Last Friday night I took the HSR train up to Banqiao in what used to be called "Taipei County", but has for several years now been referred to either as "Xinbei" ( 新北), or rather more farcically in English as "New Taipei City". The Friday night trip allows me the early start necessary to shoot throughout the morning before taking a lunch time HSR train back to Tainan. There were a couple of issues this time however*. Setting out on the motorbike from the final MRT stop on the Xindian line at sometime after 5 a.m., I followed provincial highway nine eastward, where I was overtaken repeatedly by touring bike groups on their Triumphs and BMWs as well as a number of rich playboys in Ferraris, Lamborghinis and 911s. Along every other curve and bend in the road, several members of these groups had positioned themselves to photograph their mates accelerating through the apexes. Somewhat surprisingly, they even photographed me on my rusty old SYM "wolf", with bulky camera bag and tripod strapped to the rear rack whilst studiously avoiding the tilt-inducing apexes and snailing past them at speeds of just over 40 kph. I suppose I would have been the "variety" item on their image reel. I also stopped once to take in the sunrise over the hills behind and to the north of the reservoir...
|Sunrise overlooking Erge Park in Shihding district on provincial highway nine behind Feitsui reservoir.|
|Panorama shot of the Beishi river (北勢溪) as it meanders past the Pingling sewage treatment plant.|
|It was still too early in the morning, and so although the sun was just beginning to cast light upon the lower hillsides here, the mist and low-lying cloud had yet to evaporate.|
|Panorama shot of the first major bend in the Beishi river; two more to follow before the river turns into the reservoir.|
|Just a little way back upstream from the next bend, and directly in front of the CCTV camera was this collection of driftwood encircled by a floating plastic debris line towed by another pipe-raft.|
|By now, the sun had risen high enough to chase off the early morning mists; it was going to be another beautiful day.|
|The first of Feitsui's two straights culminating in the large bend surrounded by farms which I visited two weeks previously and which is a popular tourist site.|
|Partially obscured view out toward the northernmost reach of Feitsui reservoir.|
|Fenced off surveillance camera, identical to the one I found earlier in the morning.|
|"Crocodile Island": a broken peninsula, though the break between it and the main spit of land cannot be seen from this angle.|
|A panorama of the lower reaches of the central spit taken using the 300mm lens.|
|A TFRA police boat speeding upstream; he stopped at a couple of places, possibly as part of a routine check, though the areas he stopped in were without survei|
I drove back downhill and retraced my way back up Tanyao road until I reached the fork, at which point I turned around and headed downhill on Zhukeng road. After some distance, Zhukeng road brought me to a cul-de-sac with a cut through the trees which was a narrow path composed of a rough mixture of pebbles and cement. As expected, this path brought me out to the water's edge, but surprisingly I couldn't find any surveillance cameras (this was also the first spot at which the TFRA police boat had stopped earlier). There were several Taiwanese pipe-rafts used for fishing, and whilst this didn't surprise me, it does make me wonder about their legal status given that the Taipei Feitsui Reservoir Administration are supposedly much stricter about controlling and limiting public access to the reservoir than the administrative bodies for other reservoirs elsewhere in Taiwan.
|Wouldn't it be great to live here, and have this scene at the back of your house? Except you'd risk being arrested by the police whenever you went for a swim or venture our on the raft to catch fish.|
*After work on Fridays, I sometimes stay behind an extra hour to cook meat and potatoes for some of the kids (they're not always getting fed properly at home) which means I get back home after 7.30 p.m. and with the last HSR train to Banqiao leaving at 10.23 p.m., I have to rush to get the dogs fed and walked and all my other errands done in order to catch that train. When I arrived at the Tainan HSR station in Gueiren at 10.15 p.m., I found that new signs had been erected to warn motorcyclists that an area in which I used to regularly park without any problems had now been designated a tow-away zone so that meant looking for somewhere else to park. When I got into the building and began to use the ticket vending machine, I found that the machine would not allow me to purchase a non-reserved ticket and instead I was forced to wait in line in front of the service desk. This was very inconvenient as it meant there was no time to buy anything from the 7-11 before heading up to the platform.
Once seated on the train and going through my camera kit I noticed that one of my bungee cords must have fallen out of the side pocket, leaving me with only one left. A bungee cord is a NT$50 item, but it is crucial to making sure the camera kit and tripod is secured to the rear rack of the motorbike (and thereby ensuring I don't twist my back muscles by carrying the bag on my back instead). The need to get a new one meant looking for 24 hour "shao-bei" stores in both Xindian and Banqiao. My girlfriend found one for me in Banqiao but I made the stupid mistake of underestimating the distance and walking instead of taking a taxi there and back again. Consequently I missed the last metro train from Banqiao to Xindian, and had to end up taking a taxi. For some reason, I had always assumed that because people in south Taiwan talk about Taipei's metro system using the abbreviation "MRT", that people who actually live in Taipei would also use this term - turns out the taxi driver had no idea what an "MRT" was. So there was some confusion, and I ended up getting dropped off at Xindian district's "Dapingling" MRT station, which is a good few miles north of the final Xindian MRT station I wanted to go to. I then ended up underestimating distance yet again and walking all the way south to a 7-11 around the corner from my motorbike. Very tired, I had a quick beer and then tried (unsuccesfully) to sleep from about 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. Hopefully, I'll be able to avoid a repeat of this farce on the next trip.