Monday, 17 August 2015

Two days in Hualian - Day One: River Tracing

Lying on the east coast of Taiwan, hugging the mountain range that contains the tourist hotspot, Taroko Gorge and covers about half of Taiwan's terrain, Hualian is a couple of hours' express train ride from Taipei. A weekend destination for city dwellers, Hualian offers tourists plenty of hotels, restaurants and associated tourist trappings, and access to some of the most gorgeous scenery and fulfilling outdoor activities Taiwan has to offer.

Companies owned and run by local indigenous tribes, which provide river tracing, mountain climbing, trekking and educational activities such as learning how to make fire and other tribal skills, are a thriving industry in the area. Often called hunter schools, these companies are less about hunting and more about living sustainably in the natural landscape.

Along with some friends, we had two days booked with a hunter school. The first day we spent river tracing, and on the second day we learned about living in the forest with nothing but a very good knowledge of the local flora and fauna, and a knife.

River Tracing

River tracing involves walking up and down rivers in the water. In Taiwan in summer this is probably the coolest way of walking anywhere. The water is just the right temperature to cool you down without becoming uncomfortably cold, even after a few hours.

There were children in our party, so we had the simplest, safest course, which took about three hours and involved lots of splashing each other and jumping in, but not very much arduous walking.

River tracing in Hualian

The school we booked with were very hot on safety. We were fully geared up in wet suits, special shoes that grip slippery rocks, and if the children wandered anywhere near any dangerous places the guides told them off severely.

At the end of the trip they filled us up with sweet biscuits to replace some of our used-up energy and help warm us up.

I loved river tracing and thought the guides did a great job. I only wished I could have gone further.

Domestic airlines fly to Hualian airport, which is a short distance out of town, but after recent crashes I'm nervous of flying within Taiwan. We went by train instead, though there are also buses that make the journey.

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