Monday, 8 September 2014

Monday Trip From Hsinchu Back Down To Taichung Via Yongheshan & Mingde Reservoirs

Today was the official mid-autumn festival and a national holiday, which meant an extra day off work. I took the opportunity to lie in yesterday and just potter about the house doing chores. This morning however, I took the train up to Hsinchu again but with a change of plan; previously I had intended to shift it further north to take in Feitsui reservoir in Taipei County and then eventually on to the two little reservoirs in Keelung, but I decided instead to drive the motorbike back down to Taichung city after having ditched another plan to park the bike in Ershui, Changhua County. Several reasons prompted this change of plan, the most important of which is the fact that the end of summer is approaching and I would rather visit Deiji reservoir high up in the mountains of Taichung and Wan-Da reservoir in Nantou before winter sets in rather than after. Perhaps I should have made these trips earlier in the summer, but for various reasons I was very keen on getting up to the reservoirs in Hsinchu.

So today's excursion was primarily just a straight drive south from Hsinchu to Taichung, but I did stop by at Yongheshan reservoir and Mingde reservoir in Miaoli County.

Overlooking the dam at Yongheshan reservoir.
In front of the spillway at Mingde reservoir just after noon.
At Yongheshan I managed to talk my way into the management building to photo the maps and diagrams and get them to fish out some old literature for me. I had to work at it though, because rather than the regular staff, there was only a young lad who didn't have a clue and seemed to be under the impression that he was a military official who could order me to leave! Of course I did no such thing, and eventually the attached police officer came over to the building and let me have the old literature and take photos; he was just amused that I could hold court in Mandarin about Taiwan's reservoirs.

A map based on satellite imagery showing (not very clearly in this shot) the route of the diversion channel from the Nanzhuang river into Yongheshan reservoir.
An aerial photograph of the dam from (presumably) 1984; the filling of the reservoir is not yet complete.
A simplified profile of the upstream face of the dam, with various depth standards against which to monitor and regulate the inflow and outflow of water from the reservoir.  
A simplified diagram of the dam structure atop the original ground line. The core of the dam seems to be particularly large and the upstream and downstream shells particularly narrow in comparison to other reservoirs I've seen in Taiwan.
When I left the building I took some more shots and stopped to talk to a group of retirees for twenty minutes or so and then hopped on the bike to drive back south through Miaoli.

On the way back down south. I deliberately switched from provincial highway 1 over to the 13 so I could make another pit stop at Mingde reservoir and take more pictures there. There was a little convenience store which I remembered as being run by a middle aged couple originally from Tainan last time I was there in 2012. It seems they've since sold the little store to someone else. I stopped for drink and to see if I might also be able to get literature from the Mingde management office but it was closed with not a soul in sight. I sat around in a pavillion taking pictures and talking to another middle-aged couple from Taipei County; the chap seemed to think I could get access to Feitsui reservoir if only I talked to someone he was telling me about at NTU in Taipei. The problem was he was talking well outside of my vocabulary range for me to understand the necessary details.

After my little break at Mingde reservoir, I rejoined highway 13 which passes by the spillway and stopped for some parting snaps - which was when I noticed that the electronic gate for the new water treatment works had been left open. Naturally I took my chance without hesitating and drove straight in to take pictures - nobody stopped me. From atop one of the buildings, you can get some unobstructed views toward the old spillway, as well as look over the small water treatment facility itself...

A funny thing happened though - as I hopped back onto the bike to leave, I found that the electronic gate had now been shut. So I got off and walked into the office and looked around but nobody was there. I then looked around for an electronic key fob but found nothing. There was a name card for the facility chief whose cell number I called, but no answer. So I walked back out to the gate to see if there was a manual release button but the box was very difficult to reach as it was concealed behind a boxed-off wall. Just as I gave that up to rest on the gate and think about what to do next, one of the employees in T-shirt and jeans rocked up on a scooter. I explained that I had seen the gate open and went in to take pictures of the Mingde reservoir spillway then the gate shut on me; he laughed, said I shouldn't be there and then let me out. If I'd have done that in the U.S. I'd have likely been detained to have my "papers" inspected and to be questioned by the FBI.

I lost a little bit of time stuck in that water treatment plant, but quickly made it up on my way out of Miaoli. I sped through the southern rural districts of Miaoli and down into Fengyuan remembering to get into the correct lane after the bridge and before passing under the freeway. I left the 13 onto the 10, crossed briefly onto the "other" 1 and then snapped back almost immediately onto the ridiculous, but invaluable route that is the 125 and got myself back to the HSR station. As usual there were massive cues for the ticket vending machines and I consequently missed the 14:38 train back to Tainan and had to wait for the 15:01 train. There is a nice view out toward Taichung city from the eastern platform, but it's somewhat cramped by the station architecture. There are probably better ways to frame this shot and I might make a real effort at it another time...

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