09-Feb-2002 -- Chinese New Year is the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar, and in Hong Kong, we enjoy three public holidays in honour of it. This year those public holidays fell on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, making the whole week a virtual write-off, so I decided to take the Monday and Friday off as well, and turn it into a nine-day confluence-hunting extravaganza. I mapped out an ambitious plan to visit 12 confluences: all 10 remaining confluences in Guangdong province, plus two in Fujian province (picture #2).
FRIDAY 8 FEBRUARY 2002. I left the office early in the afternoon, in order to beat the rush at the Shenzhen border crossing. By 3:40 p.m. I'd cleared customs on the Chinese side, and started looking for a bus to Huidong. Despite first going to the wrong bus station, and then going to the right bus station but standing in the wrong queue, I still managed to get one of the last seats on a 4 p.m. bus bound for Huidong. Well, I thought it was one of the last seats, but half an hour later we pulled into another bus station where a bunch more fare-paying passengers were waiting, and all the children who'd previously been occupying seats obediently vacated them and sat on adults' laps instead, so as to make way for the newcomers. This made for rather cramped conditions for the remainder of the journey.
Upon arrival in Huidong, I inquired with the driver about buses to my next destination, Duozhu, and he very kindly took me the extra distance to where such buses departed. At 6:25 p.m., as the sun was setting, I was checking into a hotel room in Duozhu, 6.7 kilometres from the confluence.
After a brief exploratory walk around town, I went back to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Midway through my meal, a bat came in through an open window, and proceeded to fly laps of the restaurant, until being cruelly and abruptly brought down by a magnificent overhead volley from a waiter wielding a serving tray. The unconscious mammal was then proudly brought to my table for inspection (picture #3)!
SATURDAY 9 FEBRUARY 2002. Impatient to begin the chase, I awoke early, and set off at 6:30 a.m., while it was still dark. There being no transport immediately available at that hour, I decided to hoof it down the main road the couple of kilometres to the power station, where I knew from the map that there would be a turn-off leading in towards the hills and the confluence point. I found the turn-off, and walked down the dirt road some distance, then got a lift in a passing truck. After disembarking from the truck, I wandered around lost for a while, until a local, sporting two enormous gold front teeth, and also, rather conveniently, a motorbike, informed me that I'd taken a wrong turn at a fork in the track some distance back. He took me back around to the right track, and then as far as he could down that track towards the confluence, until the track deteriorated to such an extent that he could go no further. This left me still two kilometres away from my objective.
I continued on foot. There was no-one around, but I saw plenty of bird-life, including one stunning scarlet bird, which may have been a male short-billed minivet, although identification was difficult because it was some distance away, and I had neither my binoculars nor my bird book with me.
When I got to within one kilometre of the confluence, the track began to climb sharply, with a 1 in 3.5 gradient. Mercifully, the GPS's direction pointer kept indicating that the confluence was straight ahead up the valley, in the direction the track was heading, rather than up the steep hills on either side. With half a kilometre to go, the sweat was pouring off me, and I had to start shedding clothes, even though this was mid winter.
The track eventually petered out, but was replaced with a narrow path that continued on up the valley, following a stream. I finally reached the point on the path that was closest to the confluence, 80 metres away on the hillside on the opposite bank of the stream. A bit further down the path I found a way to get down to the stream to attempt a crossing, but I found myself hemmed in on all sides except the way I'd come. The opposite side of the stream was virtually a sheer wall, with no way up (picture #7). Heavy foliage prevented movement either up or down the streambed. At this point I was within 50 metres, so documented the spot with a GPS reading and photos. Fortunately, close counts not only in horseshoes, but also in confluence hunting!
I returned to the path, and attempted to get down to the stream from another spot, still hoping to find a way across, but couldn't even reach the stream this time due to the dense vegetation. However, from this vantage point I was able to glimpse a pretty waterfall (picture #1), which I estimate also to be about 50 metres from the confluence.
Walking back out of the hills, I approached the first dwelling I came to, and succeeded in negotiating a lift back to Duozhu on the back of a motorbike. I picked up my backpack from the hotel at 10:30 a.m., and by 11 a.m. was on my way to my next confluence attempt at 23°N 116°E.