26-Dec-2003 -- After visiting 25°N 122°E we wanted to find a place to spend the night as close as possible to N25 E121 and to get up early the next morning to search for a boat. I was tired and not feeling too well and Cameo had to drive the car for the last remaining kilometers. It was past 8pm when we finally found a hotel in Guanyin. At 10pm, with a temperature of over 39° and shivering, she decided to take me to a hospital. Just before leaving Japan a few days earlier, a new case of SARS had been diagnosed in Taiwan and had made the headlines. People were becoming paranoid again and I had been dissuaded from making the trip. At the airport in Taipei I had to fill out a form telling me to immediately report to a hospital if I started to develop any of the symptoms associated with SARS. Fever was one of the symptoms!
We couldn’t find any hospitals open in Guanyin and had to drive to Dayuan. The doctor who examined me said it was probably just flu. She prescribed some medicines and asked me to report to another hospital if my condition worsened in the next few days. We went back to Guanyin and I told Cameo to forget about the confluence for the next day.
When I woke up the next morning I was feeling a bit better, although I still had fever. We decided to slowly drive south along the coast to go back to Taichung. In contrast to the eastern part of Taiwan, which is sparsely inhabited with a dramatic coastline of jagged rocks and towering cliffs, the west coast is polluted and over-industrialized with congested cities, rushing traffic, teeming markets and neon signs. The betel nut girls were already at work in their brightly lit, glass-enclosed booth by the roadside. This is a singularly Taiwanese phenomenon – the betel girl not the betel nut itself that has a long history in South-East Asia – because of the highly suggestive marketing technique. From time to time they face police harassment and some get arrested and fined for ‘indecent exposure’ but they nevertheless manage to survive in their enclosed outposts.
As we were driving on Road 15, Cameo spotted a sign for a fishing harbor. We decided to take a look. Yong-an Kang was a much bigger harbor than the one we had been to on the east coast the day before. Dozens and dozens of fishing boats ranging in size from three to thirty meters were anchored inside the port. There weren’t many people about, except for three fishermen mending some nets. The weather wasn’t too good, the wind strong and the waves three meters high, not necessarily the best conditions to go to sea. At this point, and still not feeling great, I told Cameo that I wanted to give up on the confluence, but she wanted to find it more that I did and decided to give it a try. She went to see the fishermen and, as with the confluence N25 E122 the previous day, her charms and voice did the trick. Chang Yi-shuen, the captain of the 18-meter Yu-mei-168 boat, showed up a few minute later to take us to sea.
The confluence was just over 4km from the coast and almost perpendicular to the harbor. Again we had to register our names at the local army post before leaving. The coordinates N25 E121 were entered into the marine GPS and I told the captain that we’d have to rely on my GPS to find the correct position. Behind the captain’s cabin there was a much larger room where he told us to stay. It was rough when we went over the breaking waves outside the port’s entrance and Cameo was a bit apprehensive. Half way through our 20-minute excursion I put a lifejacket on, told Cameo to stay inside and went out to direct the captain on our final approach to the point. High waves were going over the bow and breaking on the cabin windows. With less than 10 meters to the confluence, I told the captain to stop, rushed outside and went to the stern to take a few pictures, holding onto the boat with one hand and the camera with the other. The captain, worried that I might have gone overboard, came out as I was going back in. I called Cameo and told her to pop her head out to take a final shot of her with Mr. Chang.
I was damp and started to shiver again on our way back to the port. I wanted to go to sleep more than anything else. We got to the car and I collapsed into the passenger’s seat. Cameo drove us back safely to Taichung where we arrived at around noon and I went direct to bed to spend the rest of the day.