On the last leg of my East Asia trip, I was travelling around Taiwan for two weeks. I had no expectations of the country at all, and was positively surprised by the ease of getting around, the friendly and open people, the food, and this thoroughly Chinese culture that at the same time was more advanced than any Asian country in its view of life (this is the only Asian country, aside from Thailand, where being gay is totally normal thing).
So before I was to return to Taipei, I decided to check out Taroko National Park, touted by guidebooks and my Taiwanese friends alike as one of the highlights of Asia because of the gorge that runs through it. Although I'm from one of the flattest areas of land in the world (yup, very close to the Netherlands) I learned to enjoy hiking during my time in Korea and Japan, and was happy to find out that there are regular buses and well-marked routes in the park, thinking I could do it on my own.
How wrong I was. Not only did it prove an epic project to get a ticket for the bus, it was impossible to me to figure out which stop to get off (everybody on the bus either spoke only Chinese, or was, like me, a clueless tourist). In the end, I got off at the last bus stop – the top station. As soon as I got off the bus, the world around me started to sway. There was a beautiful temple a few hundred metres across from where the bus dropped us off, at the other end of a... suspension bridge. I went on it, and looked down. I shouldn't have, because I got violently sick. Then it it started to rain. Hard. I made it over the bridge and found shelter at the temple.
When the rain stopped, everybody else disappeared with tour guides or other hiking professionals and I was the only one to still be in this tourist village consisting of a tourist information a post office and three outdoor food stalls. The next bus back to the city wouldn't arrive for another 4 hours, so I tried to go on one of the hiking trails nearby, one that was marked 'easy'. About 200 metres in, my head started spinning again. I went back and spent the next 3.5 hours sitting in half-rain, half of the time staring down the gorge (no cafe/restaurant to while my time away here!), half of it at the toilet.
This is how I found out I am scared of heights – actually, I should have known already. When I was 16 we went on a Skiing trip to Austria with school. I realised what had rendered me unable to Ski back then was not the boards underneath my feet, but the fact that I was 2000 metres above sea level. Hiking little mountains and hills is ok, but everything over 500 m is out of the question. I don't panic mentally, but my body rebels against it and I lose all sense of orientation and most of my equilibrium.
Although I am very sure Taroko is a wonderful place to visit if you like hiking and are used to heights, it was the worst trip of my life. Luckily, when I returned to my hostel, I ended up having a wonderful night filled with traditional aboriginal dance, the local night market and a feast of dumplings – I am not afraid to say it: I'm a city girl. I'll pick crazy scooter filled, dirty streets any day over a serene, 200 m deep gorge. Sorry mountains!
This is my (belated, thank you, crappy Malaysian internet connection) contribution to BootnAll's 30 Days of Indie Travel project, Day 4 –Mistakes