Edging our way around the deep overhang behind the waterfall, we reach the far end, directly behind the slim column of falling water, only to be greeted with an astonishing sight: the other people sitting gazing out into the gorge are packing up their sleeping bags – they've just spent the night camping behind the waterfall!
There is a small road just past the large resorts at the mouth of the Chihpen (知本) Valley, located where the road begins to climb towards the deeper hot springs and the national forest park.
With such evocative place names as Full Moon Mountain, Cloud Heart Falls and North Piercing Heaven Mountain, the area south of Sansia (三峽) near Taipei County's western border promises lots for the hiker, and it doesn't disappoint, with some excellent walking opportunities to waterfalls, 2,000-year-old trees, and several challenging mountain summits.
When Taiwan was not Taiwan, but a lonely island in the Pacific Ocean, when there was no Han population in this land and we can imagine the idyllic aboriginal paradise, living in several valleys and plains of this almost empty region, the Tang (唐) Dynasty ruled in the huge, heavily populated Chinese empire.
As the summer heat picks up, hiking in the steep little mountains around Taipei is rapidly becoming a less than tempting proposition, so it's great to discover that rarest of hikes in Taiwan: the long, scenically stunning, yet mostly level walk.
You can look, but you can't touch. Sounds like advice you might hear regarding certain beautiful girls in Taiwan. However, when in Taimali (太麻里), Taitung (台東) County, this wisdom applies to an amazing stretch of beach along the coastal highway.
The trail is less than a meter wide and five hundred meters long, but as our group gingerly follows the narrow strip, suspended halfway up the sheer face of Taroko Gorge's highest cliff face, I think the feeling is unanimous that this is probably the most spectacular, easily accessible hike in Taiwan.
I almost didn't want to go back to this valley, that's how much I love it. Between 2000-2004, I river-traced and camped in this gorge twelve times.
Standing for a group shot in front of the simply named Ancient Tree no. 1, there's ample room for ten of us to pose, lined up in a row and leaning on the tree's prodigiously broad, curving trunk.
It's always a delight to be able to get out of the city and up into the mountains into the fresh air, beautiful scenery and amongst the chirping birds.