Despite the recent water shortage, there is no shortage of rain this time of year, especially on the weekends. This seriously limits the choices in outdoor activities, but Taiwan has an adventure for literally every weather condition. Rain season is river tracing season.
I thought I had been river tracing a few times before, last year in Wuli when I lived up north. I knew the rivers in Wuli are fairly flat and I thought the trips themselves were a nice stroll in a freezing cold river. I didn’t think river tracing was much more than that. Until recently. River tracing is perhaps the most risky outdoor activity, and can be the most extreme, that Taiwan has to offer. It all depends on the grade of the river, the water level, and how long you plan to go for (hardcore outdoor junkies go for a week or more at a time). River tracing is basically hiking through a river, but it involves a lot of climbing up large steep rocks (that are wet) and occasionally a waterfall.
Since river tracing is a combination activity you need a lot of different gear. We wore; wetsuits and swim goggles, river tracing shoes, climbing harnesses, and helmets. We brought; a camp stove and rain jackets, and crampons, and climbing gear.
Feng-Mei river in Miaoli is in Shenxian Valley “Immortal Valley”. Because river tracing requires you to be partially submerged in water for hours at a time it has the potential to be very cold and miserable, and there is nothing I hate more than being cold and wet at the same time. As long as you have the proper clothes (a wetsuit except for summer months) and keep moving it is fine. The only time I felt cold was when we stopped to cook lunch. (Hot coffee is key!)
River tracing requires a lot of trial and error. Trying to climb up waterfalls isn’t always successful, there was one spot we had to backtrack and go up and around the waterfall. I even went under one instead of making the attempt to climb over it. I thought I was a fairly decent climber before this, but in a wet wetsuit layered with a t-shirt and harness, I was slow and lumbering. For most of the trip I felt like a whale trying to climb a mountain.
The grand finale was Feng-Mei waterfall itself for which the river is named. Standing at 11 meters high with a deep pool at the bottom, it was “Mei” indeed.
The final climb was up and through the waterfall.
The complete journey took about 4 hours. There was a walking path on the side of the river that took us on a 40 minute walk back to our car rather than re-trace back down the river. Even gray rainy days can turn into beautiful adventures when you live on a magical island such as this.
We even found a fairy wing in immortal valley.