Day 253: To Boulderly Go!

Tue. 23rd April 2013

A nice cold shower in the morning!To paraphrase that well known Sci-Fi show – ‘Taiwan, the final frontier. Our 1 week mission to explore alien civilisations…’. Fair enough, but why did that have to include bouldering / river-walking? And what is involved anyway? And will we enjoy it? We console ourselves that Rob and Sian have taken the kids before and they have all loved it. After the beach, it was top of Jamie’s wish list for the trip. Janet is not so sure, It seems to involve getting cold and wet and climbing along river beds and over boulders.

As we bundle into the minibus for the 3o minute journey out to the river, we have to say goodbye to Sian for a couple of days. She has only been able to get the one day off work (Monday) and so needs to get the train back to Changhua so that she can work this afternoon. People might think that they work hard in the UK but that is nothing compared to the Taiwanese work culture (for better or for worse).

What do you mean the water is cold?Its also not entirely reassuring that we have to stop at the police station on our way to the start point in order to report in (they count us out and they count us back in again). The minibus follows a river up a hill for a while and then stops opposite a weir where a sign explains to us that the weir cunningly incorporates a fish run inside. Here, we meet up with the 4 others that will be in our group for the first part of the trip (though they will be out all day whilst we have only signed up for half a day). We assume that they are Taiwanese or Chinese but they turn out to be Germans of Vietnamese descent. It just goes to show that you shouldn’t make assumptions!

On the high jumpThe sun is shining and once we put on our wetsuits, lifejacket and helmets we start to get hot. Our guide though has a plan to deal with that and gets us sitting down in the river for his briefing – the Chinese version of which was much longer than the English version. Should we be worried? The sitting down in the cold water is swiftly followed by the shower underneath the weir and we get the message that no opportunity to get us wet is going to be missed.

Easy after Mt Kinabalu!We need to use a rope to climb up the steep bank beside the weir but after our Kinabalu climb, we know how to do this and Janet practically sprints up. After that it is a case of following the river. Mostly we walk along the river bed – sometimes climbing over rocks; sometimes having to push through the water as it rushes though the gaps in rocks; sometimes through cracks where there is a waterfall that always seems to run down your back inside your wetsuit. We take care to get a good footing as the rocks are slippery and the water can really push hard when it is flowing strongly. It is alright for Jamie as the guide just grabs him by the collar of his life jacket and bodily lifts him up and over rocks.

Boldly going - backwards down the water chuteThe guide knows where the deeper pools are and these all involve toppling backwards off a weir or jumping off rocks into the water. There is a high jump that is, well, high (5m or so) and needs a run at. Janet and Jamie pass on this but the rest of us enjoy the thrill (or at least, after we have jumped, we enjoy it). At one point they even find a natural water chute and we slide down this – head first and on our backs. Needless to say, the kids of all ages just love all of this. There are more shrieks, laughter and smiles and when it comes to a break we are happy enough to splash around (and each other), build dams and skim stones. This was a reminder of the sheer fun to be had from splashing about in the water especially with children who have not a care in the world.

A final showerWe were getting cold by the time we made it back to the minibus and were glad that we’d only signed up for the half-day. Lunch was our first priority on getting back to town and the kids voted for Sushi Express (we’d forgotten that children exist in some weird form of democracy where their votes are the only ones that count). Actually, sushi was completely fine by us and we are now experts – apart from where we need to ask for something special where we are completely sunk and Ceilin has to come to our rescue. Actually, it is wonderful to see both Ceilin and Jamie have the confidence to go up to waiters and just ask for what they want.

Yes, they really built a road along the side of these cliffsIn the afternoon, there is a choice of activities. The girls opt for some shopping in town – I think that Janet is enjoying the temporary adoption of a daughter. Rob and I opt to go for a drive out of town for some sightseeing which means that poor Jamie gets no choice at all and has to come sightseeing with us. One of the attractions around here are the steep cliffs on this side of the island that fall into the sea with the coast road carved into them.

Stunning sceneryAs we drive out, we find that there has been a lot of engineering work over the last few years and now there are some long tunnels through the mountains. Often we can see the remnants of the old road – particularly at the start at finish of the tunnel sections. The old road must have been truly terrifying all sharp bends with steep (and high) drop-offs into the sea below. A very spectacular road that reminded me of the Antrim coast road back in Northern Ireland albeit – as Janet described in yesterday’s blog much that we have seen has been new and usual but some things do remind us of home.

Any (and all) parts of a duck for sale here!Rob’s programme to show us all of the good things that Taiwan has to offer continues in the evening as we head out to a night market. Apparently, there are two night markets in Hualien and Rob isn’t very impressed with the one the taxi driver takes us to. It looks big enough to us though and very different from the Victoria Night Market that Myf took us to in Melbourne. It is predominantly food stalls with a wide variety of ‘delicacies’ on offer. We passed on the fried duck’s heads but went for the fried octopus (or was it squid) dumplings. Actually very tasty once again – the sheer creativity of the foods here is just astonishing. How do they think of this stuff? How do they manage to eat it all?? Our new frontiers to which we have boldly gone on this trip haven’t just been geographic!

[PS – thanks to www.riverking.com.tw for a great day]

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2 Responses to Day 253: To Boulderly Go!

  1. Stacey Hansen says:

    What has Dave got you into now Janet?!

    • Janet says:

      It was Dave’s brother who got me into it this time, and not Dave. I was able to avoid the scary bits by walking up the side of the water! Happy house building.x

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