Sunday, 19 October 2014

Weekend Lull

No reservoir trip this weekend. Instead I helped friends with various things yesterday night and this morning I went on a hike with my landlord and his family before signing a new contract for next year; I love the little house I am renting due to its' location and convenience for walking my dogs. We went up to Baihe and hiked Jilongshan(基隆山), which is the smaller of Tainan County's two largest peaks, the other being Dadongshan (大凍山). On the way I learned that I had been in error about the name of the smaller mountain in front of them which overlooks Baihe reservoir - apparently it is actually called "Zhentoushan" (枕頭山) whereas I had confused it for Dadongshan. It's always good to get error correction.

No pictures today I'm afraid - although there was plenty of sunshine, the atmospheric haze was quite bad - and because I am not an experienced hiker (and because I have laid off the exercise routine for two weeks now), I had anticipated struggling with the climb and so I chose to leave my camera behind. I had only my phone camera and the GoPro. That was a mistake - both because I spotted a resting sparrowhawk in a tree just before the hike began, and because the hike itself was much easier than I had thought it would be. The extra weight of the camera kit wouldn't have been a problem. From the sounds of it, the hike up to Dadongshan and across to Tseng-wen reservoir and back again would probably have suited me better physically.

Next weekend I may take one or two people out to a reservoir here in the south, before heading up to Nantou myself to continue where I left off there.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Double 10 Weekend Trip To Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) & Toushe Reservoir (頭社水庫)

Me on the 21 up to Sun Moon Lake from Shueili at about 6.30am.
I arrived in Nantou before dawn Saturday morning with the aim of having a little look at Sun Moon Lake and making a visit to neighbouring Toushe reservoir, which is something of a dwarf compared to the lake. I am conscious of the fact that there is an awful lot for me to see and learn about at Sun Moon Lake and that there are limits to what I can accomplish on a day trip; I don't know how many trips I will have to make here, but there will have to be several more at least. On the way uphill to the lake on highway 21, I noticed these drainage pipes sticking out of the retaining walls...


So I thought I might as well stop to photograph them so as to compare with those I had seen earlier at Wu Jie adjustment pool. Here's a close-up...


Although dawn had come and there was a bit of sunshine, it was very cloudy and the air was still hazy when I arrived at the inconspicuous turn-off for Toushe reservoir to the south-west of the lake...

The sign for Toushe Reservoir is so small that it is easy to miss, even if you are looking for it.

The public signs have been rendered into fairly good English, but as usual there is an awful lot of romantic "padding" and precious little actual information...


Rather than enter the boardwalk approach to Toushe reservoir immediately, I hopped back on the bike and drove up to the lake as I needed to go to the bathroom and get something to drink. I stopped briefly on the way back down to Toushe to photograph the other photographers. I didn't know what they were trying to do, since the air was still dank and misty and there was barely any sunshine at all; it was an awful morning for taking pictures...


I quickly got back down to Toushe and the boardwalk entry to the reservoir...


It's a brief stroll before you see the first check dam on the stream...


A central channel passes out from the dam to the lower reach of the stream; there is no control-gate...



Around the corner, there was another information panel proclaiming the "fine stream ecology" and then predictably saying nothing substantive about the actual ecology. Instead there were a few airy remarks about aesthetics...


Around the corner I got my first view of the reservoir as the stream widened out to enter it...


The view looking back toward the little suspension bridge from atop a spillway exit...


The spillway exit is formed from three grilled boxes beneath a bridge...


It leads into a small, overgrown gully which, for some reason, has a wooden staircase leading down into it but has been cordoned off to the public. Perhaps there had formerly been a trail leading through it that has since been neglected...


Looking out onto the reservoir itself; it is very small with an area of about five hectares and a storage capacity of less than 300,000 cubic meters...


There was a promising-looking hollow concrete box on top of the reservoir which I climbed thinking there might be further information signs as it was an obvious place for people to stand around looking and taking photographs. However, there was nothing there but a wrought-iron fence so I'm at a loss as to what its' purpose is. Behind me to the left of the image below, there is a small pavilion which could also serve the functions I had supposed for the hollow concrete box...


A look back toward the suspension bridge...


Just up from the concrete box and before the pavilion, at last, I found a real information panel though it was in Chinese...


There was also a large marble tablet about the reservoir...


... and an accompanying marble stele...


From further around the circumference path, another look out over the reservoir with the pavilion off to the right hand side...


Several little holiday chalets sat alongside the reservoir's bank with a somewhat larger holiday complex of sorts behind it up on the embankment levee surrounded by betelnut trees...


A couple of shots looking back out toward the pavilion and concrete box from the other side of the reservoir; by now the sun was starting to get a bit stronger and one or two clouds were dispersing...


I much prefer the 10mm to the 18mm for shots like this where there is substantial sky reflection in the water...


At the far-end of the reservoir standing upon the crest of the dam; in the background is the major spillway arrangement and in the foreground is the water tower to take water out of the reservoir for irrigation...



The spillway design is somewhat unusual in that it lies diametrically opposite the dam, but it suits the site. It is an open overflow ogee-crest weir leading into a curved channel oriented at a slight angle and surmounted with a concrete flood wall...



I left Toushe reservoir at sometime around 10am and headed off to Sun Moon Lake again, this time pausing at the impressive and architecturally striking visitor center...


It's an interesting and visually impressive building, and the architects must have made an absolute fortune off it, but the visitor's center itself and the available information is very poor. Basically, there is a lot of advertising for local "industries" (e.g. rice-wine and tea), and a few leaflets about what to see and do in and around Sun Moon Lake and elsewhere in Taiwan (and Taipei) - it is all obviously aimed at tourists from China. There is nothing substantive about the history of the lake or the Japanese-built hydroelectric schemes at all.


Whilst I was there however, a woman who worked at the visitor's center approached me to ask if I needed help, I didn't but she gave it anyway; she sounded like she was regurgitating an English language script. She would say things like "...it costs only three hundred and sixty dollars" and you could sense that she had remembered on purpose to include the word "only". She had been talking about the cost of taking a tour boat as an alternative to driving the 21_A up to the hilltop pagoda to take pictures. She had said that the road leading up to the pagoda was too far and difficult to drive on a motorcycle. To be fair to her, she had no idea of the kind of driving I usually do or that my combined train fares to get here from Tainan city had cost less than the boat tour she was trying to sell me. She was only trying to be helpful, but I found her presumption that the 21_A was too difficult to be ridiculous. Still the building itself is worth it...


This is what it is all about really...


Hotels in the distance, on the other side of the lake...


People milling about taking pictures to show their friends and families where they have been. It is a perfect place for this with the water-terraces reflecting the skies and prefacing the view over the lake...


I left the visitor's center somewhat disappointed, and immediately headed for the 21_A up around the surrounding mountains on the east side of the lake. It had one or two switchbacks, but it was an easy and pleasant ride. It didn't take me long to find the turn-off for the pagoda and associated temple, but when I got up there it was wreathed in mist and I couldn't see a thing which rendered the whole object - taking pictures of the lake - pointless. I came back down again and drove further along the 21 hoping to get a few mist-free glimpses of the lake. However, it was by now mid-morning and though the sun got stronger and the mist clung only to the east-side mountains, the air over the lake was still hazy...


Looking up at the cable cars passing through the mist which clung to the mountains all morning...


I drove the entire circle of the 21_A and 21 around Sun Moon Lake, stopping only to buy some souvenirs for work-colleagues (I decided to save money and just buy cookies instead) before I headed back downhill into Shueili township. At the gas station the girl who served me had been the same girl (I think) who had served me there two weeks previously. I wasn't sure that she remembered me but she seemed keen to talk to me for some reason - the usual questions: what country I am from, what do I do, whether I am married and so on. Yet when I reached for my wallet to pay her - nightmare! - it wasn't there. I checked all my pockets and bags in vain. The last place I had handled it had been the souvenir shop up at the lake, so I took out their cookies, got the phone number off the back and called them. The number wasn't to the shop-floor but to a manager's office elsewhere, which I hadn't known, and so when I introduced myself as the foreigner who had bought some cookies half an hour ago, she immediately presumed that I was calling about cookies, but once I got her to shut up about cookies and explained that I thought I might have left my wallet there by mistake she got onto the shop floor girl and called me back two minutes later to say that the shop floor girl had found it and was holding it for me. So that was forty minutes wasted - driving back up the mountain to the lake to get my wallet and back down into Shueili again. By this time the combined weight of all my bags, plus the helmet was giving me muscle strain and I was tired. I left Shueili for Checheng stopping only to photograph the Chukung hydroelectric power plant from across the river...



Coming back into Checheng, I took a few at-distance long-lens shots of the Mingtan reservoir dam using the 300mm...



But once I had parked the bike I was too tired to climb up to the dam for more photographs, and so I settled on waiting around an hour or so before the 2.20pm train (there was an earlier train at 1pm which I could have taken had I been a bit quicker, but it was pointless as there was no connecting train from Ershui in Changhua until 3.12pm - and the 2.20pm train would get me there for that connection). So I sat around drinking a beer and then a tea just so I could flirt with the tea girl who had been eyeballing me. She liked it. When the train came there was the usual chaos of about 500 passengers trying to alight onto a tiny little platform itself holding another 500 people waiting to board the train. Then there was the usual crush of everyone pushing and shoving to get on the train as quickly as possible to get a seat. I hate that. I just stood back and waited because I refuse to push my way through a crowd of old people and families with small children. That stereotypically British attitude nearly cost me my trip however, as I was the last person to board despite having been one of the first people on the platform with a ticket. I almost didn't make it.

For the next trip, I might look into leaving Checheng station and parking further down the Jiji line.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

First Trip To Deiji Reservoir (德基水庫)


Of all the reservoir trips I've made, this was by far the most difficult and exhausting. I have been looking forward to this trip for more than two years. Deiji reservoir (德基水庫) lies in the highest, eastern extremity of Taichung (台中) just below the township of Lishan (梨山) at an altitude of 1,400 meters above sea level. No other reservoir in Taiwan lies at such an elevation. Deiji reservoir is also Taiwan's most remote reservoir due not to its height, but to the destruction of a critical section of the central cross-island highway by the 1999 earthquake (and a subsequent typhoon a few years later), thus the reservoir cannot be reached directly from the nearest city - Taichung city - but must instead be approached indirectly, either from Taiwan's east coast in Hualien county, or from the central, landlocked and mountainous county of Nantou to the south. I took the latter option last weekend, after first reaching Nantou county from Tainan city further to the south via the railway system, and then driving up to the reservoir on motorbike.

I took the Saturday 12.20am midnight train from Tainan city to Ershui (二水) in Changhua county (彰化) arriving at 2.05am and then dozed off for a couple of hours in Ershui station before switching to the 4.45am train to Checheng (車埕) in Nantou (南投) which arrived at 5.35am. This time, there was no maintenance needed on the bike and so after I tied up my tripod, got my gear sorted out and got the bike's engine to start, I was straight on the road (the 131) up to Puli township (埔里) arriving at about 6.15am. I left Checheng at about 5.50am so that was a 25 minute drive. I stopped at Puli for gas and a quick cup of coffee, and then straight onto highway 14 to start the ascent to Wushe (霧社). Just before the summit at Wushe at a little before 7am, I came across an overturned delivery truck...


I stopped to help the driver but he was OK and climbed out of the cabin under his own powers whilst a police officer looked on. Nobody else was hurt, so I headed off quickly, mindful of the time. I didn't stop in Wushe, but got straight onto the 14_A whilst the traffic was thin and headed straight up past Cinjing farm and the Swiss-style hotels on the way eventually to the Hehuanshan range. I made a brief stop at the last 7-11 to pick up some sandwiches and a bottle of water, and then I was off again. My carburetor was still jittery at times as it had been on the previous weekend, but I was nontheless quicker on my way up the mountain. I reached the peak, the Wuling pass, just before 8am, which was excellent time...


The views of course are spectacular and are so long before you reach the Wuling pass...


On both this trip and the previous weekend's trip, I was struck by how every single person up there could not stop grinning; there is nothing particularly special about the place, in the sense of anything to do, apart from the fact that it is the highest place accessible by public road in Taiwan. I only stopped for a few minutes to both take pictures and exercise my cramped limbs and joints a little; after hours on end of driving a motorbike, the fixed position and helmet begin to wear you down. This time there was a girl with her family who wanted her picture taken with me after I had taken their pictures...


This time I was much better prepared for the cold temperatures with my new jacket and a pair of cargo pants, though underneath I was still wearing only the T-shirt. A short while further down the northern side of the mountain I stopped at the service station for hot water and decided to add the sweater to my layers before descending to the junction of the 14_A and the 8. It is a steep descent but it didn't take too long to reach the junction and tunnel through to the 8, perhaps about twenty to thirty minutes. The 8 itself is a wonderful road, and its' surface is mostly good quality and along its' entire length from the 14_A to Lishan is only blighted by bumps and bruises in one place in particular plus a few landslide management areas. I arrived in Lishan, an important tea growing mountain town, at about 9.30am and stopped to fill up with gas. Here is the view on approach to Lishan (the majority of the town is situated on the other side of that mountain in the immediate distance)...


Delighted as I was with my time, I declined the chance to stop and rest and eat and drink - instead I drove straight through the town and out to the gas station to refill (I was on less than half a tank, after having filled up at Puli township). I did a little bit of stretching while the girl filled up my gas tank. She said that Deiji reservoir was another half an hour away, but I found the body of the reservoir in about ten minutes and arrived at the checkpoint on the way to the dam itself at 9.50am. At first the security guard was adamant that I could not go through, but when I explained what I was doing, what I wanted and that I had come all the way from Tainan to see this, he relented. However, I had to leave my bike at the checkpoint and he gave me a lift on the truck down the admittedly very dangerous road toward the management center. There, he introduced me to the attached police officer who then called the management office who then sent a member of staff to bring me some literature. I then asked if I could take pictures and they very kindly drove me up to the management office itself and showed me around. They allowed me to take all the pictures I wanted and answered all of my questions (though in Chinese, so some bits and pieces escaped me). This was me kneeling on the steel viewing pedestal overlooking the downstream face of the dam...


Below is another shot of the dam, taken with the 10mm, that captures the bottom shelf of the dam as well as the main body of the reservoir on the other side. The dam is 180 meters high (the same as the Three Gorges Dam in China), and the design is a double curved arch with variable radius, which means that the dam is built on two curves, one on the horizontal plane and one on the vertical plane both with radii that decrease with distance from the center of the crest...


Immediately below its' crest the dam has five hydraulic gates for the release of water and there are an additional two release pipes halfway up the dam...


Below: looking across the reservoir to the mountainside along which highway 8, the central cross-island highway, gingerly creeps along. The two landslide areas are not the only ones, but they are the chief reason for the checkpoint on the other side; the larger of the two has one particularly massive boulder only partially embedded into the mountainside, which, if it were to be loosened by rain, would knock out yet another section of the road. These areas have to be constantly managed to try to avoid that kind of thing happening, and for this reason (as well as for public safety) traffic is tightly controlled...


Looking directly southward to the main sluiceway gate assembly; it is from this point that water leaves the reservoir both to feed the powerhouse of the hydroelectric plant and to re-form the Deiji river below on its' way down the mountains to the Taichung coastline...


A closer look at the sluiceway gate assembly with its' five gates...


Although I was allowed to take whatever pictures I wanted, I declined to ask whether I could enter onto the concourse of the assembly itself - partly because I didn't want to seem pushy, and partly because I was beginning to be concerned about my time expenditure given that I had to be back in Tainan as early in the evening as I could possibly manage. Instead I turned to photograph the switch yard for the hydroelectric power plant. The road leading up to the switch yard and the management offices was prefaced by a bronze of Jiang Kai-shek, the former KMT dictator...


A sign in front of the switch yard detailing the vital statistics...


A view downstream toward the first of several check-dams and weirs...


When I was done, I insisted the engineers go back to work so I wouldn't take up any more of their time and I walked back to the police sentry gates. I left at about 12pm, but since the guard officer had left to discharge other duties and the engineers had returned to their jobs (or possibly their lunch), I had to walk all the way back up the road to the checkpoint where my motorbike was waiting for me. I was famished by that time and looking forward to getting a bite to eat, but I took more pictures on the walk up, determined to get as many as I could without taking any costly detours. Here is a view from the south looking northward toward the sluiceway gate assembly...


Another view from further up the road toward the upstream face of the arch dam. Notice the water spilling out into the reservoir from a hole in the mountainside on the right hand side of the image...


Another, more square-on view of the upstream side of the arch dam from a higher elevation...


I reached the checkpoint at 12.30pm, and got back on the motorbike to leave. From further back along the road, well after the checkpoint, I stopped to take some parting shots of the dam and its' surroundings. Here is a shot taken with the 250mm with the dam off to the left, and the diversion tunnel spilling water into the reservoir on the right...


A view over the body of the reservoir looking back eastward toward the tapering river entry point...


Another view over the reservoir body looking back westward...


Looking directly northward over the reservoir to the rilled mountainsides that hem it in...


The tapering point - where the Deiji river enters the reservoir (I took this shot with my phone)...


On the way back I only stopped briefly in Lishan to buy a bag of pears (a bag of five - which only cost me NT$75 even though I was expecting to pay about twice that). On leaving Lishan I was still wearing only my T-shirt, having strapped my heavy jacket to the back of my rucksack by bungee cord, but as the 8 started to climb, and climb and climb it got colder and colder and I eventually stopped to put the jacket back on again. By the time I had battled my way through the tourist buses and slow cars along the 8 and back up along the steep switchbacks of the 14_A to return to the Hehuanshan service station, it was 2pm, and clouds were beginning to float in from the surrounding valleys...


I left the service station after a few minutes of stretching and a quick bowl of crappy supermarket noodles, and made it back to the Wuling pass shortly afterward...


I took another short break here for more stretching and then I hopped back on the motorbike to roll down past Cinjing farm to Wushe where I finally stopped at the 7-11 for coffee and to do yet more stretching. On that route there was one car driver in particular who was criminally irresponsible - only narrowly avoiding crashes several times after overtaking the convoy with oncoming traffic and around the odd sharp corner. I swore at him and regretted not having brought my GoPro camera to record his reckless driving.

For the remainder of the journey, I left Wushe at about 3.15pm and got down to Puli township at 4pm, and then finally arrived at Checheng station at 4.30pm to take the 5pm train back to Ershui in Changhua, and then the 6pm train back to Tainan. I got into the house at about 8.30pm, which is the longest I've ever left the dogs alone for. It was a fantastic trip, but very expensive in terms of time and for that reason I am not eager to repeat it this weekend.