Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Time to stop and stare...


It's well after one in the morning on Tuesday night (OK technically speaking it is Wednesday morning) and I've still not had time to write up about my trip the previous Sunday. So this will have to do for now - it's probably the pick of the eagle shots I managed, though I did take a few other half-decent ones. This shot was taken with the 300mm lens and has been cropped and edited with a central highlight and some brightness adjustment.

I spent five hours on the water last Sunday, and over eight hours on the job in total and it still wasn't enough.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Confirmation At Taoyuan

I've been meaning to get back to Baihe reservoir again at some point to try and do a lap of the whole reservoir, which would necessitate a very early start, but for various reasons I haven't got around to it. One of those reasons is that I decided to spend more time on the diversion for Tseng-wen reservoir. On Friday night, whilst lying in bed sick and half-awake I came to the tentative conclusion, from having read engineering plans, and from having visited the site several times already, that the east tunnel has been abandoned and that there is nothing to see in Taoyuan. But I couldn't rid myself of all doubt, for one thing because I know certain types of things (especially e.g. tunnel mouths) simply cannot be seen directly on google earth, and that the associated structures which would normally allow you to infer their presence can be misleading. I was also plagued by questions concerning what I might be able to see if only I took a closer look - for instance, would I not be able to see signs of preparation for the tunnel mouth? With all of that in mind, I drove back out to Taoyuan again today - with what I intend to be the last trip out there for some time.

I left Tainan at 12.35 p.m. and rolled into Chinghe village just outside Taoyuan at about 2.30 p.m., which is excellent time considering the distance. I parked around the back of the last little building in the row (a KTV place) and walked down the gravel track and into the immense river bed to have a poke about. Looking upstream past the long-ago buried suspension bridge...


Another view of the noisy rapids looking upstream (northeast)...


Looking directly across the river to the cleft between spurs where the stream from a waterfall I visited a few years back finds its way out to join the Laonung...


I noticed something odd in the tree above one of those spurs; at least two of the upper branches appear to have "fused" together to form a solid object. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like that before...


Looking directly northward at an angle across the river to the approximate point at which, according to the Water Bureau plans, the east tunnel should have its' entrance. The only thing noteworthy is the rightward slope of the land toward the riverbed, indicative of a track...


Once more looking northeast directly upstream; the river is only a few yards across at the moment, but when it flooded during typhoon Morakot in 2009 it must have been an absolute monster...


Later I left the riverbed, and drove slowly up along the highway for a short distance to get more pictures. Here is confirmation of the track that slopes down to the riverbed - notice that it carries on rightward...


... it then passes this small dried-up stream falling down from the cliffside...


... and perhaps carries on interminably along the cliffside...


... and around the corner before the next major tributary valley...


My guess is that the road has been used for geological surveillance and probably little else, since all heavy equipment (trucks and the like) must be brought in from the highway, not the tiny precipitous cliffhanger track that precedes this thing down to the riverbed. In any case with the reading I've done and with what I've seen with my own eyes both yesterday and today, I am satisfied with the conclusion that the east tunnel has either been suspended or abandoned entirely.

As much as I like being out there in Taoyuan district, it is a pain in the arse to drive all the way out there and then back again. I won't be making a return trip for a long time I think, unless I get the opportunity to go looking for eagles in the Yushan National Park this Chinese New Year.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Tseng-wen Reservoir Trans-Basin Diversion Channel: West Tunnel Entrance & East Tunnel Exit

After the last two days of being ill, I felt much better this morning though my appetite and digestion is still out of whack. Once I had taken the dogs out to the park, I decided to take a quick trip out to Namaxia district in Kaohsiung to see the gap between the east and west tunnels of the Tseng-wen reservoir trans-basin diversion channel. 

Myself on the east side of the Cishan river, with the entrance to the west tunnel on the other side of the river in the background...



There was work going on inside the tunnel at the time (notice the lights), just as there had been work going on from the other side last weekend. From the same lay-by off the main road, I was also able to walk right up to the exit point for the east tunnel...


The building to the right of the tunnel mouth is a makeshift office, which appears to have been at least temporarily abandoned - doors left open, and rubbish lying around all over the place. The tunnel mouth itself is fenced off, although there is a large pipe sticking out of it (at the other end of which is a kind of sack which stretches down from the pipe to the tunnel floor).

I've now found and photographed three out of four of the tunnel mouths. The only one that's missing is the one that should be on the west side of the Laonung river across from Chinghe village. Two explanations for why I haven't found it yet: either it is partially hidden and I haven't looked closely enough in exactly the right spot, or it doesn't exist yet. If the latter is true then it must surely mean that, though partially complete, the excavation of the east tunnel is not yet complete and may be re-started at some future point. If that is the case then it may also explain two other facts - the absence of a weir at Chinghe to entrap water from the Laonung river (such a weir hasn't been built yet), and the apparent abandon in which the west mouth of the east tunnel has been left; work may recommence on the east tunnel at some point in the future. 

In my spare time I am still reading engineering and environmental assessment reports from the last couple of years about the trans-basin diversion tunnel. One thing that I think can definitely be said is that the already difficult job of building the tunnel was made more difficult by the alterations to the terrain left by typhoon Morakot in 2009. I have more reading to do, but one possibility is that the east tunnel may have been abandoned for the time being, and that there is a substitute plan to divert water into the west tunnel from the Cishan river.

Friday, 16 January 2015

The Day Of Sickness

Early yesterday afternoon, whilst at work, I began to feel a mild "tightening" of my stomach. By the time I'd finished that job in the late afternoon it was still there and became noticeably worse on my drive down to Kaohsiung for the evening job. I pulled in at a pharmacy to get some anti-acid tablets and took two before I started work - I also ate a readymade in a 7-11. During work the problem became quite painful, so much so thatI had to sit down rather than stand as I usually do. I also began to shiver with body chills. The drive back to Tainan on the motorbike was uncomfortable.

I immediately took the dogs out to the park and then cooked their food for them. Whilst the pot was cooking, I took a hot shower and after washing just sat down for ten minutes with the hot water running over me. When the food was cooked and I had left the shower and changed, I let it cool for fifteen minutes whilst I had a lie down on the sofa. Getting up to cut the food (four pig hearts) up for the dogs was a very difficult task as I was losing control of my hand movements and overcome with the desire to just lie down and curl up into a ball.

I slept from about 10.30pm to 1am at which point I woke up to to the bathroom. I felt much better after that and got myself some hot water to drink. During the rest of the night I slept in fits and starts, which may have been because the sofa is relatively hard. 

In the morning my stomach felt better, but it was still inflamed and I was still suffering from headaches and aches and pains. The body chills were gone though and my fever had come down a little. I took the dogs to the park and sat under a tree for half an hour in the sunshine. 

Since then I've stayed indoors and called in sick. I've got very little energy and cannot eat because I have a suppressed urge to vomit. I've had half a cup of coffee but couldn't finish it. It's now well after 5pm and I'm worried how long this is going to last for. If it stays this bad, then I won't go anywhere this weekend.

This is the first time I've been sick in maybe a year.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Two Weekend Trips: The Tseng-wen Reservoir Trans-Basin Diversion Tunnel

For my first act this weekend, I drove out to the back of Tseng-wen reservoir on Saturday to photograph the trans-basin diversion tunnel exit point, which lies at the head of the tributary stream I had followed last weekend. This time however, I took a detour from the reservoir onto a road I had never previously followed - the Chiayi 147. This road, as I had checked on google earth, takes you directly to the head of the stream where the diversion tunnel ends.

When I arrived at Tseng-wen reservoir I initially took two wrong roads by relying on an insufficiently detailed memory of what the correct turn-off looked like (all three have similar features). I ended up in farmers' cul-de-sacs before finding a place that combined sufficient reception and sufficient shade to allow me to consult with google earth again to re-check my position relative to the correct turn-off point. While I was there, I accidentally disturbed an eagle by the roadside. She took off and found an alternative perch some distance away...


Despite several other relatively close encounters today, this was the best shot I managed to take.

Eventually I arrived at the correct turn off for the 147, which was in fact signposted, and drove past the few dotted little houses and up onto the climb. A note on that road: the first half of it - from the highway 3 turn-off until a few kilometers before the crest of the ridge - is a joy to drive; its' asphalt surface is smooth and has been very well maintained, there is almost no other traffic on it whatsoever and it runs parallel to a narrow stream gorge surrounded by bits of broken cliff with the odd dead tree sticking out among the intense foliage (perfect for eagles to perch in whilst keeping an eye out for snakes and lizards). Just before the crest of the ridge however, it becomes a nightmare of a broken up stone and gravel interspersed with patches of cracked and rock-studded cement. It is like that from the crest onward and downhill all the way into the valley on the other side. I didn't get beyond 2nd gear and was in 1st or neutral most of the time.

The eventual view down into the valley - the diversion tunnel is visible off to the right of the image...


The site as a whole is still far from complete. The embankments for the stream are still unfinished, there are culvert pipes lying around and a makeshift bridge is still in use for now...


The tunnel mouth itself, with various machines parked outside...


Another shot of the tunnel mouth showing the tunnel bore machine just outside...


The same view with additional context below. Notice the concrete bunker-like structure below; there are in fact two structures - that one, and another immediately behind the TBM and fenced off with railing. I suspect that one of these will function as the penstock of water to be measured and released into the existing stream bed and the other will function as flood-control device via an underground culvert leading to a second stream bed off camera to the left.


This shot below shows what I mean. There is a natural confluence of two stream beds here; the one to the right will be fed by the diversion tunnel, whilst the one to the left will be used for flood control so as to prevent erosion damage to the first stream bed...


The public information sign for the project put up by the Water Bureau. The scheduled date of completion has been pushed back at least once (with the numbers edited rather than the whole sign replaced). The current due date for completion is 30th June this year...


The perspective drawing illustrates the two-part nature of the tunnel; the longer, eastern tunnel removes water from the Laonung river in the east of Kaohsiung and diverts it west-north-west underground to the shorter, western tunnel which exits here...


*********************************************************************************

For my second act, I drove out on Sunday to try (once again) to locate the entrance to the eastern half of the trans-basin diversion tunnel on the Laonung river up in Kaohsiung county. From what I had read, the tunnel begins at a weir named after the small village of "Chinghe" which it is (apparently) sited by, just north of Taoyuan village. On two recent trips to this very same area however, I failed to find anything resembling a weir and entrapment pen for a diversion tunnel. After reading up a bit more on the tunnel, I wondered whether I had missed something.

I stopped briefly on the Jiaxian bridge to take a look at the Jiaxian weir, which serves as the entrance for the Nanhua reservoir diversion channel...


Below: a bare cliff-face being given remedial anti-erosion treatment; the same thing was done at "the Big Cliff" to the north of Taoyuan village and that has since collapsed as I discovered a few weeks back.


The new dike just outside Taoyuan village. I had suspected that I had missed something here previously, but no. Not only did I photograph the area from across the river, but I actually entered the building site to have a closer look - there really isn't anything resembling a weir or a diversion tunnel there at all. This left me in a state of confusion as to where the weir could possibly be.


I tried the next village ("Chinghe" after which the weir is named) in case I had missed something else there, but found nothing. I was looking across the river from the east side (on which Chinghe village is located) toward the west, but just as on my trips a few weeks ago, I couldn't see a thing even remotely resembling what I was looking out for. I then asked some locals at a shop, and they told me there wasn't any such weir. But then another guy said that there was a weir and that it was near the village. So I decided to head back to Taoyuan and drive up the mountain which overlooks Chinghe village and the river bed to see if I could see something I had been missing. I kept thinking this was stupid though because logically, the tunnel must be located on the west side of the river, not the east side. Here's the view looking down to Chinghe - nothing there, other than the anti-erosion work on the tributary...


Another shot looking upstream - the river is over on the western side of the river bed, but there is an obvious lack of visible infrastructure from that here all the way up to the next bend in the river...


I cannot believe it. Either the documents and public information about the tunnel is incorrect or misleading, or there is something there somewhere. One possibility that does occur to me is excavation; perhaps the tunnel is underground here on the east side somewhere, with the weir and entrapment pen which feeds it lying far further north upstream. But for now, I am stumped. I didn't have time to go and investigate further because it was already four o' clock, the light was fading and the dogs needed feeding and taking out to the park back home in Tainan city...


A disappointing day overall, and the best picture I managed all day was probably this one on the way back home going through Gaozhong village...

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

"Life In The Loony Bin"

On Monday, I was told a story about a New Year's Day activity in Taiwan which I had formerly been unaware of. I have not checked up to verify the story, but the other people present when I was being told the story all nodded in confirmation from their separate experiences. Apparently there is a temple somewhere in Nantou county at which two curious practices occur, the first of which is the issuing of commemorative NT$5 dollar coins (about GB 10 pence) housed within a small card to celebrate the new year and to confer good luck. Waiting to receive these coins was a queue of people... eight kilometers long.

The second practice which I heard occurs at this temple is the issuing of "divine loans", whereby visitors throw a religious version of a die in order to receive small sums of money between NT$600 and NT$100 which must be returned at some point later in the year. The ostensible purpose of this is that the loaned cash will bring good fortune to those borrowing it. I was told that some of those who take the "divine money" and subsequently do well during the course of the year then return much more to the temple than the small sum they originally borrowed; in one case, a man returned more than NT$3 million in addition to the NT$600 (or less) he borrowed. I asked whether the temple authorities were turning a profit by this practice, to which I was told yes... something of the order of NT$200 million a year. 

The story is noteworthy to me for two reasons.

The first reason is that an eight kilometer queue for a NT$5 dollar coin is a long line of lunatics. These are putative adults, presumably people in positions of varying responsibility who have voluntarily surrendered their rationality. It is as funny as it is disturbing. If I didn't laugh at it, I would have to turn my face to the wall in despair.

The second reason it is noteworthy is the question of whether the "divine loan" practice should be regarded as a scam or not. What would happen in court if somebody who had taken the money and then returned it without luck then decided to sue the temple for fraud? They are clearly advertising their "service" as access to luck, and there are clearly people who believe this, and yet it is clearly all a load of nonsense. Yet if both the temple authorities and the supplicants sincerely believe in the practice, then where is the dishonesty necessary to classify this as fraud?

There should be no prohibition of such superstitious practices, as they are clearly performed on the basis of voluntary mutual agreements. Yet the existence of blatant and exotic forms of superstition like this gives me an uneasy feeling about the society I am living in - not unlike a suppressed fear whilst swimming in the ocean at night. There be crazies beneath the waves...

Today is my birthday.