Saturday, 27 September 2014

"Alptraum" : First Attempt To Reach Deiji Reservoir (德基水庫)

Instead of the usual Sunday trip to a reservoir in northern or central Taiwan, I instead took my trip today for reasons to do with work. As I am now taking my field trips in Nantou County, it is no longer practical to take the HSR train and instead I am taking the creaky old, TRA grandma trains that serve the central counties of Changhua and Nantou. Thus entrained to the TRA timetable, the only way I could arrive in Checheng at an early time was to leave Tainan on the Friday night night-train to Ershui in Changhua and then change trains in the middle of the night to arrive in Checheng at 5.35am. My only morning alternative would have seen me arrive in Checheng at well after 10am which would have severely limited my time given that I need to be back in Tainan by the late afternoon / early evening. So I took the night train. I had anticipated trying to sleep on the train since there would hardly be anybody else on it, but that turned out to be in vain as I was too nervous about the possibility of missing my connection.

In any case, today's trip has been something of a write-off. My objective was to get up to Deiji reservoir in Taichung county by driving northward all the way through Nantou county - this is the only practical approach since the typhoon-damaged central cross island highway has been abandoned by the central government. I had planned to drive up from the south through Puli township onto highway 14 and then up to Wushe, switching over to the 14_A and following that northward until reaching highway 8 and then taking that road down toward Deiji reservoir. That was what I had planned, but it was not what I accomplished. It was on the 14_A just past Hehuanshan at about 11am that I realised I had severely underestimated the length and demands of the trip...

1) The terrain; it is all narrow little switchbacks once you get onto the 14_A and this alone makes the drive very slow.

2) The terrain; the views are spectacular and I wasted too much time taking pictures of mountains and valleys, and that was not really why I was there.

3) The horrendous traffic jams up in the mountains; although I could often squeeze my way through the rows of endless cars on my little motorbike I couldn't always do this without serious risk of accident.

4) The air temperature; I knew it would be cold but it was significantly colder than I had anticipated and this gave the bike's carburetor a bad case of hiccups. This in turn made overtaking impossible at times as I simply didn't have the power to exploit gaps in the traffic convoy the way I normally would.

5) The air temperature; I had brought a sweater with me, but this wasn't enough and after I bought an extra under-shirt from a convenience store I found this wasn't enough either - by the time I reached 3,000 meters I was uncomfortably cold and starting to shiver. Before I left the house last night I had thought about bringing my new jacket but decided it would take up too much room in my bag and I had other things to carry.

6) The altitude; today was the highest I've ever been without being on a flight, and it made me slightly dizzy and nauseous. I was OK when I finally got back down the mountain to the little town of Wushe overlooking Wan-Da reservoir.

So it was at a little snack bar several kilometers after the famous Hehuanshan peak that I decided to pull the plug and turn back. There was simply no way I was going to make it to Deiji reservoir and get back to Checheng at a reasonable time - and that's without even taking the trip back to Tainan into consideration. It was also threatening to rain by that point, and being high up in the clouds it would be especially cold and I didn't have a raincoat with me and nor was I within a reasonable distance of getting a cheap one.

So that was that - I didn't get to see Deiji reservoir and that whole trip needs a thorough re-think before next weekend. It cannot be put aside for much longer because winter is coming and there is no way the black bike is going to survive the icy air of winter at 3,000+ meters. I have a few choices to stew over in the next couple of days.

Anyway, a few pictures from today....

Looking eastward over Mingtan reservoir at sometime after 6am this morning.
At about 10am looking south-eastward over the mountains from an altitude just shy of  the 3,000 meter mark.
From just below Hehuanshan's eastern peak looking across to the iconic rolling hill backdrop to that peak stretch of highway 14_A.
Back down in Nantou at Minghu reservoir dam for the hydroelectric plant; notice the immense pipes draped over the hillside.
A brief look back over Minghu reservoir; it was approaching 2pm at this point and there wasn't time left to explore.
I changed the oil on the bike myself first thing after I arrived, so it should be good to go again next week; if I don't make another attempt on the approach to Deiji reservoir, then I might spend my time familiarizing myself with Sun Moon Lake and its' two adjacent reservoirs and the hydroelectric power plants they serve.

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