Day 21. Saturday, May 3rd, 2008. Along the Hualien City seashore, 5 hours.
I got the very fast Taroko Express train to Hualien: Only 2 hrs 7 mins from Taipei Station. Arriving at Hualien Railway Station, I first ate, bought some water and sun block, then got a ride with a friendly female cabbie to Hualien fish port. It was a pretty nice day, and not too hot. A few dark rain-clouds hugged the mountains and threatened to come over, but they never did.
I walked first through Hualien’s northern industrial area, which is by the port, and seems heavily based on marble, aggregate, and concrete. The port and the objects in it were on a large scale, and interesting.
Then, from the port road onto a pleasant bicycle and walking path that at first offered great views of the port, then crossed a wooden bridge into the more residential areas of the city.
Because it was Saturday, there were many people out enjoying the fine weather. In a park near the river, a big bunch of high-school students were having a boisterous barbecue. On the gray gravelly beach, picnickers, kids, fishers, and others were out having fun. I walked along on a path atop a wall separating the beach from the road. Soon the beach disappeared, and there were massive rows of concrete jacks, looking like huge molecules.
On my right there was a seaside park, and then mixed-use land, with houses, fields, and few factories. Eventually I came to the large river that flows to the sea at the southern end of Hualien. There, as always, the fishers were out, exploiting the estuarine conditions. Across the channel I could see a headland, and a highway, which would be my route south on another day.
I followed the river shore, past a wary Brahmin cow, until the path petered out. I snuck through the snaggly scrub and a hole in the fence on the backside of an industrial park, and came out after a while to the highway: noisy, big, irritating, but well provided with gas stations, convenience stores and bin lang huts.
I walked a bit further until I found the bridge that had been my goal while I was following the riverbed. I took a good look south, along Highway 11. That was my future path. It was a lonely road for a lone walker, with no trains, and probably very little in the way of public transport. The main connection between Hualien and Taidong was in the rift valley, the Highway 9 route. I would be going on the exposed outside edge. Hualien would be the last big town I would see until Taidong. Logistics would be harder, security less. The easy part of my trip was over.
But that would be for another day! I turned around and trudged into Hualien proper, past km’s of factories or warehouses, then scruffy outskirts, and finally into the thriving center. The train back was the slow one, but, whatever!