Last week I popped over to the Pyrenees to collect some samples. Although the photographs might suggest otherwise, I worked hard – drilling about 35 kg of mountainside into 100 little plastic bags. Northern Spain at this time of year is also unfortunately photogenic, which was a real shame. As was the hot weather and unbroken sunshine, which luckily has replicated itself ten degrees further north this week. We started in the pretty town of Ainsa, headed east to the more industrial Tremp, before heading back to Zaragoza at the end of the week. Our little hire car covered the 1000+ km admirably, even when the road became a track, and the the track became a pile of gravel laid up a hill. That little detour (of many) might not have been the quickest way between sample locations, but it was certainly the more scenic.
The biggest problem turned out to be mealtimes. Good luck finding a restaurant before 10.15pm in Zaragoza. Or after 10.30 – the tables filled very quickly. The food was good though, if a little vegetable-free. If you order the sausages for main course, that’s pretty much what you get. Despite plenty of vegetables available in the towns, restaurants erred towards the meat-fest end of gastronomy. For the first time I was happy when my tactic of “choose something that you can’t translate” turned into a plate of beans. Although, being Spain, there was a generous helping of bacon thrown over the top of them just in case I was missing out on my meat intake.
This is probably my last fieldwork for my PhD, but not a bad way to finish. Now I have 9 months to do all the work and write up…………..
Four years after my visit as an undergrad, I returned to Burnham Ovary Staithe last weekend to demonstrate on the Norfolk field trip. I think I learned possibly more this time, especially having to teach as we went round. Due to the vast quantities of mud involved, I took my first digital camera with me, the venerable Fuji Finepix A340. It is still rubbish, the zoom is still broken and it’s restricted to only one setting, but it forced me to try and be creative with it. Looking back I’m not sure which set are better, though last time I did have the advantage that it wasn’t freezing cold and raining lots of the time – turns out cold, wet fingers are less keen to take pictures than warm muddy ones.
Italy this time – this is Lake Iseo. Taken after a particularly calorific trip to the gelateria. Mmmmmm.
Moving away from the heat, tonight I’m staying in the countryside at a mountain lodge operated by the National Taiwan University. We had a beautiful (unfortunately camera-free) sunset, followed by some fantastic food:
Earlier in the day however, we were slightly hotter. Niels and I were sampling in a river valley in the full sun, at 34 degrees and near 100% humidity. I’m now drinking my sixth litre of water for today. Sampling from 10.00 until 4.30, we have managed to get 40-odd samples which should give me plenty to do back in Cambridge, and if the results are ok a chapter of my thesis. Sounds scary talking about that sort of thing, but it’s a reality I am having to face up to quite quickly.
Today I went to Taroko Gorge, which was awesome. The weather was cooler and less humid than Taipei, although hiking was still tiring. We met up with a park ranger who has been conscientiously collecting samples for Niels for years, who took us to a fresh landslide which we spent several hours clambering over and sampling. Then I went for a walk up the gorge, and found this:
At the bottom are hot spring pools, the photo is taken from a rickety suspension bridge over the river.
Much to Adam’s confusion, I have indeed spent today driving around collecting mud. It has been successful too, I now have a backpack full of little plastic bags of the stuff 🙂
Typhoon Morakot managed some quite impressive sediment deposition, these two are standing on top of a flood deposit that has already been somewhat flattened off by a bulldozer:
2 metres of flood deposit
Venturing upstream, the damage was even more pronounced, with an entire riverbank buried when the river changed course.
Standing in what is now the river, there used to be fields over this entire area
However the most interesting part of the day was finding a stream that had been completely filled with logs washed down in the floods. Some of these were cedar, so there were lots of people with chainsaws hoping to strike it lucky and find some $1000 driftwood. I just took pictures:
A river of logs
15 hours in the air, several more waiting around for buses and planes but I have made it to Taiwan. The weather is warm and humid, I didn’t need to bring all these jumpers. Turns out swimming shorts and sunglasses would have been a better idea. My hotel is on campus, just a short walk from the lab, and looks out onto the beach. It’s a hard life