Tyler Barth

iOS developer and UX Designer

River Tracing Story 溯溪的故事

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Ready to river trace

This is my river tracing story. I gave a speech about it at the end of the semester. This is the extended unedited version, along with the English back translation.


Two weekends ago I had the chance to go river tracing. You might not know what river tracing means. Basically, river tracing is wading and bouldering up a small stream. You need special equipment such as a helmet, life jacket, waterproof backpack, and special water shoes.


I started that day at 6 am. First we gathered at an MRT station, where I was almost late because I got off at the wrong bus stop. The twenty or so of us boarded three vans and drove to a mountain village south of Yilan.


After arriving at the stream I discovered that there were actually a lot of river tracing groups going upstream. Some of the groups were mostly foreigners, others were mostly locals. After we got our equipment we started heading upstream.

River tracing scene


I think river tracing, although it has some dangerous parts and requires serious preparation, at its core is actually a very child-like and innocent activity. If we’re river tracing and we come upon a choice: one route that is easier and dry, and one route that is more challenging and would result in us getting drenched, we would always choose the latter. The reason is simply that it’s more fun. This is the pure and innocent logic of a child, so this activity lets us pretend and go back to the pure joy of a child jumping in puddles for the sheer fun of it.

Jumping for the fun of it


There were some harder obstacles, but we always helped each other to get past them. In the end we got to our destination: a tall, beautiful waterfall. Underneath the waterfall was a large pool, where we planned to eat lunch at the waterfall, but first I went to explore the pool.

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The waterfall, photo copyright NeilWade.com


Because of weight and space concerns, I almost didn’t bring my snorkeling equipment. However, because I’m a diver, always curious to see what’s living in the water near me, I ultimately decided to bring it along.


I put on my mask and snorkel and went into the water. I found that the water was very clear, and I quickly discovered a few different creatures living in that pool. There were two kinds of fish: one a mid-stream swimming minnow, the other a bottom-feeding sucker fish. Besides these two fish, there were also tadpoles. But the most important thing was that I found a kind of small, freshwater shrimp.

Underwater scene

One of the sucker fish


你可能想問,淡水小蝦有甚麼重要性呢? 讓我繞解釋:

You might be asking, what’s so special about a freshwater shrimp? Let me take a detour and explain.

A slightly blurry shrimp

我小時候很喜歡養魚,高中的時候我發現有新風格的一種水族箱,發明者是一個日本的藝術家叫「天野尚」,日文叫「Amano Takashi」。 他所發明的風格叫「大自然水族箱」。他的水族箱的內容大部分是水中植物,還有一點點魚類和蝦類。他嘗試模仿大自然的外形,你可以說他是運用有機物和無機物的材料來圖立體的山水畫。除了外形,他也嘗試用水中生物來創造一個穩定的生態系統。譬如,植物是吸入二氧化碳,呼出氧氣的,動物是相反的,所以放在一起是相輔相成的。另外一個例子,如果水族箱有水藻的問題,他就可以用吃水藻的魚或蝦來調整。

When I was younger I loved raising fish. In highschool I discovered a new style of fish tank invented by a Japanese artist named Takashi Amano. His style is called “Nature Aquarium.” His aquariums contain mostly plants, and a few fish or shrimp. He tries to imitate nature. You could say he uses organic and inorganic materials to try to paint a three-dimensional landscape. Besides external appearance, he also tries to use aquatic organisms to create a stable ecological system. For example, plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, animals are the opposite, so if you put them together they form a complementary pair. Another example is how he tries to use algae-eating fish or shrimp to regulate the algae in the tank.


My first time seeing his picture book, I immediately thought, “This really resonates with me.” Afterwards, all my aquariums imitated his style. I liked him so much that when I lived in Japan I traveled to Niigata just to see his gallery. Because I move around too much, unfortunately right now I have no aquariums.

拿到我第二個例子,我究竟可以說明這種蝦的重要性。天野尚推廣了這個用蝦調整水族箱的方法。他特別用莫一種很喜歡水藻的蝦,所以給養水族箱的社會介紹那一種類蝦,就是我那一天看到的。其實,因為他的推廣,那種蝦現在叫做「天野蝦」。 我很熟悉這種小蝦,因為我以前在水族箱裡養過這種小蝦。我好像知道台灣是一個牠的起源,可是忘記了。看這種蝦我不能說是我的人生願望,可是還算是我來台灣以前非常希望做的事情。

With the second example, I finally can explain the importance of the shrimp. Amano popularized the use of shrimp to control algae. He used a certain species of algae-loving shrimp, which he introduced to the aquatic gardening community. This species is the one I saw on that day. Actually, because of his popularization, this species has come to be known as the “Amano shrimp.” I’m very familiar with this little shrimp, because I’ve raised them in my aquariums before. I think I knew they were from Taiwan, but I forgot about it. I wouldn’t say seeing the Amano shrimp in the wild was a life-long dream, but at least it was something I really wanted to do in Taiwan.

An Amano shrimp


Let’s return to the story. After having lunch, we started downstream. I think this direction is more fun because there are a lot of natural water slides. In this way, the small stream becomes like a waterpark.

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A natural water slide, photo copyright NeilWade.com


However, on the way back we faced a problem. One of the group leaders lost his glasses while going down one of the slides. The place he lost them was actually quite deep, and because of the water slide the current was quite strong.


He explained that his glasses were pretty special. Not only were they expensive, but they were special order and required more than a week to replace. Because his vision is very poor, if he didn’t have his glasses he couldn’t go to work or drive his motorcycle. Even returning to the van could be a challenge.


I said,”I’ve got a mask.” I donned my mask and went under the water, exploring the area underneath the slide. I dove multiple times, but only found garbage. Due to the cold water and the current, I tired and stopped searching, giving my mask to others to try. The group leader tried first, but he couldn’t find anything. Then a few other group members tried, but they found nothing.

The place where the glasses were lost

到了這裡,我們大概花了十五分鐘。因為我暖和了一點,我再次下水尋找。這一次,我看見了一個反光的物體。我深吸一口氣,潛了下去,抓住了那個東西。那個就是一副咖啡色的眼鏡。 我戴著勝利的微笑高舉起了眼鏡. 被我們吸引的遊客都為我們熱烈地鼓掌。我把眼鏡給隊長,他試戴後就說「這不是我的」。

A this point, we had spent probably 15 minutes. I had warmed up a bit, so I tried searching again. This time I saw something reflective. I took a deep breath and dove again, seizing the object in my hand. The object was a pair of brown glasses matching our group leader’s description. Wearing a triumphant smile, I thrust the glasses in the air. The crowd we had drawn all cheered and clapped. I gave the glasses to our leader. After trying them on, he turned to me and said: “These aren’t mine.”


Though we felt a bit defeated, we took this first pair as a good omen and continued searching.

又一個十五分鐘過去,我們找到了另外一副不是隊長的眼鏡。下游有幾個好奇的台灣人來幫助我們。有一些大約八九歲的小男孩來了。他們在問「誰的眼鏡?誰的眼鏡」還一邊指著我的面罩一邊說「借我吧,借我吧」。 到了這個時候,潭水擠滿了人,有一個小孩有我的面罩,另外一個在玩我的呼吸管,還有很多沒有裝備的人在下水找。旁邊的石頭上有觀眾看著我們。風景變得熱鬧得像馬戲表演一樣。過了一會兒,小孩子們失去興趣就走了,可是有一個台灣的男士留下來。這個人,雖然是中年人,還是看起來很矫健。

Another fifteen minutes passed before we found another pair of glasses, which also weren’t the group leaders. Downstream there were some curious Taiwanese people who came up to try to help us. There were some nine or ten year old boys, they came up and excitedly asked,”Who’s glasses? Who’s glasses?” Staring at my mask and snorkel they shouted, “Let me borrow it!” at this point, this area if the stream was crowded with people. One kid was using my mask, another was playing with my snorkel, and a bunch of people without equipment were under the water searching. On the nearby rock, there was an audience watching us. The atmosphere was that of a circus. After a while, the kids grew bored, but a Taiwanese man remained. Despite being middle aged, he looked extremely young and healthy, as if he went for a swim every morning.


He borrowed my mask and snorkel and started seriously searching. After a few minutes, he found another pair of glasses, but it still wasn’t the right one. We had found three pairs at that point, so he joked with us, saying we ought to open a glasses store. He kept looking, even using one of the pairs to observe the effect of the current on glasses falling down the water column. He found a fourth pair, but it still wasn’t right. In total he searched for about 15 minutes straight, longer than I ever had, but it still wasn’t any use and he gave up.


Standing at the side, I felt useless. Although I was cold and tired, I still knew that I was probably the most experienced snorkeler. What’s more, it was my equipment, so I was most used to it. I had the greatest ability, so I was duty bound to search again.

My credentials


At this point, the sky was darkening, and it was getting colder. We had pretty much given up, but I still wished to search once more. I apologized to the group leader, saying that I’d given him hope but it only resulted in disappointment.


Summoning courage, I thrust myself into the water and began furiously searching, swimming back and forth. On my third dive, in a shallower area that we hasn’t searched as thoroughly, I spotted something. I stood up, and then went down to investigate again. I discovered it was a pair of glasses, but this pair looked very thin and fragile. I imagined this was because it had been under water for a very long time and had deteriorated, but I still presented it to our captain to take a look.


He unexpectedly excitedly shouted, “My God, these are mine!” Then he added, “I definitely owe you a beer!”

Us with the five pairs of glasses

天色已經很晚,所以我們整理裝備,就走回去。回去的時候,我碰到那個給我們很大的幫助的男士,就興奮的向他宣佈「找到了」。他用了一個熱情的微笑回答。 回到麵包車以後,我們團體踏上了幾個小時回台北的路。

It had already become quite dark, so we organized our things and started back. On the way back, I saw the older gentleman who had given us a lot of help. I shouted to him, “We found it!” to which he replied with a warm smile. Back at the van, we started our long trip back to Taipei.

總而言之,那一天溯溪不但好玩也發生了很多故事。坦白地說,我本來不確定是否應該帶我浮淺的用具。我現在很高興我帶了, 否則這個故事就沒法子發生。

That day was not only extremely fun, but it also provided a lot of stories. To tell you the truth, I originally wasn’t even sure if I should bring my snorkeling equipment. I’m sure glad I did, though, otherwise there is no way I’d be able to have these stories.