Thursday, March 22, 2012

Escaping a Disaster-Like Situation on a Sunny Day

     My sister-in-law and her girlfriend would go back to the States the next day. So we had to go back to Taichung this morning. The weather report predicted it would be a sunny day for the rest of the week. It sounded good for us to travel back to Taichung on the high mountain road. It would take us around 6-7 hours drive. The distance was 188 km long from the Taroko National Park to Taichung.     
There was a major landslide two years ago
west of Tienhsiang on Highway No 8 from 

Taroko National Park to Dayulin then on to Lishan. 
The road is still under construction. 
Bilyu Sacred Tree:
50 meter high,  and 3.5 meter wide,
more than 3,000 years old; it is the oldest
tree along the highway.
This was a rest area nearby the sacred tree.
The store offered some food for tourists,
like coffee, tea eggs, instant noodle, etc. and especally the peach honey  
There was no pilot car to direct the traffic during 
road construction. They put a mechanical manikin which
could move its hands up and down to warn the drivers
of the construction site. 
Starting The Disaster-Like Journey
      After passing the sacred tree, the foggy situation cleared up from Tienhsiang to the sacred tree. We approached Dayulin which is the continental divide in Taiwan and also a place for three roads joining together. There was a lot of traffic in the parking area. We passed some cars and got in front of a car. We heard people yelling at us. I rolled down our car window. Someone told me that "the road was closed and no one knew when it would be opened." 
No one knew what was going on
 My husband and his sister went to check what had happened. They saw a heavy excavator machine broken down on the center of the road. Only people or bicycles could pass and it was a bit hard for motorcycles because of the wide handlebars.  
Picture from Shirley 
The broken down machine 
Picture from Shirley
This truck driver was making a U turn on this narrow mountain road.
He had to deliver his cabbage to the market on time in order to get a
good price.   
We were waiting for any information from the highway bureau.
But it seemed to be hopeless. No one could give us a firm answer.   
More traffic came from Hualien and the polices rode their motorcycle or
drove their car patrolling this area. No police directed the traffic or put up
 a sign to warn the coming traffic.  We saw some people purchased food
 from the vendors and stared to cook their lunch.  
How long should we wait? 
     We met  two westerns and started talking to them. They were from Utah and one worked for the UN humanitarian section and had came to Taiwan once. They hired a taxi and a tour guide who couldn't speak English to visit Mt. Hohuan. They were disappointed but accepted the situation.  
     We waited for two hours and still didn't have any answers. Now the most important problem came, which was my sister-in-law and her friend had to use the toilet. Our car was parked in front of the toilet. But there was no western style toilets only squat toilets. They had never used once since they came to Taiwan. It was time for them to test their squatting technics on the last day in Taiwan.     
The scenery to Lishan 
     Finally, someone got the message out about the road situation. It would at least take 6 hours for the road to reopen and it was not 100% guaranteed. I heard a guy talking to his friend about another detour from Lishan to Wushe. He told me that the road situation was alright to drive. It was around 2 o'clock in the afternoon. If the road didn't open up then what would we do? My sister-in-law said she could call in to change her flight schedule if needed.  We finally decided to take the detour and one young man asked us if he could follow us to go back home to Taichung. Well, sure. 

It was a forest before. But now there were a lot of farmers who cut down
the trees and grew high mountain tea, fruits or vegetables.  It causes
severe landslides in these areas.  
High mountain cabbages which was one of the reasons causeing the landslides. 
Taiwanese liked to eat the high mountain cabbage because it tasted
more crispy and sweeter than the plains cabbage. The plants in the
high mountain area didn't have enough sun shine and
the weather was colder than the plains which would lead the plants to
secrete some chemical to protect themselves. That was why it makes the
high mountain vegetables, fruits, or tea taste better. 
This road was just for farmers to transport their
agricultural products. 
     When we began to drive on the road, its situation was alright. One hour later, I saw a sign in Chinese stated, "Slow down and be careful for the collapsed road situation."  I had not asked my husband to slow down, suddenly our car flew in the air and dropped on the road again. Everyone was silent for a while. My husband spoke out, "that was really scary." I didn't know the road colasped was so serious from the warning sign. I had a bad feeling after our car jumped.  
     We asked the resident when we were at the road split area. The local saw our car and asked me that "Are you sure to drive this car on the farm road?"  Could we return back to an unknown situation? He told me to be really careful because my car chassis was really low and it would be a difficult journey. Well, I had to translate to my husband and my friends. 
All passengers got off the car and walked for a while.
The bottom of my car would scrape the ground if
we all sat inside the car.
Not only we had to worry about ourselves but also
the young man who followed us in his car. We didn't see the
guy who told us it was alright to drive on this road. 
There were several 4 wheels-trucks passed by us.
The road situation slowed us down. One time
our right side of the wheels was on the edge of
the cliff.  I prayed to my god. 
I didn't know how we got into this situation.
Our vacation was good until this happened. 

We tried to visualized which way to maneuver
 through this really bad section of the road. 

We had to drive through this landslide area.
The young man passed us because his car had a higher chassis. 
My car hit the ground often. I just hoped we could
go through this 
and arrived home safely.  
More than 5 years ago, my husband and I drove on this road.
Its condition was alright after
 the 921 Earthquake. The
government spent a tremendous amount of money to have the road repaired.
But it didn't work that way. The government didn't encourage
farmers to grow trees instead of growing fruits, vegetables, or tea. 
The entire road slid down to the cliff.  
We probably finished 2/3 of the road. Everyone
was pretty quiet on the road. What was the rest of the road?
Could my car handle the road situation well?
There were a lot of doubts in my mind. 
We met a local aborigine. He was happy to see three
foreigners showed up there. He told us there was a
hiking trail along this waterfall and asked us if we wanted to go.
I said thank to him and told him that we were not interested.
He told us it would probably take us 1 hour to Wushe village.
It was nice to know but I still had some doubts about his estimate.
There was no disaster chased us. But we had to compete with
time because it was getting dark.
If we didn't arrive in the village before sundown,
we could end up with a miserable situation due to the unknown
road condition driving at night.
     Finally we arrived in the village safely. It took us more than one hour of driving from the waterfall. We stopped at the police station and asked the policeman about the road situation from Dayulin to Mt. Hehuan. The policeman who was on duty was busy playing on his computer and showed impatience to our question. He asked us to make a call to another police station in Hualien for the information. We were totally disappointed about his answer. This police station was the nearest station and he didn't know the road situation at all and did not seem to care. We wondered if was a disaster or someone needed a help, how could they perform their job?  
     After we arrived home, my car air compressor was making a big noise. We had it fixed. The total bill was more than US$1,000. But life goes on and we are alive and safe.

1 comment:

  1. Disaster awareness is a very valuable knowledge especially when it comes to unfamiliar places. It is a necessity of each and every one of us.


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