These days, instead of driving down to Kaohsiung city via provincial highway 1, as I used to, I pass through the HSR station in Gueiren and make my way through the farms and industrial estates of Alian district before coming out at Agongdian reservoir (and from there it is the 186 south and then a quick switch over to Chengguan road which follows underneath freeway 10, before turning south onto the 183 which takes me through Fongshan and Daliao and thus across the river to Pingtung). This time an obvious benefit of taking this alternative route through the farms was that I would be able to photograph Agongdian reservoir - which is worthwhile doing now, because every summer it is drained in order to allow for the removal of sediments. Here is the view from Xiaogangshan at about 7am in the morning - the drainage is probably complete even though the reservoir is still covered in standing, shallow water reflecting the sun...
|Agongdian reservoir early in the morning; note the excavated "path" in the middle of the reservoir.|
|From Xiaogangshan looking south-south-west to Kaohsiung city across the High Speed Rail line.|
|The water intake tower in the distance with Xiaoganshan behind it.|
|A close up on the water intake tower - note the stain of the usual high-water mark. The X-shaped structure to the left is the water gate for the irrigation outlet.|
|A close up on the excavator sitting idle across from the tower; note the presence of egrets in the water - they will be standing rather than floating, which is an indication of how shallow the water is.|
|Layers of sediments around which the water flows. This mud is carried by the river from the nearby Wushanding "muddy volcano".|
|The Wanlai stream at the back end of the reservoir, almost dried up.|
|The now dried up Wanlai stream winding its way down from the hills.|
|Cows crossing the river, or at least wading into it in order to cool off.|
|The red sign in front of the lake indicates that it is a protected area under the jurisdiction of Kenting National Park, which is something I hadn't known.|
|Another signboard, giving limited information about the lake; apparently it was a natural lake formed by rainwater collecting in a flat basin and was later engineered into a local irrigation reservoir in 1984.|
|A large field prefaces the lake to the south; can you spot the cattle in the distance?|
|Myself standing at the south end of Longluan lake reservoir.|
|Warning: you are now entering an eco-fundie zone.|
|The irrigation canal headed by Longluan Lake's dam and four irrigation gates.|
|A close-up of the dam and irrigation gates, only one of which was open. Note the reactor buildings and pylons from the nuclear power station in the background. And can you spot the old man moving about in the water?|
|Here he is: this is completely normal behaviour among Taiwan's rural population and so I didn't worry about him.|
|The usual warnings about deep water and so forth (edit: and numbers of deaths, though the actual numbers are absent), though this is a non-standard sign and may not have been erected by the Water Corporation.|
|Overlooking the lake from the north-west corner on top of the dam.|
|Looking south-west toward the western shoreline and what must be the ecology center building, which has three token wind-turbines standing guard over it.|
|The two reactor buildings for the Kenting nuclear power station in the distance. Disregarding the cancelled plant at Gongliao in northern Taiwan, this is the most recent of Taiwan's three nuclear power stations.|
|Pylons and electricity cables leading away from the power station to join the national power grid. They pass over the flat rooftops of Water Corporation buildings.|
|They pass over the town of Hengchung also and away up the hillsides...|
I had only spent an hour at Longluan lake, but the heat was already killing me. I needed fresh water to drink and a place to sit down and just stare at the wildlife and maybe go for a quiet swim and float around on my back for a short while. So naturally I completely ignored Kenting - there are too many people at the south bay and at the other beaches. I stopped at the 7-11 opposite Fraggle Rock (Chuanfanshih) to get some drinks and then parked outside the little B&B place I had stayed at many years ago now with my then-girlfriend. I have fond memories of Fraggle Rock and snorkelling around chasing fish and laughing at the locals with their lifejackets and safety equipment holding hands with each other because they cannot swim...
|I picked my way through the sharp rocks and sat down for a drink, but swimming was out of the question as it as high-tide.|
|Looking back westward toward Kenting (on the other side of that hill). This is pretty much the southern end of Taiwan.|
|Overlooking the Pacific Ocean; I used to stare in wonder at this on the map on my bedroom wall when I was a child. I never thought I'd actually swim in it one day - and I've swam in it many, many times now.|
|Looking back down south along the coast with the observatory just visible in the background.|
Going back is more difficult. Partly it's because I was leaving at the hottest time of the day, just after 1pm and also because what you have to look forward to is no longer the beaches and sea air of the Hengchung peninsula but the insane traffic of highway 26 (later changing to highway 1) and the task of negotiating yourself through the next three cities. On my way back northward up the 26, sometime before Fangshan I think, I drove past an accident scene - a young man lay dying (if not already dead) on the other side of the road - his scooter lying prone on the tarmac and blood streaming from out of his head. A crowd of people stood around him trying to do CPR and pouring water onto his head wounds. If I had been a medic I would have stopped to do whatever I could, but I am not and there was nothing I could do. I drove on, thinking about that for the rest of the trip. About 10 minutes later I saw the ambulance racing southwards for him. Almost certainly too late. What would be front-page news in England is an everyday occurance in Taiwan. I just concentrate on making sure that that particular nightmare - lying on a road somewhere miles from my dogs, blood pouring out of my head - never catches up to me. I am not sure how I would like to leave this world, but I am certain that is not how I want to go.
I made good time, as safely as could be reasonably asked, and through downpours of rain in Pingtung city. Soon I was heading back up Chengguang road from Kaohsiung's Renwu district to Tainan city. When I made it back to Agongdian reservoir I took some repeat pictures from Xiaogangshan...
|Agongdian reservoir at about 4pm; the mudflats clearly visible with the sun having swung around to the west.|
|A similar shot taken with my HTC phone, which is slightly better I think.|
|The channel dug by the excavator to allow the water from the feeder streams to make its way toward the dam gates.|
|Another long-lens shot looking back toward Kaohsiung city with the industrial area of Nanzih in the foreground and 85 and 50 buildings in the background.|
|E-Da Medical University, which I had driven past on the 186 only twenty five minutes or so earlier.|
After a long drive, I finally got home in one piece, if absolutely shattered. I took a shower, got changed, grabbed a beer from the fridge and took all the dogs out to the park at the back of my house...