Saturday, August 2, 2008

"Man Overboard"

Hello everyone, boy do we have a lot to write about tonight. First off, our plans for today were slightly altered. We ended up riding with Wen Ping to go white water rafting in Rueisui, a small town about 68 kilometers south of Hualien. We left at 8 a.m. and arrived at the rafting site around 9. It was wonderful that Wen Ping was with us, because he took care of all the arrangements and we saw no signs in English. Safety seemed to be a key priority, with there being two safety instruction demonstrations plus a video. I was a little nervous, because they told us that the water would be much higher due to the typhoon last weekend. We were given heavy duty life vests to wear along with a helmet, but the helmet was more like a padded hat. At least it did a good job at keeping the sun off my face. We were fortunate enough to find a group of five people from Taipei to fill up the eight person raft. Everyone was very friendly and spoke good English as well. That made it nice because we could chat during our raft ride. They are all travel agents in Taipei.

In order for you to completely understand our experience, I must tell you about the setup. First, there were eight of us in a raft WITHOUT a guide! There were probably between 30-40 other rafts that were in our group. There were many lifeguards in motorized rafts that would patrol the river, making sure that everyone was ok. Another main job that they had was to keep our boats out of the dangerous areas. They did this by literally pushing our raft with their boat. Many times I had to duck down in the boat, otherwise they would have run over me!

Another crazy thing, was that people would constantly splash you. We had two small buckets in our boat, and I thought that these were for bailing out water. I guess that may be one of their purposes, but their main use was to throw water on other rafters as they passed us by. At first, I was a little annoyed by this, but I quickly joined in the fun and we had a great time splashing everyone else.

The first leg of the trip took us about 1.5 hours. We stopped at the midpoint and were greeted with lunch. We had no idea that this was included in the NT 800 (about $35) per person costs. I was very glad to see food, because I was starving. Little did I know that I would need all of my energy for the next leg of the trip.

They had warned us that the rest of the trip would be a little more "exciting" and dangerous, due to the swift currents. We set off and about 30 minutes later, we were greeted with a very swift rapid. Nick and I were in the front of the raft (I have no idea how this happened). There was a 4-5 feet water drop that we hit with our boat being sideways! As soon as we hit it, I knew that we were going over. The boat turned over on my side, and I went under the water I just knew that I was going to be caught under it. Thanks to my handy dandy lifevest, I quickly surfaced. I was very scared though, because I was moving down stream with the current. I could see Nick, but he was at least 15 feet away from me. I was screaming his name and trying to tell myself just to float on my back like they had instructed us to do in this situation. I got on my back and was quickly met with a wave from the current. I quickly surfaced again and I was greeted with the lifeguard. He grabbed my vest and heaved me into his raft. I think I thanked him at leat 50 times. Then, he picked up Nick and we headed back to our raft. Out of the eight people on our boat, six had to be picked up by the lifeguards. Thankfully, the rest of our trip was uneventful. All in all, we walked away with quite a few bruises, but we had an excellent time. I would highly recommend rafting down the Siouguluan River if you're ever in the area.

After rafting, we drove about an hour further south to Sixty Stone Mountain. We passed many rice fields on the way, and the scenery was beautiful. The mountainside is covered with day lilies from August to September. This flower is popular in Taiwan and Japan and is used in various tees and in food as well. About 70% of the mountain's flowers are harvested and 30% are left for tourism. Only a few of the flowers were in bloom today, but the view from the top of the mountain was amazing. Wen Ping took us to dinner a restaurant on the mountainside, where we were able to try these flowers. They were served in our soup and as a main course as well. Everything was very good!

I'm sorry, but we do not have any pictures for our rafting trip. It would have been impossible for us to take our camera. Here's a link to an article, if you're interested, and I will post a picture from the website on here. We do have some pictures from the island and from dinner. Alright, now it's off for a cold shower (we have not had hot water in 2 days) and then to bed. We have a busy day planned tomorrow!

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