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I took stock of my unusual situation: in the middle of a stream pool in Taiwan, wearing a wet suit and river shoes, doing sit-ups on a boulder to keep warm while my guides prepared lunch.
Yes, I was freezing. And, yes, the forecast had failed our tour group. Instead of picture-perfect blue skies and the sun reflecting off the famously clear turquoise water like we had expected on this trip with local operator Meet My Guide, we had been wading for hours through cold water under a nonstop drizzle.
Even then, I couldn’t begrudge the weather. On a day like this, we had the entire river to ourselves. Looking downstream at our lush forest surroundings draped in a snaking mist, I couldn’t imagine wanting it any other way.
River tracing, also known as canyoneering, is a combination of rock climbing, scrambling, swimming and hiking, punctuated by cliff-jumping and watersliding. Hualien, a laid-back county on the east coast of Taiwan, is perfect for such activities. It’s located at the foothills of the Coastal Mountain Range, with a tangle of waterways that eventually meet and lead to the Pacific Ocean.
Hualien’s network of tour operators organizes numerous river tracing trips, as well as custom, multiday outings for more hard-core tracers. A craggy and volcanic wonderland, the entire region serves as a base for many other adventure activities. These include sunrise sea kayaking and trekking into Taroko Gorge National Park to stay overnight with the aboriginal tribes that still call the area home.
Our lunch — ramen noodles with fresh vegetables and slices of meat, eaten in the middle of the river — was the halfway point, and a welcome break after hours of wading under powerful waterfalls (where I almost lost a contact), rappelling down rock faces and jumping off boulders into the water.To save some time on the return, we decided to leap 20 feet off a ledge instead of hiking the distance through the forest path.
“Stand there, and jump as far away from the edge as you can,” instructed my guide, Cloud Wong.
I stood at the lip, pondering all the random things I had learned — to trust my shoes more on the slippery surfaces, how to rub my eye to recover a stuck contact — and acknowledged my fear of jumping, even though I’d done it before.
“Go!” he shouted.
Without hesitation, I leapt.
Prices for Meet My Guide’s river tracing tours start at about $120 per person, and the level of difficulty is tailored to the members of the group.
The DetailsMeet My Guidewww.meetmyguide.com