May 14, Haulien

An early start in Taipei. Mom and Paula rose with the sun to get the incoming Jenni from the airport. Phone calls were made back to homes in California. After Jenni's reunion and being properly Dante'd we made another trip to the train station. This time with our full gear, bags, and a stroller.

Nine people, nine large bags, various carrying packs, and a large stroller. This was our travel mode for the next several days. We boarded the four hour train to Haulien. The train ride was casual. The Card Game of Life was introduced, and the first parts of Walk the Line were enjoyed by some. At the end of the trip we realized pairs of chairs could be rotated all the way around, to form a section of four chairs facing each other.

The plan was to scooter out of Hualien. We were overloaded with bags, so a plan was devised for the luggage. We would rent a room for our sick traveling father who would stay in a room for the night with his many needs. A description was prepared which likened Dad to a deadly assassin. Despite his appearance, he could strike invisible from the shadows on any intruder. I wouldn't sneak up on him; he's old and agile. With our bags protected and lunch handled, we set out on four bikes headed for high adventure. Unfortunately one had a flat tire, so Pete was forced to return and retry his departure.

We simply had to follow the main road to the Taroko Gorge national park. The main road was elusive, so instead we got a twisty adventure of side roads and u-turns. It took a stop for directions to get us moving in the correct direction. At the base of the gorge we stopped to allow Mom a bus ride up the harrowing mountain roads. But there would be no further buses this day, and Mom was resigned to a teeth clenching ride through the gorge.

The scooter ride up the gorge was far beyond the expected. Green plants and blue river pocketed both sides of the hilly road. More impressively were the narrow tunnels that stretched over large portions, often forcing both directions of traffic into a single lane. It had feelings of the Knott's Berry Farm Log Ride mixed with the Disneyland Thunder Mountain. For Mom's sake, the traffic was light and it was an enjoyable scenic cruise.

We found our hostel and selected the Japanese style room over Western. This means our room was a giant wooden floor with eight mats. This turned out to be the wise room selection, and we selected the local snack bar for dinner. Ordering food was another mockery of customs and decency. The mixed pizza with free orange juice included was the popular choice, and the chocolate toast was ordered more than once.

A late night excursion to a neighboring hotel was made in search of internet access. Dreams were lost, as someone had replaced the internet we know and love with indecipherable Chinese text.