Saturday, September 13, 2008

My brother Jamie comes to Taiwan; Penghu pt.4: North of Magong

The following day we awoke to a day burgeoning with promise. We had wheels and we had an island to explore. From the windows of our hotel room we could see the southern arm of the island as it curved around under the horizon and ended at Snakehead Mountain where we had been at dusk the night before. The sky was a study in contrast: a beautiful clear blue sky overhead with a thick, ominous band of cloud bordering the horizon. It became apparent in the time it took us to wash and pack our bags that that thick, brooding menace of cloud was rapidly moving in our direction veiling everything underneath as it went with a shadow. As we handed in our room keys to the receptionists the storm broke and the downpour began. After some hesitation we decided to get wet and scoot the few blocks along the street to the local McDonald's where Jamie could get some breakfast and we knew we would be dry. While inside McDonald's a gale drenched the town. The wind was doing its best to blow water through the slim fissure between the glass door and the wall of glass next to our table, resulting in a pool of water building up under our table. However, the gale passed quickly and by the time we were ready to leave it had almost stopped, leaving behind what seemed to be the same beautiful blue sky I had seen earlier. The weather for the rest of the day was perfect.

The main land mass of Penghu consists of three main islands (Makung, Paisha, and Hsiyu) connected by one main road (the 203) and two bridges (Chungcheng Bridge and the Penghu Great Bridge). On our journey north we stopped just before the first bridge to have a look around. We saw this interesting landscape. The tide was out and not at its lowest. At first we didn't notice the solitary figure moving in the landscape. This man or woman was bent over a lot and kept prodding the ground with a pole like a hiking pole. They were obviously looking for something; some kind of shellfish perhaps.

Across the exposed mud-flats from where the man or woman was prospecting for invertebrates the Jhongtun wind-towers arose majestically from the greenery. When we got across the bridge we got a closer look at the windmills. You can't really appreciate the size and scale of these things without getting up close. You can watch the video taken from scooterback (as opposed to horseback).

The Jhongtun windmills (of which there are eight).

The Penghu Great Bridge (also called the Trans-ocean bridge). This photo was taken looking back across the bridge after an interesting crossing. The wind blew really hard against us and occasionally a blast of wind would suddenly come from the side trying to knock us off. We had to slow right down to 30 or 40 km/hr and it took a while to get across because it is a long bridge. I'm sure the conditions made it seem like it was taking forever.

Upon crossing the great bridge we stopped for a rest and had a look around. One of the first things we noticed was an old pillbox (small military bunker or dug-in guard post with a loophole for firing out of) that had been overcome with vegetation. We wandered down on to the now well-exposed rocks that the receding tide had left behind. The sea had revealed a fascinating landscape of small and large pools of clear water, some connected by rills or rivulets and interesting shapes in the rocks. All the while the pools were slowly draining away, the water making its way by charm and fortune to the rest of the sea that lingered nearby. We stopped for a long while there on the rocks exploring that temporary world and the things that lived there.

The Siyu Western fort. Tunnels, passages, cannon sites. I can't remember much about it actually. I do remember that there was a little dog sleeping in one of the cavities in the top of the parapet. I was a bit worried that it was sick or dead because it didn't move the whole time I was there. It's hard to make the connection between military sites like these and real warfare. People probably died in this fortress or around it but that just doesn't seem real to me.

The Penghu Aquarium. Not bad. The tunnel is pretty cool. This shot is taken in the tunnel, a passageway that has been built along the bottom of a large tank in which all sorts of species of fish swim about without apparent conflict. You can watch the video Jamie took walking through the tunnel:

On the way back to Magong city we stopped at a 7-11 for a drink while a rain shower passed. Before returning the scooter we stopped at a bank so that Jamie could change some of his Australian notes. Once our fantastic, new scooter was gone we were left with a sense of disempowerment, reduced to walking on the non-existent footpaths as a means of getting around; but that was okay because apart from lunch at a Shabu-shabu restaurant our only other destination was a terminal one, at the ferry terminal. After a rough ferry crossing that took much longer than it should have and in which water poured in through one section of ceiling, we reached Budai near Chiayi. There we met a man from the agency we had booked our ferry tickets with. As part of the deal he drove us back to our apartment in Tainan city. For company we had a group of seven or eight university boys who had enjoyed a high school reunion on Penghu and needed to get back to Kaohsiung.

We had spent only two days on Penghu but it sits in my mind vividly and splendidly; fresh, heartening sea air, green hills, so much to see and do.


Richie said...

That aquarium brings back memories of school trips to underwater world at Whitfords! (Only better - no Grey Nurse sharks there...)

Adrian Brown said...

Richie! I can't believe that people waste their time reading this crap. I'm being facetious of course. I'm flattered. Unfortunately we never went to any aquaria for field trips. However we did go to Camp Kumbaya where Greg Brojonowski split his pants when he farted but that's another story...

Richie said...

We'd always alternate between Underwater World and Adventure World... How fondly I remember the artificial beach of Adventure World. And the toboggan run - a toboggan run without snow - the marvels of late 1980s technology.

Truly, it was a world of adventure!

Sorry to see you missed out with your country upbringing - but Camp Kumbaya sounds like a whole lot of evangelical fun also.. (And don't forget the Collie show).

BTW.. that photo of your petrol station at dusk is absolutely amazing!