River tracing in Taiwan
Today I am writing for you about something that cannot be done in Europe. It’s called river tracing. This sport, or rather outdoor activity, requires a specific terrain, which cannot be found on the old continent. Namely – it requires huge, long gorges.
What is river tracing (aka canyoning)?
This is an activity that is somewhat of a mountain trekking activity, but is based on entering a mountain river and following its course. Rivers that allow this have a very distinctive shape due to their environment. The gorges several dozen meters deep and several or several dozen kilometers long are an ideal place for rapid mountain rivers.
Rivers flowing in ravines have bottoms covered with stones pouring down into them from steep rock walls, and the specific rock formations through which they flow create huge numbers of waterfalls. If you pull these rivers out somewhere and see them in profile, they would look a bit like steps.
River tracing is about moving along the river, in the water (because there is almost no land, the river banks are usually high, steep, gorge walls) and overcoming obstacles – waterfalls, river bottlenecks, lingering boulders. Unlike mountain trekking, most often there is no clearly defined destination. You go wherever you can, and then you turn back.
Where did the idea for river tracing in Taiwan come from?
These are more my guesses than the facts. However, I have spoken to many people on this subject and they have confirmed that my reasoning is most likely correct.
To go to Taiwan’s high mountains, you need a permit. There is a daily limit to enter the national park. And that is a very small limit (eg for Taiwan’s highest peak only about 200 people a day). You have to take part in the drawing of tickets. This was the first reason to find an alternative to the high mountains somewhere outside of strict nature conservation.
The second reason is less obvious. It turns out that while walking up the gorge in the mountains, you don’t have any great views of the river located in the gorge. There is no chance of approaching the slope because it is muddy, full of stones, slippery and very steep, and the view is obscured by dense vegetation.
So someone discovered that by going down to the river, you can explore amazing canyons carved by water from the inside without looking from afar, from above, behind the bushes;). Not only that – walking down the river, you reach places that cannot be reached by any other road.
What does it take to do river tracing?
The person organizing the trip should inform you about the difficulty of the route and the required skills. There are three levels of difficulty, and each requires different skills:
- beginner – easy river tracing. It consists in crossing a shallow river that is not too rapid, sometimes you have to pull yourself up on the stones about 2 meters up (or down). It is enough to have the skills to do little trekking and gentle rock climbing.
- Intermediate – it will be required to use ropes, have a climbing harness, descend on ropes up to 10 meters down, climb slippery rocks or descend “in a waterfall”.
- Advanced – I haven’t dared to do that yet, but I’ve already been introduced to it. It’s all the same as above, just “more”. Sometimes you have to descend on a rope, e.g. 25 meters, but in a waterfall. And let me add that a 25-meter waterfall will have the strength of a hurricane. First of all, you have to do it quickly because you can’t breathe inside the waterfall, and secondly – slowly enough not to fall off. Third – with your eyes closed, because the waterfall and the power of the water won’t let you open your eyes. I do not recommend it to people who are not advanced climbers. Diving skills will also be needed.
- Climbing harness. Using it you can lower yourself on a rope (of course, carabiners are also required!) Or belay yourself using a lanyard
- Climbing lanyard
- Helmet – obligatory. No one will let you go without a helmet. No matter how smart you are, you will bang your head over and over again.
- Gloves – make it easier to climb wet rocks.
- River tracing shoes. These are special, soft shoes with a rather spongy sole. Increase grip on wet stones.
- Dry Bag – a completely waterproof bag or backpack (one that can be dived). It will come in handy to carry your phone, food and other necessities.
- Wet suit – a wetsuit for swimming. Invaluable and protects against abrasions.
- Knee and shin pads. The sport involves a lot of slips and falls, and the most common hits are against rocks with your shins and knees. The protectors are placed under the wetsuit.
- Life jacket. Due to eddies, waterfalls, unexpected depths – necessary in many places so as not to drown, being drawn in by water currents.
How to organize river tracing in Taiwan?
I advise against a lonely trip. These are not the mountains where you can go on a lonely trekking to take a break from the people and the city. River tracing requires some help, protection, and preferably someone who knows the terrain well. Because the river is uneven and not every place is suitable for this type of activity, and in addition – there is no official map where this sport can be practiced.
I recommend talking to the Taiwanese in trekking and mountain groups, they will certainly know the information on the groups involved in this activity.
The second way will be to use ready-made tours. Here are some examples of tours with prices:
By using the links above you get a discount 🙂
If you want to make some reservations on the KLOOK platform to which I have posted above, hire a guide through it or buy an EASY CARD to move around Taiwan, click the link below. By registering via my link you get 100NTD to use for your first purchase or booking. Register in KLOOK
And the best option, how to organize river tracing in Taiwan! 😉
Contact me directly via the Fanpage on Facebook @dalekowswiat or by writing an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, I will help you with the organization of the trip, I will provide contacts or arrange the whole trip for you. I speak Polish, English, Spanish and Russian, so you can safely take your friends from other countries.
What do you need to know before you decide to go River Tracing?
River tracing is not an easy sport. This is not a quiet mountain trekking. There are dangers in traversing rivers. One is that the rocks are slippery. If you are a mountain trekker, you’ve probably heard it many times – today we don’t go to the mountains, it rained at night, the rocks will be slippery. There is no such option during river tracing – rocks are always slippery and often covered with algae, so sometimes they are slippery like ice.
You will surely fall or slip somewhere. It can’t be helped. Even though you are the smartest person in the world, there is no way you should run somewhere on slippery rocks or get caught in the flow of a river. Of course, this is associated with bruises and abrasions. This is the charm of this activity 😉
This is not a sport for people who want to take their kids somewhere. Definitely. There is no way to protect someone by walking on all fours on the rocks. The carrier also comes off – it happens that you have to squeeze through a gap. Then even with a small backpack there is a problem.
What does river tracing do?
I know, this point sounds pretty weird 😉
First of all – you can see places and wonders of nature that cannot be reached in any other way. Several dozen meters high waterfalls, beautiful canyons and generally – the tropical beauty of Taiwan.
Second – check yourself. River tracing combines several skills required to practice it. So you have to switch quickly between climbing and swimming. Sometimes unexpectedly, when it comes off the wall and falls into the river.
Third – adrenaline. If you are looking for a strong experience, I can guarantee that this activity will provide you with them.
Fourth – getting new friends very quickly. You have to help each other during river tracing. So you will quickly get closer to other participants, sharing the hardships of the journey. That is why it is worth going with Taiwanese, who will be very happy to befriend you, helping you and expecting your help!
A word of summary
River tracing is for active people and open to unusual opportunities brought by the Taiwanese mountains. It brings with it a great portion of energy and experience to gain.
Being in Taiwan and not having a reservation to the national park for high mountain climbing, I definitely recommend taking this alternative.
If you’re looking for inspiring trip check this out : Jiufen, the gold rush city