Elephant Rock SUP/kayaking [Travel in Taiwan 180708: “Row, row, row your boat”] | Travel in Asia

Monday, July 9, 2018

Elephant Rock SUP/kayaking [Travel in Taiwan 180708: “Row, row, row your boat”]


Paddleboarding at Elephant Rock.  The luomujie blog is breaking again the stereotypes of Taiwandering by engaging in outdoor activities on the island.  From river trekking in Golden Grotto, paragliding in Wanli to hiking in the dangerous narrow cliffs of Zhuilo Old Trail, Luo-Mu Jie will always be there.  Now comes another great activity that will definitely change the way you look at Taiwan.  Paddle against the waves, sail at the open sea.  Are you ready for an unforgettable adventure?

Before you get your wetsuit from the closet or even buy one, let me introduce the Taiwanese outdoor travel company that helped me fulfill my summer dream.  It is the Aruba company and led by the English-speaking Mark.  Booking the trip was so easy.  I paid them first by sending money to their bank account and then I filled up the online application form and put in the details of the ATM receipt.

Ariba Aruba!  The local operator is part of a consortium of outdoor travel agencies called KingSun that provides a variety of exciting activities in Taiwan.   Directly reserving in Aruba saves a lot of time, because you already know how many people are already paid and how many slots are left.   In the case of my stand up (SUP) paddleboarding,  there were 30 slots and at least 10 people were required to be fully paid before the activity pushes through.   Luckily, the minimum number was already obtained so I knew the activity would happen and I registered immediately.   I received an e-mail about the confirmation of the trip and they requested for a scanned copy of my passport for the insurance.  With the event confirmed, I watched videos on YouTube on how to do the paddleboarding since it will be my first time to do this kind of trip.

How about using Klook?  Well, they also have paddleboarding activities on their menu and I tried making a reservation twice.    However, they either canceled my booking because I need three other people to have the trip approved by the local operator or the agency don't have instructors who can speak English.   To make it simple, you need to able to speak and understand Chinese and form a group of four people to have a successful trip. Or else your reservation will be canceled and you will have to wait for your money to be refunded after waiting for a few days.  Having my reservation not approved twice was a waste of my time! I'm hopeful that someday the activity can be offered to all foreigners and not just to those who can speak Chinese.  So for now, the Aruba company will fit the needs of international tourists wishing to do a paddleboarding or kayaking trip.

To the Elephant Rock... Yeah!

Like what I said, after paying I received an e-mail asking for a copy of my passport.  This was for insurance purposes which gave me a feeling of relief in case anything bad happens to me.   Like any outdoor activity, paddling into the open sea poses risks to thrill seekers.  You will never know when freak waves swallow you in an instant and take you to the rocky part of the shore. Adding more excitement to my adventure is that I don't even know how to swim! Haha!

Luo-Mu Jie in action!

To make the activity safe, helmets and life vests were provided to the participants.  I understand the use of floating devices for non-swimmers but the use of hard hats puzzled me at first.  When I sailed into the sea, I noticed the rocky shore of Taiwan's northeast coast.  It would be too dangerous and fatal for tourists if big waves suddenly took them to this rocks.  How about the weather? If there are typhoon or heavy rains on the scheduled date, then expect an e-mail from Mark.  It's either you will be asked to join the next available SUP/kayaking activity next week or you will have your payment refunded back to your bank account.  

Mark as he gave instructions to the locals.

The kayaks and the paddleboards are inflatable rubber boats.

The pair of persons who will ride a kayak must be of the same weight.
I went together with a group of Taiwanese.  As the only foreigner in the group, Mark and the rest of the gang took care of me.   I was the only one who chose the paddleboard while the rest opted for the kayak. For the kayaking, at least two persons are needed and they must be of the same weight (this info is needed in the online application).  For the paddleboarding, one person is enough to sit or stand on the inflatable “surfboard”.  

Elephant rock.  Luo-Mu Jie is on the right side of the photo.  Haha!
To get to the Elephant Rock one must row their boat from the beach to the rock formations.  So if you want to join this activity, you have to be physically fit.

“So how do we go to the Elephant Rock?  Do you have a speedboat to take us there and then we will start the kayaking?”, I asked Mark these questions.  “No! We will start from the beach”, he answered.  I was really shocked by his reply.   I could not see the famous Elephant Rock from the shore and I believed this would test my upper body strength. Haha!   

practicing how to use the double-edge paddle

Before going to the sea,  a tutorial was given on how to paddle properly.  The locals tried it first on the shore.  They scraped the sand as if it was the sea.  If they were already good enough, then they would practice near the waters.  Since there are two persons on a kayak, paddling is easier because the work is divided into two.   Both ends of the kayak paddle have flattened edges on the end making it easier to swing left or right while paddling.  

Mark as he pulls my stand up paddleboard

It was my first time to do such kind of rowing activity in Taiwan.  I wasn't really scared even though I don't know how to swim. I was very confident about the powers of my life vest.  I knew that everything will be fine.  Haha! Mark taught me how to do the rowing properly.   I need to hold the paddle up to its end (I was not given the double-ended type!) and then swing it against the water, dipping its end to the waters to make the “push” and move forward.  To do the right turn, I did the inverse paddle on the left side.  You make this clockwise move by paddling forward forcing the inflatable to change position.

Since it was paddleboarding activity, I was told to sit or kneel as I explore the East China Sea.  Kneeling for too long was not good so I was forced to sit at the middle portion of the board.  There was a strap in the center which serves as the median point of the inflatable plank. I sat in that area to prevent myself from losing my balance and fall into the water.   

After two hours of rowing, the group finally reached the Elephant Rock with my abdomen aching.  Sitting for too long and then paddling alternately on my left and right side is like doing an ab work out.  But seeing the Elephant Rock in all its glory took away all the exhaustion.  Its long trunk continues down to the sea like an animal thirst for mother nature's nurturing love.  A natural wonder in Taiwan that you can only see if you are strong enough to “Row, row, row your boat”.

Aruba Outdoor School*: http://aruba.org.tw/
Just e-mail Mark if you want to make some inquiry:  arubaba@hotmail.com

Price of SUP**: NTD 1,800 per person
Price of kayaking**:  NTD 1,600 per person

Meeting place***: Rongxing (榮興) bus stop [Google Map]

How to get to the meeting place:
From TRA Ruifang Station: Board Bus 1051 at Ruifang Train Station (District Square)
瑞芳火車站(區民廣場) [Google Map]
From TRA Keelung Station: Board Bus 791 and 1051 at Keelung Station(Renxiang Clinic)
基隆火車站(仁祥診所) stop [Google Map]

* The roundtrip SUP/kayaking will take 4 hours.  Expect your body to get extremely tired after the event.
* Please remember where you place your slippers on the beach.  The sand will be too hot once you return to the shore after the trip.
**  Joining an activity of Aruba means allowing yourself to become part of their advertising materials.  Do not register if you are not comfortable with this kind of setting.
*** Do not be late at the agreed meeting time.
***  Just opposite the Rongxing bus stop is a store which has a faucet and hose which you can use to wash your body. Aruba will provide a tent where participants can change their clothes.  Just bring a towel to dry yourself up.


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