26 Dec 07
It was such a beautiful morning when the three of us set off on the motorbike. As before, we first drop in to see Mr Yu in his factory who had a few big contracts to fulfill.
Then we went to my favourite breakfast place of sticky rice with savoury pork. Tinkerbell was placed on that perch cum line holder on the table. I then found I had forgotten that can of coffee that we used to portion her share onto to be within easy reach of her.
So I got off and walked about 15 feet to the counter to get another bowl to upturn on the table so she could share our breakfast. The proprietress there knew us from years before and I was lost in some chit chat with her.
Tinkerbell must have been irritated that I was not promptly back to the table. I was stunned when with a flutter of wings, Tink was on my shoulder. When she was on the bike , or when just taken off the bike as in this case, the line was kept very short for safety purpose and about 18 inches only. She was about 450 grams in weight. The short bamboo stick and reel were not that heavy, but neither were they light. That reel assembly cum perch weight must have been about over 1 kg in weight. I had thought that should have hold her down even in spook flight with that extra energy from adrenaline.
She was not in spook and had just wanted to be with me when I was late in getting back to her. My wife sitting across her told me she looked at me and just took off from the table and jerked that reel assembly and flew to me 15 feet away with that weight dangling below her. I read somewhere that raptors could not lift more than their body weight. I was surprised that Tink lifted more than twice her body weight in that flight to my shoulder. In normal times, that would have been the highlight of the daily reports that I had been making. At that time, I was touched that she had done that and I was rather proud of her.
In hindsight, I should have taken that as a very serious warning and taken more stringent measures which I had not.
With that beautiful day, I decided we should take advantage of that to go to that pavilion that was about 2.5 km beyond BanTienYen. BanTienYen is a temple complex with a big bronze statue of the Goddess of Mercy KuanYin with some houses and farms and is about 330 meters high. The pavilion was about another 330 meters higher and the apex of several ridges fanning out. All that is just part of the massive Alishan mountain massif that reaches up to about 4000 meters up.
We have had been up to this pavilion so many times for that beautiful views of the ridges and valleys that radiated out from this pavilion.
Here are a couple of old photos of this taken when I came back in Tinkerbell Revisited 2 years ago.
We bought pack lunches from one of the village far below.
On reaching that pavilion, we took our stuff from the bike and made ourselves comfortable in that pavilion. From time to time, Tink was taken out to the side of the road outside. Her recalls to me were just perfect. At cue and with no hesitation, she flew to me from 15 meters, from 25 meters and from 35 ++ meters. There were hardly any traffic on this road, with the odd bike, or car or truck. This added to the tranquility that we had love of this place.
Then in between those flights, I walked with her on my shoulder to admire the views. That might have been from the side of the road or from the pavilion itself. Or I sat on the bench in the pavilion with her nibbling even more buttons from me while I read a book. Or when I sensed she was getting bored with the vigorous way she chewed my buttons off my shirt, I then did very short recalls of 5 meters or so within the pavilion. We had done this so many times in the past when we were living in Chiayi city and when I came back again twice to see Tink.
That afternoon with all those idyllic moments drew to a close.
As it was winter with short days, we planned to start the homeward journey at 330pm. Then we could have some flights at the statue of the Goddess of Mercy KuanYin just 2.5 km by road below us.
I placed Tink on her perch/reel on the marble bench just a couple of feet in front of us so we could stuff our things back into the backpacks and get on down.
Just about then, a mighty crash was heard on the road behind us. My wife and I both turned our heads to the road wondering if there was a car crash to catch sight of a small blue truck speeding past. A split second later, we heard the perch/reel banging on the floor and turned our heads to see Tinkerbell winging her way over the balustrade of the pavilion in fright. I knew that was spook flight. She had about 12 meters of free line to build up her momentum. And I knew from the morning that she did not even need any free line to fly to me with all that dangling just below her.
The perch/reel banging on the floor sprung that little rubber band that hold that reel and allowed the spool to run giving her meters and meters of line. She then turned into the tree tops slightly below the level of the pavilion balustrade.
If you seen the photo of the pavilion, it was raised about 15 feet from the ground below. The trees were about 45 meters away and on a steep falling slope. I looked over the edge and I knew I could not just climb down. We could see Tink on the high branch much hidden by foliage. I called to Tink hoping she would power her way back but I feared the line might have entangled.
I told my wife to stay at the pavilion to talk to Tink. I jumped on my bike to ride down to get to Tink from the ground. I zig and zagged 800 meters down the road. I found tracks that seemed to go towards Tink and I tried them all to find that they led nowhere. Finally, I parked my bike off the road below and made my way into the forest. To find I had to pull myself up a 4 feet high cutting to be on a slope of 40-45 degree. Gullies cut down that slope with loose rocks and with heavy undergrowth. The trees then grew straight up for 16 and more meters before branches appeared.
I shouted to my wife who then gave me directions from my voice as to where to go. The forest floor did not just slope 45 degrees. There were gullies and deep holes and covered with undergrowth fallen branches and leaves. I slipped and fell while staggering about. I had to take 5 minutes breaks to recover to continue on. My leg muscles stiffened and strained. I then saw the edge of the pavilion. Then I finally caught sight of Tinkerbell. She was up about 16-18 meters above the floor of the forest on that first branch of a small straight tree, the third tree from the edge of the tall grass covered field between the pavilion and the start of this forest. She saw me and called to me. I rested again for a few minutes and then took stock of what we found us to be in. She was wound about the tree. I hoped the line to be loose enough and that the strength she showed this morning would be used by her again. I felt the line was not trapped and she could fly down. But that line was not loose enough for her. She did all the recalls today without hesitation. When I asked her to fly to me, the line was tight on her and she did not try at all.
The time was about 430pm and I knew the light would be fading fast. I could not call out on the mobile and even the signals from the pavilion were not strong. My wife could not call out from the pavilion either. I knew even if she could, it would be an hour at the least to drive up there from the city. I stayed on forest floor below Tinkerbell talking to her. Then the light started to fade. I told her that I will be back the next day and I promised her I would get her down.
I made my way out slowly. I could not afford to break my leg or hurt myself. I had thought of getting a sleeping bag to sleep under the tree. That trip out of the forest told me that was just too dangerous to get back in the night. I rode up to pick my wife from the pavilion and set off back to Yu's house. My wife had managed to call him earlier during a time when signals were received and Mr Yu was at the pavilion.
I described to him what happened, and the situation of Tinkerbell 16-18 meters up the tree and the forest she was in. Nothing more could be done for the night and plans set in place for help to reach her the next morning. Mr Yu drove down with my wife while I rode the bike back to his house.
We went to sleep very early, tired out by all those efforts.
27 Dec 07
The alarm went off at 4 am. We were out of the house at 430am in freezing cold riding on the bike armoured with down jackets. We picked up breakfast from a 24 hour 7-11 reaching the pavilion at 530am. I and my wife were worried how Tinkerbell passed the night and if predators had got to her.
At first light at 610 am, I rode down to the forest entry point and leap over the fence. I knew where her tree was. The sight of her red tail gladdened me and I knew she was safe. She answered my call and I talked to her to reassure her. We waited and waited for the help that was to come.
The fire department that we called called back that they had no tree climbing gear and the inaccessible forest precluded any vehicle-mounted cherry picker from reaching her. It was so difficult to get to that tree that none of my city dwelling friends could get to that part of that forest. It was difficult enough for me as it was.
As the morning got on, I decided it was on me to get her down. I looked up with my binoculars. I could make out a part of the line. I got back to the road, rode down a bit to get reception and was told by Yu help would be there by early afternoon. I told him of another idea I had that I would try.
I then rode back to town and went to the fishing tackle shop. The owner remembered me from the years before when I bought the Dyneema line and stuff from him. I explained what I wanted, that the line was 18 meters directly overhead and I wanted to fire a catapult with another line to loop over Tinkerbell's line to drag that down, freeing the main line. He got a customer in his shop to guide me to where I could buy a catapult. I followed him on my bike then rode back to the fishing tackle shop to buy a thinner Dyneema line of 100 meters and two different sizes of lead shot.
I got what I wanted and I rode back up to the pavilion to tell my wife. That was at 1 pm. I was so excited that I forgot to buy lunch along the way and as I was not hungry at that time. That was an omission that was much regretted.
I then rode down to that forest entry. I made my way back in and reached the tree at 130pm. I last fired a catapult 15 years ago for amusement. I was hoping to fire a lead shot with a line to loop over Tinkerbell's line directly overhead and not over the many branches. To make matters even worse, Tinkerbell had free play of the line so she could inch her head around the tree trunk to see what I was doing. That put her head into my line of fire. I had to change angles so she would be blocked by the tree trunk from the impact of any misses. That angle change meant the sweet spot was reduced that much more.
I was standing on a 45 degree slope and effectively standing on one leg to shoot directly upwards. I tried out a couple of shots with the heavy and the light lead shots. I found I could get the range with either one.
I attached the line to the lead shot and pulled out the new line to get ready for that shot. I found the broken branches and ferns and roots caused the line to entangle. I had to clear the floor to try again. It was not easy. I wished I had bought that lunch. Hunger was not helping me at all. I got the shot over branches and had to retry many times. More line entanglement. I had to cut and splice and worried at the amount of line I had to throw away. I missed outright or hit branches and worried if the lead would ricochet down on Tink.
I then hit the perfect shot and saw my line draping over Tinkerbell's line. All I needed was the lead shot to slide down so I could get leverage to drag the main line down. I then found I had used the lighter shot which was not heavy enough to slide down the other side. I had to try again and again. My fatigue was making it worse.
Then at 230pm, I heard a call from the distant road below me. It was Mr Leow, Mr Hsu's farmer friend who lived on the farm that I described earlier. He was about the only one who could help. I went down to the road to guide him in. My heart sank when I saw he carried only a 2 meter pole with a sickle blade on it. He told me he only just got the call and he came immediately. I told him his pole was too short. He then showed me it was telescopic with nested series of tubes. I then smiled and thought we had a chance. In a short while, we were back at the foot of the tree. The pole was fully extended and we found the blade could just reach the line near to Tinkerbell.
My earlier attempts were to try to loop another line over a higher part of the tree to drag Tinkerbell's line down. That part could not be reached. The part of the line that could be reached was at a fork with the tree and could not be dragged down. That line could be cut.
Earlier on, I had not wanted to cut the line as the risk of Tink spooking and free in an alien place was nightmarish.
My lack of food was making me faint. Mr Leow asked me directly if the line was to be cut. I was not sure if further help would arrive and with the situation, I did not want Tink to be further trapped. The tree bark was stripped around where she was in her search for food and water. I had to take the chance she would not spook. The blade was near that swivel hook where the main line attached to the harness leash.
I took a deep breath hoping she would not spook and told Mr Leow to cut. He brought the blade down and that line was cut. Tinkerbell felt her freedom, jumped back a few inches and to my relief, flew 15 feet to another branch on the next tree.
I thanked Mr Leow and told him all will be well now. I asked him to go as his presence might scare Tinkerbell from flying to me. He went off and I talked to Tinkerbell to calm her down. It was around 3 pm with a lot of light left. All I needed was for her to fly down to me and I would stuff her into a pillow case to get her out and back into her cage on the bike. Then I would give her the scolding of her life.
She was just about as high up as before. I was almost directly below her. I knew the best angle for her to fly to me was 45 degrees. I have mentioned that earlier. But that was in open ground.
We were now in a heavy forested area, on difficult terrain. I tried to get myself to a 45 degree angle from her. Then I found the foliage and leaves and branches had put me out of sight of her. There were gullies and ravines. I had to remain almost directly below her. I still felt enough light remained. So I stayed below to talk to her. Alternated with shouting to my wife at the pavilion to let her know what was happening.
I became more nervous. Tink remained on that high branch. I pulled out my binoculars and wished I had bought a better one than the freebie that my wife received. I looked up at Tink and despite the line being cut to near the joint with only a few inches of line left, I thought the line was stuck again. But this time I had the entire long dead branch to loop a catapult shot over to pull down. So I took the catapult and in two attempts, fired a shot over the branch. I took both ends of the line to pull slowly. The branch snapped and Tink flew off immediately. So she was not trapped as I had thought earlier.
She did not spook either and flew 15 meters to yet another tree lower down. But as she had maintained altitude, she was higher now, at about 25 meters above ground.
I moved down to be with her. I still could not find that 45 degree angle flight path that would be so convenient to her. I called her to have her poised to fly to me before she changed her mind to preen, or wag her tail. I rattled the sunflower seeds box and promised her all nice things to eat. I was surprised that after one whole day and night, she was not hungry enough to fly down. I showed her the orange juice bottle promising her a drink. She preened, got ready to fly down, and went back to preening. It was so frustrating.
I was getting worried, very worried. It was getting late. I shouted to my wife to walk down the 800 meters along the main road from the pavilion to the parked bike. While Tinkerbell was playing her games with me, the light was failing and failing. My wife was near the entry to the forest and shouting to me to leave. I refused, still hoping for Tink to fly down to me. I kept talking to reassure Tink. It was already too dark, especially under the canopy of the trees. I told my wife I wanted it to be dark so Tink would sleep and not move. So next morning I be back and after 2 days without food, Tink would fly down to me at first light.
It was more and more difficult to see Tinkerbell as the light dropped and she remained only in silhouette. At that time, it was totally dark on the forest floor. My sight was focused on her and I shouted to my wife that I would be coming out.
Then to my shock, Tinkerbell spooked and flew off with powerful beats of her wings from that branch. I had been calling back and forth from my wife so it was not our shouting. I shouted to my wife to watch Tinkerbell. My wife saw her flying over head as she overflew the road and to the trees on the other side. I made my way to the road and my wife. She told me just moments earlier, she saw at least 2 dark shapes with furry tails leaping on the branches of the trees toward Tinkerbell. She saw the squirrels jumping there when I shouted to her that Tink spooked. We made our way up that road and she told me Tinkerbell flew above the tree tops and remained on that level. We saw the side of the mountain dived down to valley floor and up to another ridge 800 meters away on the other side. I could not see Tinkerbell, and moments later, the light totally faded.
As we rode down the mountain road back to Yu's house, I was so angry with myself. I had been telling all that the leash must be carabinered to either the back pack or the belt. I thought the line was safe ending onto the reel assembly.
The day before, Tinkerbell had clearly showed me she could lift that. I thought she could not fly far and I guessed she would not fly far carrying twice her body weight. But was I too proud at her strength instead of being very worried. The reel was held in place with a rubber band. I should have carabinered the reel so the reel would not run at all. The entire rod and reel assembly should have been carabinered to my backpack. Then even if she spooked on the pavilion, she would not have gotten to the trees. I should have done all that and none of the rubbish of the truck sound or that I was a few seconds from holding that leash assembly in hand would have mattered.
All that mattered was getting Tinkerbell back.
I described to Yu all that happened. Yu regretfully told me he could not come that day as he had contractually to finish an important assignment. I felt the fault was all mine and was in my heart happy he did not come as I could not imagine him able to get up that forest floor.
My wife went to her laptop to extract a suitable photo of Tinkerbell for wanted posters and Yu's daughter wrote the Chinese words for the posters with phone numbers. An A4 color copy was printed. We all went to sleep early.
28 Dec 07
We woke up at 4 am. Rode down to the 24 hour 7-11 to make 100 copies of Tinkerbell wanted posters. Photocopied a set of 100 Tinkerbell name cards with Yu's telephone number ready for handouts in addition to the wanted posters.
At this point, I was very embarrased at all this. But I felt I would be sure to get Tinkerbell back.
After all that, we continued with the ride in very heavy morning fog. The fog was so thick that visibility was 50 meters or less. I had to stop about every 3-400 meters to wipe the condensate from my glasses. It was very cold as well. All that while, my thoughts ran through my head as to the sequence of events. I used to have yet another locking device that held the line to the spool even if the spool spun. That was another rubber band that wrapped across the lines on the spool. If the line did not spin loose, Tinkerbell would have had to carry the weight. While she did fly with that rod and reel over a 15 foot distance to me, she would not have had the strength to fly that 45 meters to the tree line. And of course, I should have carabinered that rod/reel assembly to the back pack.
Murphy hit me with an entire army.
We reached the pavilion with the break of dawn. As that was the escape point, we had to start here with the hope Tink flew back. When I was with Tink in the forest, Joy heard clearly her calls from 45 meters away when she was in the pavilion. We hoped for her to fly back, or to locate her from her calls. Then it would be a simple recall procedure. After all, in all recalls made on this trip, she performed flawlessly.
In earlier times, the vastness and spread of the ridges and valleys below the pavilion had been so magnificent and wonderful to look at.
This morning, that same view filled my heart with some trepidations with the complexities ahead of us. It was a mix of forests, fruit and betel nut palm plantations, farms and farm dwellings and holiday resorts and homes. Much of that area appeared to be either very difficult to get to or else outright impossible. The terrain was just so complex.
I called out 'Tinkerbell, come come come'. Then we waited and strain our ears to hear any answering calls. I knew that we had to add more eyes and ears to our search. The pavilion was the first place Tinkerbell wanted posters were pasted on.
She flew off last evening in a Northward direction. If she flew over that ridge, she would be at JuChih and SanPauShan area. We coasted silently down the road stopping and calling out and listening. I was trying to figure how I could get over those ridges that required me to get to the valley floor 200 meters below and up again. Tink could just fly over there as those ridges were still lower than the pavilion we started from. That road went on to BanTienYen bearing directly East of the Pavilion.
I had some key photos of Tinkerbell that I showed to villagers along the way. I shortened the account to Tinkerbell being frightened by a truck and flew out of range of voice recall. That we had lived together for years. Those old photos of Tink and me were powerful images. It hurt me to look at them as I told my story again and again to the scattered villagers requesting them to tell their friends and left fliers with them. Posters were posted up at key junctions.
We made our way down to the floor and posters pasted up in front of the primary schools and secondary schools to reach the thousands of students. I went into the schools to talk to the teachers there and had very sympathetic sentiments from them. They took our posters to pin up in their schools' notice boards. The police there hung my poster in their stations and told me they will inform all their people to keep eye out for a red tailed grey parrot.
From the bottom of the mountain, I made my way up to the adjacent JuChih district and the schools there. And then up into SanPauShan. I knew of those areas by names only in the past. The hunt for Tinkerbell brought me inside there and I would have enjoyed the sight if the sight of those massive valleys and forests and ridges were not so intimidating in size and scope. These areas were rugged enough to hide half a dozen Osamas and ten battalions of Special Forces hunting for Osamas. And I was to try to locate a tiny ball of grey.
And this was the easy part, riding the bike along winding roads on valley sides and on ridges. There was all the rest of the area out of reach.
I was trying to play a massive chess game with the Gods themselves. Figuring and guessing where Tink was and either getting myself within earshot of her or letting people around that area know. The question constantly beat back and forth in my head. Were we there long enough for her to respond? Were we wasting time in area that she was not in? Did we get to the influential people? How much wider a circle should we cover?
The day got warmer and the down jackets had to be stripped off followed by the woolies.
Then later in the afternoon, woolies had to be worn followed by the down jackets.
It was time for harvesting of the thousands of persimmon trees with their bright orange sweet fruits. I knew Tink would not starve. Her harness was made by Yu, and with no unbreakable Dyneema line inside. I felt confident that she could chew through the simple shoelace. The short 8 inch leash left should not entangle.
It was depressing when the day drew to a close and I had to turn back. The confidence I had at the beginning was rapidly ebbing as I now half realised the full extent of the search I had to make.
29 Dec 07
We slept early last night as we did earlier nights. The throbbing aches in my muscles and joints were not as bad on earlier nights.
We got up early to the pavilion. I knew I had to go off the main road into the minor roads into the valleys. Joy was left in the pavilion. I rode off to the first minor road towards the direction of Tink's first flight. This track climbed at an impossible 35-40 degree and I had to walk and trespassed into a massive holiday home. The caretaker there took sympathy after I explained why I was there. From the edge of the home, I could see the pavilion located far away and above me.
Then I saw the ridge that Tink could have flown to, and the intervening small valley and forest was impossible for me to walk into. I called and waited and called. I half hoped Tink would not respond and fly to me at that time. I saw two huge kites/eagles whistling to each other high above. What's more frightening to me was the silent glide of a third raptor just 10 meters above me. I only knew of that when its shadow crossed me on the ground.
I went back to the pavilion where Joy showed me two small grey feathers that Tinkerbell preened the other day before she spooked. That and the button she pulled off my shirt.
Mr and Mrs Yu arrived at the pavilion. It was their first time there. And now they realised the magnitude of the search. And they had not known of the vastness of JuChih just across the ridge. They then went back.
We went down the road, stopping and calling, talking and handing fliers to more villages and hamlets, and pasting up more posters at crossroads and hamlets.
As we got down much below Bantienyen and almost off the moountain, I noticed a small road that I turned into. That led to more communities and people to talk to.
And when we turned into another road, to my amazement, we were on the edge of yet another vast valley stretching down below us. That was part of Juchih complex. This search uncovered more and more valleys and communities.
I could not stop at every home. I let my gut feeling guide me.
I stopped at this place in the mountains. As I walked in, I saw a group of people near a fairly large cage. Then I saw the most gorgeous pair of the Formosan Blue Magpies. One of them had this expensive camera trying to take photos. He walked off after a while in disgust saying the light was bad and the birds too fidgety and he could not get a single good shot. Those were protected birds, but I was seeking the help of the farmer and if I could get the FBM legally, I would.
I told my story and showed the FBM farmer Tink photos, and the shama photos and videos. He told me he used to let his FBMs out freely but after they attacked some local kids, he had no choice but to cage them up.
Joy with his permission went to the FBMs and got some good shots. Then I asked his permission if I could get to them. He told me they disliked strangers and would fly about violently. I first spoke to the FBMs softly, telling them how I admire them and that we were friends, then slowly I got nearer and all that time, they remained quietly on the perch looking at me with interest. I signaled Joy to get nearer to take more shots. The FBM farmer warmed up to me very much more after this saying no one else had gotten near to them without them flying about violently. I felt he was one of the key person, with bird knowledge and likely to be approached by others with strange birds, such as an African Grey.
We then chatted and exchanged training techniques. I briefly explain the clicker training to him that he agreed was much better than the severe diet management he used in the past. We went off with respect for each other. It was getting dark and end of the day.
30 Dec 07
We started again from the pavilion. The whistling kites/eagles were still frightening to me as they circled overhead near the pavilion. In trying to listen to any possible Tinkerbell return cry, we became more intimately acquainted with the local birds and wood pigeons. They were many of those that we learned to recognised, both their manner of flights and the cries that they made. I hoped those number of local birds meant the kites/eagles were not that fast as I feared. I knew Tink could fly faster than those birds, and Tinkerbell's agility and ability to execute fast turns could well mean that she might have gotten over the first few days.
In addition to calling and listening and posting up of posters and talking to people, I stopped at the temples to pray for early recovery of Tinkerbell.
For Tinkerbell, I prayed to all the Gods and Deities in those temples. If I could get her back by giving my soul to that guy in black, I would have done so without batting an eyelid.
The search became more numbing to me as when I covered more areas, more areas emerged. I managed to get down to the valley of Bantienyen along small paths. To find even more paths leading up to hanging valleys and gorges beyond my ability to penetrate.
As I stopped to knock on doors, I was somewhat encouraged that more and more people knew of my search from conversations they had with people I met earlier. We got invited in for tea and food that we had to turn down regretfully. They all promised that they will pass on the word. They all were such closely knit community that none would be able to keep any unknown bird. I kept reforming the circle wider and wider as my hope faded of direct contact with Tinkerbell and main hope rested with the people there.
31 Dec 07
The last day of this year. My earlier plans for this visit all changed with that day Tinkerbell spooked. We left Yu's house later today. Joy needed to get a pair of warm gloves and we drove through Chiayi city until she saw a shop selling thick gloves. While she was getting that, I noticed the shop just next door had cages of song birds including two shamas. I got off my bike and spoke to the man who was delighted I showed interests in his birds. He had a huge surprise when I pulled out the photos of Yingshiong flying about at home and landing on me. Then he saw the videos of YS coming to me on recalls and flying back to his cage at my cue.
Then I spoke to him of Tinkerbell, and he saw the photos and how much she meant to all of us. I had his heartfelt sympathy. And he told me he is a well respected member of the bird society of that region. He told me of the possibility that Tink would be captured and sold to the birdshops. He promised me that he would let all the birdshops in Chiayi know of Tinkerbell, and if a CAG be brought in by anyone for sale, Mr Yu will be first contacted. At last, I had the final circle in place. That the birdshops will be informed.
We then went on up to the pavilion again. Covering the same key areas and expanding to areas not covered before.
I became a sight and sound used to by the people there. They felt my efforts were futile as the area was so vast. I knew they all were touched by what I was trying. It was impossible for me to go on what I had planned originally. I had to try more than my best to get Tink back.
Then as the day became afternoon, I had a call from Mr Yu. A student claimed to have seen Tinkerbell. I felt so lifted, that finally a sighting of Tink was made. We rode the bike down to the nearest town of Fanlu. This was the town of the secondary school. Mr Yu drove up and eventually a student rode his bike to us to guide us to that sighting. He claimed he saw Tinkerbell nearby the main road up the mountain halfway towards Bantienyen at 10 am that day. Then when he came down at 3 pm, Tink was still sitting there. Then he went to the high school, and he saw the notice of Tinkerbell and he then called Mr Yu immediately.
If only he saw that notice and took note of that earlier to call us all in the morning instead.
Me and my wife passed that point where he claimed that sighting. We did not see her, but we had not expected to see her and we did not raised our heads to look for her. We thought Tink to be at Juchih North of the original flight and Bantienyen was East of the pavilion and that point was lower down.
But as we drove up together in the car at 430pm, he called out one sighting after another of local wood pigeons and small birds. His credibility was getting lower and lower with us. We stopped the car and we split up to call for Tink. With no response.
And it was getting late.
And New Years Eve.
Our friends in Chiayi were getting worried and troubled at the efforts I was making. I rather wish Mr Yu get angry at me for losing his Tinkerbell. I could handle that better I think. Instead he felt sorry I was so sad over this matter and wanted to cheer me and Joy up.
I wished the earth opened up and swallowed me instead.
1 Jan 08
That sighting gave me new energy. I had to continue with the search.
You recall my wife's dear friend MJ who married that Englishman and with two kids, that girl and that boy I wanted to toss into a clothes washer. They were all staying in Kaohsiung and their dad was there. We had much earlier wanted to met again. As their dad was a car designer with Lotus, I had wanted to meet him too. They were to drive over from Kaoshiong to meet us.
But circumstances changed.
So Joy was to go with them and give my apologies. They knew of the changed circumstances a few days ago.
I could not ignore that claimed sighting. So I rode the bike to that area to call, listen and hoped. I also called on the communities there, leaving them with fliers and their promises to inform us. I feared if Tink flew that low, she might fly even lower and into another vast collection of hamlets and communities. I covered that as best as I could with visits to people and more posters located at bus stops and road junctions.
I then went back to where Tink might be if that boy was wrong. Perhaps Tink heard me, and did not do recalls, and might even have kept quiet. Folks there talked to me and told me the far side of the valley can be approached. One told me of this track that I rode on but turned back as it was a steep 40 degree climb and an unknown destination.
With this new knowledge, and without my wife behind me, I went down to that valley, see that road, revved the engine as much as I could and rammed that bike up that track. Where power failed, I used my feet to push that bike on into the next switch back and up and up again praying I would not fall.
I made my way up. And called again. To watch the kites/eagles circling overhead.
I was above the other side of this vast valley, half forested, half with bamboo, and with fruit farms dotted here and there. I knew all within that valley was within the sound cover of my voice and with no response.
At 4pm, I noticed my mobile phone was dead. It was an old 2nd hand phone that I had bought in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. An early model Nokia as the new sets which could take photos and videos and all but drink coffee with you gave me headaches with their complexities and I rejected them.
I switched it on to find an old message from my wife sent at 12 noon. That the boy called up again that his friend in Bantienyen saw Tinkerbell. I called my wife to hear from her that they all drove there but no sight or sound of Tink.
I rode there, down that road I just came up and swore I never would go up or down again as it was so hairy and dangerous. But that was the nearest way to Bantienyen.
I brought Tinkerbell many times to that big bronze stature of Goddess of Mercy KuanYin. I felt there was some merit in those sightings as Tinkerbell would recognise that area.
My calls 'Tinkerbell, come come come' shattered the prayers of folks there with my unspoken but sincere apologies. I waited and called and called until it was dark and went back.
2nd Jan 08
We rode up again, my wife and I. To Bantienyen area to call and listen and watch. From one strategic point and on to other points. People in this area came to know of us, and invitations to rest and have tea with them.
The search became more an atonement on my part. For my stupidity and ignorance that lead to this. With that absence of Tinkerbell's response over the past few days and the uncertainty and unreliablity of those sightings given earlier.
I felt Tinkerbell might have died. Then in that case, I spend the last few days in a pilgrimage to her soul and to be in this beautiful place that her soul was in, knowing the nooks and corners and the trees and the birds and flowers here.
On the morning of the second day of the search on the 29th December I had this dream during the time just before one woke up. I had this very vivid dream of seeing Tinkerbell in her red harness up on a tree. I called to her and she flew immediately to my shoulder to gently nibble on my ear. That was the period just before waking up and I recalled waking up very happy and then falling to sleep again. Then another dream followed immediately. In that dream Tinkerbell flew to me and hovered in front of me. I thought it was strange that while her head was Tinkerbell, the body below the neck was bluish purple. Instead of that happiness in the preceding dream, there was an intense sadness. I then woke up with these two dreams very clear in my memory. The sadness was worse than when I had to leave Tinkerbell in Oct 2004.
I spoke of that to my wife then. I tried to rationalise that my mind was clearing out memories together with the intense desire to be with Tinkerbell.
I felt then and on all the days. Dreams were just dreams and the main focus remained on either getting Tinkerbell back or laying the groundworks that enabled Tinkerbell to be back.
Now, Chaiyi people are intensely traditional in thoughts and practice. You can glean some of that in the photos and videos of the temple processions. The people here were very religious with religion and mysticism interwoven into daily lives. Like the people of Bali and Tibet. Consulting with their Gods on many affairs.
On the evening of 29 Dec 07, Mr Yu told me he was going to consult a renown medium who channeled the spirit of the Goddess of Mercy, KuanYin. That medium was much respected for the accuracy of the insights when she was in a trance. I asked to be there.
When the spirit came, Mr Yu told of the background and that 'I took MY parrot Tinkerbell out (in this and all other talks with others, Mr Yu always spoke of Tinkerbell being MY parrot instead of his parrot) and asked if the search would be successful.
The medium replied that it was known of the love I have for Tinkerbell. But that 'Yuen Fen Tse Tau Tser Li' for me and Tinkerbell. That the karmic forces that entwined my life with Tinkerbell had ended at that point.
And that I should just remember the wonderful times we have had. And move on ahead with my future.
But I refused silently then to accept that. I had to do all I could to find Tinkerbell, or to lay the groundwork for the return of Tinkerbell. I refused to give up just because of the words even purportedly of the Goddess and stop the search.
Through my stupidity, I caused Tinkerbell to be in that situation.
Tinkerbell's room was at the foot of the staircase leading to the third floor where me and my wife stayed. I had to pass through all her cage and other reminders of Tinkerbell's absence in starting of the search for her and in ending of the searches for her.
But by the 2nd January 08, I was starting to accept that Tinkerbell might be dead. And the search for her started to be an atonement on my part.
It was one of the most beautiful parts of the world that we moved along. We found deep valleys even behind BanTienYen. We got to know that part as well as those who lived there all their lives. Where the trees parted, a haze of brilliant red tiny flowers lay on emerald green herbs and mosses sprinkled with pink flowers. We got to hear the variations in bird songs and calls as we strained our ears to listen for Tinkerbell answering our calls. We surprised flocks of very small birds with deep coal black and pure white feathers that flew like little moths weaving away from us.
The people knew of the love and history that I shared with Tinkerbell and the return visits that I made year after year after year.
The search became less desperate and more of poignant remebrance of this beautiful area.
We came to know of this lady who lived in the village at the foot of Bantienyen. We had to stop when we saw she also had this beautiful Congo African Grey girl.
She had her Grey for a year already. She known of our search from the posters and heard from those who heard of us. She saw our earlier photos. And promised to spread our search to her circle of friends. All we met told us the same.
They all told me from their hearts that they will let us know if ever our Tinkerbell be found by anyone there.
It was not an easy start to the search today. I knew the search had to come to a stop soon. When we came, we were told of the impending marriage of Mr Hsu's (ferret man if you had forgotten) eldest son. That would be on the 5th of January. It would be the deepest and unforgivable insult if I and my wife did not attend that wedding. That eldest son and fiancee had been very close to Zorro too.
On the 6th January, we had to go to Taipei as another very old friend, an American with a Taiwanese wife would be in Taipei for a few days. I wanted very much to meet him again as we shared years and years together in Taiwan almost from the first day I went there. We both loved Taiwan and he had been trying to help me to get back to work and live in Taiwan yet again. With or without Tinkerbell, my wife and I love Taiwan and to be in Taiwan and not just for holidays.
Mr Yu had felt so bad that instead of enjoying our holiday in Taiwan, we were searching and searching for Tinkerbell.
I had to tell Mr Yu that we wanted nothing more than to continue with the search. That since his business kept him busy and I had the time, I cannot but go there with my wife.
I did not tell him that it was becoming an act of atonement. And in a way, it was not. I got to love this area and was recording the place in my heart. Hoping of course for that answering call and the flutter of wings to my shoulder.
We got here at dawn, knowing it is our second last day of search. We started at the pavilion.
We called and waited and listened. And moved on and repeated. We moved on down to the foot of this mountain complex to cover yet again this area. The search for Tinkerbell introduced us to the warmth, friendship and concern of all the people here. We saw that lady with the grey again.
She introduced us to another elderly gentlemen in that village with two greys. Those two greys were frightened of all strangers and rushed back to their cage in panic even with my wife's appearance. I lulled them back into calm with soft talking and they accepted me walking slowly to them. That shocked and delighted him. I told him all I could on the diet of Tinkerbell. And on the intelligence of greys. We were not allowed to leave his house until we had our lunch there.
We covered again and again the area from the Bantienyen temple complex to the foot of the mountain and as far as we could.
I told my wife of the route I found the other day on the other side of the valley towards the far ridge across the pavilion, and the connecting path to Juchih. I dared not use that steep route up the valley side with my wife so we rode through yet another safer route. This was the area that Tink was last seen flying to. That I liked to bring us there that way. She never been there with me as the last time I did that, I was on my own
It was yet another of the beautiful areas here. I knew we would not be back and I wanted to be there for the last time.
The kites/eagles appeared again. I was told earlier that there were 6 of them, apparently two families. They appeared to be a natural part of the scene soaring about riding the thermals and beautiful in their own right. The path actually continued on higher, until it had totally collapsed in an earthquake much earlier with the forest reclaiming the shattered remains of that road.
We could only cover a tiny fraction of the entire area. It was late in the afternoon.
In time, we turned to go back. As I passed by the house of the farmer with the Formosan Blue Magpies, he rushed out to stop me. I liked him and thought it was a courtesy stop. As we would probably not met again I wanted to say goodbye to him.
He then told me he was drinking tea with his old friend in Bantienyen yesterday. He related to us what he heard. He offered at first to go immediately with me to his friend. The he looked up and saw it was already dark. He gave us the directions, the telephone number and name of his friend. That might have been a definite sighting of Tinkerbell even if a few days ago.
We rode down the mountain side in darkness. But for the first time, light came back into our lives.
4 Jan 09
Dawn saw me and my wife at the Bantienyen temple complex area again. During auspicious days, huge numbers of devotees would come up. So there were carparks around it called Carpark 1 to Carpark 6.
Around the carparks were clusters of dwellings. At day 1 of the search, we had been here and had talked and posted up posters at the main clusters.
Carpark 2 was seen then, with a couple of dwellings that I bypassed. I went in to see a ravine was next to it. I called for Tinkerbell and a lady in the nearest dwelling asked me why. I told her of my search, and showed her the telephone number and name of the man I was given. She then lead us through the fruit trees to another cluster of houses, to the elderly man who had tea with my FBM friend the other day.
He then confirmed what I heard yesterday. He was in the house when he heard a commotion from the chickens he kept in his front yard. He saw through the window what he thought then to be a big hawk of a shape he never seen before. He thought it was strange that hawk came down so low to the ground as normally they remained higher up around the pavilion. He came out to the yard to see that hawk flying off. He then saw my photos of Tinkerbell and said he was not sure if what he saw matches the various profiles in those photos. What he was very definite about was that the tail of the bird he saw that day was red in color. There are no red tailed local birds in the mountains.
We knew there and then, he saw Tinkerbell. That day of that sighting was on 31 December 07. To our relief, we knew for sure that Tinkerbell survived the first three days which I felt were the most dangerous period. That the sightings from the school boy must have been real too.
We walked about the orchards that morning, up and down the side of the valleys about here, calling and listening. Seeing the persimmon fruits ripe on the trees, many still ungathered and many on the ground. One in particular had big V bite marks on it.
I thought to myself what if I had covered this little area that time, and known earlier that Tinkerbell was here. I could not read Chinese words well and it was only later that I found the temple of this Bantienyen complex was called 'Purple Cloud Temple'.
That the dreams I have had on the 29th Dec, 2nd day of search, might have been send by the Gods of that temple to me, with Tinkerbell body in blue-purple color haze. That I failed to recognise that and missed the chance of getting her back and our combined karmic paths ended then.
What if I had known the Gods tried to talk to me instead of thinking that it was a visit from Tinkerbell's spirit.
What if we had left the pavilion a minute earlier before the truck came.
What if I had locked the reel line as I had always done before.
What if Tink was on my shoulder instead of left on her perch that day.
What if I had carabinered the rod/reel to my backpack.
What if that boy saw that notice of Tinkerbell BEFORE he saw her and not afterwards.
What if I had ignored the initial direction of her flight and focused on the Bantienyen area.
We stayed on around here and called for her. And then we left finally in mid afternoon.
I covered as much area as I could. The people of this area all knew of the search and wanted us to be reunited again. I set the groundwork for Tinkerbell's reunion with Mr Yu and family if she turned up.
Tinkerbell now lives in a beautiful area with ample mixed fruit trees.
While I knew my 'Yuen Fen Tse Tau Tser Li', I hoped that would not be the case for her and Mr Yu.
5 jan 08
In the morning, we all went to Taichong for Mr Hsu's eldest son's wedding. Mrs Leow, the wife of that fruit farmer exclaimed that she saw us riding our bike behind her orchard the other day and heard us calling for Tinkerbell. I had not known the search area we covered was that wide as they lived in the vicinity of the 2nd town beyond the foot of the mountain.
6 Jan 08
I persuaded Mr Yu to accept about 24k NT or about 800 USD. A young grey would cost 20k NT here. That was in case if Tinkerbell was found and sold to bird shops and had to be ransomed. That money would go to the temple or whatever if no ransom was required.
If Tinkerbell was not found and he saw another parrot that he liked, and he wanted to buy that, he should do so.
If Tinkerbell was found later, I would provide all additional funds to have her back with Yu as well.
After prayers at yet another temple, my wife and I took the High Speed Train to Taipei to met and stay with my American friend AT and to discuss with him work opportunities here in Taiwan.
I called that new friend with the shama birds to ask if he had spoken to all the bird shops in Chiayi. He told me not only he covered all the bird shops in Chiayi, he covered all bird shops in the city TouLiu to the North and to Tainan city to the South. He assured me he would continue to remind them from time to time as it may be weeks or months later.
I had wanted to go to the press/TV in Chiayi with this story, a story that's been 7 years or so in the making. That it was not just a story of a man losing a bird, even if it was just a story of a man losing a bird. To enable an even bigger coverage and better chances of Tinkerbell's return.
But I guess papers here were more interested in running stories of a Presidential bodyguard caught peeping at girls in the toilet and stuff like that or reporters too busy enjoying the New Year's break and never got back to me.
To be fair to them, I should have just barged into their office and told them my stories rather than to rely on intermediaries that probably made them think it was just a man who bought his parrot the other day and went on to lose his parrot today.
I did not write this into the international parrot forums as none of you could have help in this search even though I know many of you will want to. I hoped to get Tinkerbell back, or to hear that she got back to the Yu family before I wrote this.
7-9 Jan 07.
I started to write this on 7 Jan starting about 12 noon in an Internet cafe near the Sungshan Railway station and concluded by 9 Jan 07 4pm local time.
My wife was also in the same Internet cafe uploading all the photos and videos taken of the events of this trip and of the search.
You can see from the photos the scale of what I talked about, and the beauty of that place Tinkerbell is now in.
Perhaps I should go back to Chiayi to continue the search. But I did set up wide circles and circles of ears and eyes to report back on Tinkerbell.
I felt my physical presence back in Chiayi could help so little now, other than barging into their local TV and newspaper office. If I had done that, I would not have the time to write this.
And we need a brief period of recovery after writing all this. It was very physically demanding, and even a few days after that, my muscles still throbbed at night making sleep difficult.
I am devastated on two counts. I lost her. And I felt so bad for the Yu family and friends in Chiayi who loved her. And all of you, some who followed her from the time she first came into our lives.
There is this old Chinese song. Where the lyrics go ' Beautiful flowers never stay open for long. Exquisite scenery can only be remained at for a short while.'
The story of my Tinkerbell is too beautiful to continue on and on. I never imagined closure to be of this form.
For those of you in the parrot forums, I will not be back there again unless I do hear that Tinkerbell is recovered.
If you can, please tell those in the forums not in this direct mailing list of this entry.
Discussions and your thoughts and comments in this livejournal appreciated. I do not think it appropriate for me to write ever again in any parrot forums and will do so only in this Livejournal.
To all my friends around the world, pray for the well being of Tinkerbell and the eventual reunion of her with the Yu family.