Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On the route 21

Namasia, the name resonates in my ears, it might sound meaningless to outsiders but the exotic phonetics of the name intrigues me. Located in the mountainous area of Kaohsiung, Namasia district is part of the Yushan range (the jade mountain) with two rivers, Cishan or Nanzihsian river and Laonong river, running through. The demographics of the area is mostly Bunun, with Tsou and Paiwan as substantial minorities. The bureaucratic old name "Sanmin", taken from Sun Yat-Sen's "Three Principle of People", was re-placed with Namasia in 2008, as it is the name of the Nanzihsian river in the Tsou language, meaning "better and better" in Bunun.

My first visit to Namasia was following Rich's lead, participating in one of the Bunun tribal festivals, Malatangia: Coming of Age,  in 2012. I was amazed by the majestic scenery when driving on the temporary roads and bridges. The devastating typhoon Morakot in 2009 brought rainfall that equaled the annual amount in 3 days and destroyed the major access road, route 21, and mountains in the area. The most heart breaking news was that the whole Hsiaolin village, 169 households, was engulfed by a landslide, causing 398 lives lost. Driving along the river bank on these temporary roads and bridges that were built on fallen rock debris, with the crumbling mountains in sight, the impression could humble the most proud man by the presence of mother nature.

I visited Rich in Namasia during the 2013 lunar new year's holiday, the route 21 was partially fixed and survivors from Hsiaolin village were translocated to a newly built modern community. A memorial park was built at the original site of Hsiaolin village, where all 169 households were labeled in miniature. It all seems like a bright future awaits, sad still but hopeful. The road in between the memorial park and Namasia is still a mess, it's even worse than I remember from my last visit. Apparently a rage water washed away these temporary bridges and foundations. Hopefully they will repair the roads so other people can enjoy the rugged beauty of its nature.

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