Over the mountains and through the gorge…

By Julia Werth, Student Participant

As the bus drives along and we stare out the window we’ve all had that moment of awe. Wow, you think to yourself, this is unreal, this is unbelievable, I wish I could take a closer look…well, be careful what you wish for is all I can say.

As we left our mountain hostel and headed down the now familiar winding roads I barely had time to pull out my ipod and unwrap a piece of gum before we were stopped on the side of the road.

What? I thought to myself. Wasn’t this supposed to be a three hour drive? I had been secretly looking forward to sometime just to chill and not really think so much…

But whatever my desire, in a few minutes we were all standing on the sidewalk, hardhats on, looking down the clif into a rocky, river basin.

“Where are we going?” someone asked.

“Down,” was the answer.

With the help of a rope and a good pair of hiking boots we propelled down the shear face of the rock, boulder hopped for a few hundred meters and then found ourselves not only in the bottom of a river bed under the Cien Bridge, but looking at a beautiful waterfall.


The river was certainly fast flowing and landslides were apparent in the surrounding area but all of us were shocked to learn from Will that the landscape that we were sitting in was eroding away at a rate of 9,000 meters per million years or nine millimeters per year. That may not sound like a lot, but when compared with the average around the world of about 50 to 1000 meters per million years, the rate in Taiwan is enormous.

And this point was to be made again, and again, and again.

When we arrived at the Baiyang Trailhead after experiencing a 5.4 magnitude earthquake (the first time for many of us!) the point became even clearer. Hundreds of meters above our heads was a river terrace – an old river bed. As we hiked along the trail, through the caves and over rocks that had just fallen onto the path during the earthquake Will and Tim pointed out even more evidence for the incredibly dynamic landscape of Taiwan.

Landslides, waterfalls, river terraces, freshly exposed, clean rock and enormous boulders (some 20m in diameter!)

When I thought we couldn’t possibly see another gorge, we were led down under yet another bridge. Although most of us were so tired from a long day at the rocks we all got a little excited when the first acid test of the trip showed that the beach really had pieces of marble when the drop of HCl on my small white rock began to fizz.

Today the gorges only continued to come at us. The most impressive one in all of Taiwan – Taroko Gorge.


Taroko left us speechless. The only words that came to us put the magnitude of this geologic masterpiece into perspective…

“How is this not the grand canyon of Taiwan?”