Sunday, 23 November 2014

From This Afternoon At Renyitan...

Last night I slept like one of my dogs, after yesterday morning's exertions at Wushantou. I didn't think I'd be able to repeat the 5am start, and that was as I'd expected - I didn't even hear the alarm such was the slumber I was in and it was 9.30 or so by the time I actually opened my eyes. That being the case I decided to go slow... have breakfast and coffee, do some laundry, take a shower, take the dogs out for a walk, read the news etc... and so I ended up taking the 12.22pm train from Tainan to Chiayi city.

Last weekend, though I didn't mention it on here, I had driven the motorbike down to Chiayi city from Douliu city in Yunlin county. I set off on the bike from Chiayi city at about 1.30pm and drove straight to the back of Renyitan reservoir, remembering the correct turn-off from a year or two ago. What I wanted to do today was to get better photographs of the water entry point into the reservoir. When I originally found it, it was very difficult to photograph because I had had to approach it from an acute angle with only the 18mm lens. This time I had the 10mm just in case, but also the inestimable advantage of having my own inflatable boat to approach the entry point dead-on as I had done earlier this year up in Miaoli and Hsinchu and a couple of weeks ago in Nantou.

Initially, I decided to approach the feeder stream from the muddy bank, rather than the makeshift dam which forms a partial barrier between the stream and the reservoir, however I soon found that the mud was insufficiently compact - after a few footsteps, I sank into it up to my knees...


Below you can see the tracks I left behind in the mud after that first failed attempt at reaching the water - had I gone any further I'd have been in up to my waist. So I decided then to withdraw and risk the public exposure of approaching the feeder stream from the makeshift dam; it is off-limits to the public, but the local fishermen don't have any qualms about using it and I wasn't about to give up...


After gingerly making my way along the dam barefoot (barefoot because my feet and legs were absolutely caked in clarts), I set my things down and washed myself off first before getting into the inflatable boat and paddling my way downstream to the entry point. As it is winter, I had expected there to be no water running into the reservoir, but I was wrong. It wasn't anywhere near as gushing as it had been last time I visited, but there was still running water cascading down between the baffling blocks...


The little trip downstream had only cost me just over five minutes and it was probably about the same coming back again. I had made my first attempt to reach the stream from the muddy shoreline at about ten past two, but it had taken me something like fifteen minutes to extract myself and another twenty minutes of wiping myself down and procrastinating before deciding to head for the makeshift dam. I had set off from the dam just before 3pm, and had taken all my shots, returned to the dam and packed up by about 3.30pm...


Yesterday I had thought about shooting something in particular at neighbouring Lantan reservoir too, but once I had packed up this afternoon there wasn't really enough time. I wanted to finally drive the motorbike back down to Tainan city, but to do so via provincial highway 3 which snakes through the hills between Renyitan reservoir and Guanzihling in Baihe district, and which section of the 3 I'd never seen before. It's a nice road, but eventually it forks at which point I took the 172. That road carries you through to Guanzihling and is an aesthetic delight to drive with almost no other traffic save the odd farmer's truck carrying bamboo. Driving back to Tainan this way also allowed me to avoid provincial highway 1, which, apart from being straight and boring, is a bit of a nightmare in terms of traffic.

It was a long drive back to Tainan, and I may spend the next couple of months just re-visiting the southern reservoirs at weekends to collect various photos that I am missing and re-take certain shots. However, I will need to return to the northern reservoirs for various bits and pieces too and I have yet to see the two little reservoirs in Keelung and the big one in Taipei county... Feitsui reservoir.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

From This Morning At Wushantou

I took a new female friend on a brief trip down the river at Wushantou reservoir this morning; the main purpose was just to spend time with her and let her see the outdoors for a bit, but I was also hoping to get some good bird shots, as I've got hardly a single decent bird picture this year. But no such luck - twice was I thwarted in surprise, once by a falcon of some kind (probably a Merlin) and once by an Osprey. I did take a nice shot of the way down the river though...


Tommorow, I'll be off to Chiayi to re-take some earlier shots of... this and that... at Lantan and Renyitan reservoirs.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Sunday Morning At Minghu Reservoir (明湖水庫), Nantou County & Hushan Reservoir (湖山水庫) , Yunlin County

I arrived in Checheng at 5.35am on Sunday morning, as usual, and drove straight up to Minghu reservoir (明湖水庫). There I was able to take some head-on shots of the upstream face of the dam after getting into the right position. Unfortunately, the weather was grim and cold, contrary to the weather forecast.


There were a lot of wading birds there at that hour in the morning, much more than I had expected. I had planned to take more photographs of Sun Moon Lake, but by the time I had packed up (around 7.45am) it was starting to drizzle. For the kind of shots I was after this simply wouldn't do and so I decided to jump on the bike and head straight down to Douliu city in Yunlin, with the purpose of leaving the bike there in order to examine the still unfinished Hushan reservoir (湖山水庫) the following weekend. I left Minghu reservoir at sometime just before 8am, stopping in Shueili briefly to buy a fresh T-shirt to wear beneath my sweater and fleece jacket as it was cold.

The drive was much quicker than I expected it to be; I took the 131 out of Shueili which briefly merges with the 151 before opening up to provincial highway 3 which runs straight into Douliu city. I arrived just after 9am and spent a few minutes driving around the city center to get my bearings and search for good places to park the bike. Eventually I made my way over the railway tracks to the back of the train station; there is a 7-11 just down from there with an overhanging roof and... packed rows of parked scooters taking advantage of the cover. I ate breakfast at a little bistro next to the 7-11 and chatted to the staff briefly. My dilemma was whether to take an early train back to Tainan, or go on up to look at Hushan reservoir. One of the staff said that although access to the reservoir was restricted because construction was still ongoing, it was nevertheless possible to visit and take pictures on weekends. I thought this was a bit strange, but I wanted to find the reservoir anyway because it is not yet featured on google maps.

In order to find it I drove up to Linnei, the little town just north of Douliu city and asked a series of locals who each gave me directions which included reference to turning left at an unspecified 7-11, which I naturally assumed was the next 7-11 in the direction they were pointing me. Wrong. It was another 7-11 further down toward Douliu, not the one in Linnei. Nevertheless I did eventually find it, and my word the dam for Hushan reservoir is massive. The security guard stopped me at the first access road, but at the second access road, the security office was empty and I simply strolled through and began the climb up the dam. The dam is separated into a north-eastern and south-western section, each of which is a very large dam in its' own right. The south-eastern section was the one I climbed, and is itself further separated into multiple tiers interspersed at the mid-way point by a large horizontal section. The picture below, facing south-east, was taken on that section and gives some of scale...


Once I reached the crest of the dam, the truck drivers all noticed me and gave me the thumbs up as I walked around taking photographs - not once did any security person or site manager stop me. I took pictures of the open-overflow spillway crest, which is the same design as used at the two Baoshan reservoirs in Hsinchu and at Nanhua reservoir here in Tainan...



The spillway chute itself is of broadly similar dimensions to that at Nanhua reservoir, which suggests that the expected range for the rate of outward flow in cubic meters per second will also be similar.


On the right hand side of the spillway looking at the downstream face of the north-east section of the dam which is sectioned into eight tiers...


Looking directly east from the crest of the north-east section of the dam just a few meters to the north of the spillway...


Gazing north-eastwards into the quarried reservoir bed. The work currently being done is removal of all loose sediments prior to filling, though much of this removal is already complete as you can see by the massive walls and floors of exposed rock...


Further northward along the second section of the dam looking back southward toward the spillway...


The concrete structure below will be, I believe, a pressure-control point for the water delivery pipes...


Eventually, a party of hard-hat engineers drove right past me without stopping to question my presence on the dam. They drove right past me and on up to the southernmost section of the dam where there is a small, wooden pavillion housing a set of charts. I followed them on foot to take some pictures from the southern extremity of the dam looking northward...



On the walk back across the crest of the dam I took a long-lens shot of the water-diversion tunnel which will form the main water source for the reservoir...


There were other things I would have liked to have photographed but it was already after 2pm by this point and I was very hungry and tired, so I left and took the train from Douliu back to Tainan. Next week I will drive the bike all the way back down to Tainan and take a break from reservoir trips for a while - other areas of my life have suffered whilst I have been working on this almost every weekend for the past five months.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Weekend Trip To Nantou Cancelled

I arrived at Tainan city train station at midnight last night to find that my usual 12.20am train to Ershui in Changhua had been cancelled. I believe it was due to either track or signal maintenance in Yuanlin, a small town in Changhua.

The next train was not until sometime after 7am this morning, arriving in Ershui after 9.06am meaning that I could not arrive in Checheng until after 10am, which is too late - I want to be finished by 10am, not starting at 10am.

So I decided to go to the pub instead and wait until next weekend.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Comment At "Thinking Taiwan" Article On "LGBT Rights"

Link. My comment as below...

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This kind of conflict arises because there are far too many areas of private and social life that are politicized. What good reason is there for the State to be involved in certifying marriages in the first place? Why can't marriages be certified by private institutions for both - or either - heterosexual and homosexual marriages? Let the market work; without the legitimizing monopoly of the State, this issue would wither away into irrelevancy.

The same point goes for education. Absent the political interference of State monopoly, parents could have greater choice over how their children are educated. Parents who wish their children to be informed about sexuality issues from a certain age could have their wish granted. Parents who wish their children not to learn about such issues until they are much older could have their wish granted. Everyone would be happy.

A necessity for this however would be the right to discriminate. The owners of a private college should be free to discriminate against homosexuals; but only if they refuse to accept politically-acquired funds. Similarly, the owners of other private colleges should be free to discriminate against certain Christian sects, but again, only if they refuse to accept politically-acquired funding. The owners of a gay bar should be free to ban all heterosexual people if they want, though this would almost certainly be a catastrophic business decision and one made in poor moral valuation. Similarly, commercial discrimination against minority groups may be in poor moral valuation and would likely also be poor business sense (not because of the outrage of the minority group in case, but because of the outrage of the friends in the majority).

People who discriminate unfairly against others - on their own limited powers - must face the consequences of their actions. People who seek to discriminate against others using the immense leverage of political power are inured from these consequences. It is the involvement of political power that is the real problem, not the existence of a few nutters who believe in fire and brimstone for "sodomites".

It is only by allowing discrimination that you will get less of it. The biggest obstacle to marriage freedom and educational freedom is the anti-rational passions of those who seek to use political power to restrict other people's choices.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Sunday At Mingtan Reservoir (明潭水庫) & Minghu Reservoir (明湖水庫)

I took the midnight train up to Ershui again on Saturday night and then the 4.45am train into Nantou county. I was slightly concerned that the motorbike might have been towed away given that I had parked it in a different place two weeks ago, but I needn't have worried - it had been moved, but it was still in the same approximate area I'd left it in. I took it down to Shuili to change the oil and get a coffee out of the 7-11 before getting started. This train trip to Nantou is beginning to wear on me; it is difficult to get any sleep either on the train (they keep all the lights turned on), or at Ershui station. I had wanted to sleep, but couldn't - usually, I am the only one at Ershui station at that hour, but this time there were a couple of sketchy looking characters loitering about so I kept myself awake.

After a while it turned out to be a brilliant morning. The first thing I did was take a back road down to the bridge crossing the western stream that fills up Mingtan reservoir; it is more than a regular farmer's road as it gives access to the second stream filling up Mingtan reservoir from the east side. Along the way it offers views back around the mountain and over the reservoir toward the dam...


The road passes through a short tunnel toward the eastern stream and as I drove slowly through it, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye - a largish snake that had been run over. I stopped and walked back up the tunnel to have a look but it was pitch black and I hadn't brought the tripod with me (I had something else with me instead). So I put down my bag to balance the camera on whilst setting it to a 6 second exposure, but with it being so dark it was very difficult to get the focus right...



The tunnel brought me out to a viaduct across the eastern stream (this is signposted earlier on the road as a "water bridge")...



I stopped to explore a now long-since collapsed road on the other side of the stream, but it wasn't possible to follow it too far. However, there was a parallel road above it, more than likely its' replacement, but I didn't follow it as I had other things I needed to do. On the way back I stopped briefly to try and get a picture of one of the many small monkeys climbing all over the hillside, but it was difficult as they were eager to get out of my line of sight...


Before I left the access road to return to Shuili, I took a brief detour to see the only other tourist attraction that was signposted along the road: a disused railway tunnel...



After leaving the access road at the back of Mingtan reservoir, I headed back down to Shueili for a quick break and stopped there to take a downstream shot of the secondary power station down from Mingtan dam...


Then I headed back upstream to Minghu reservoir but the view toward the dam and over the reservoir is east-facing - directly into the sunlight. There is no other obvious point from which the dam or reservoir can be viewed, and I already have pictures from that view so I decided to head further upstream to see the feeder stream check dam and have a look at the other farmer's roads nearby. First, the check dam...


It is about eight meters high by thirty meters across and it is silted up to the crest. There must be a collapsed corridor within the silt through which water is finding its' way down on the eastern side. Here is the silted up, highly eutrophic stream...


Coming back through a tunnel on the 131 south toward Mingtan reservoir and Checheng...


I stopped in Checheng for a toilet break at about 9.30am and decided I couldn't be bothered to do much more and just wanted to sleep. So I decided to call it off early and wait for the 10.20am train back to Ershui with an 11.30am connection south. I strolled around Checheng for a while and walked up to the dam and up to the crest and back down again to take some more shots. Here's a shot looking east from the toe of the Mingtan dam...


And a later shot overlooking Checheng itself from a small pavillion. Note the tiny train platform in the center with the rooftops of various shops jumbled all around...


It is a tiny little place. It was a relief to be taking the 10.20am train as there was only a handful of passengers leaving. The obscene pushing and shoving that goes on when the 2.20pm train arrives had annoyed me last time. I still have things to do here, but it was a nice change to get back to Tainan early and take the dogs out. Still, I would like to think about shifting the motorbike back down south to Douliou station in Yunlin county to go and see the new reservoir there. The logistics of getting up to Checheng and back again every weekend are tiring.

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.