in case. You never know with these strange, pale bignoses. I couldn't get a photo of him, but here's a specimen of another widespread simian species:

Above 2500 meters, we also saw a whole slew of alpine birds, the most interesting among those the Formosan whistling thrush and the White-whiskered (Formosan) Laughingthrush, both endemic to the island.

Part Two coming tomorrow!