25-Jun-2006 -- Story continues from 25°N 105°E.
Sunday 25 June 2006 (Day 26)
We purposely did not set the alarm, and slept in until about 7 a.m. At 7:30 a.m. we went down for the complimentary buffet breakfast that we'd forgone the day before in favour of an early start. We checked out at 8:35 a.m., and took a taxi to the bus station, where we caught the 9:20 a.m. Wàngmó (望谟县) bus east to Yánjià Township (岩架镇) in Cèhēng County (册亨县). Pretty much the entire journey was through karst mountains.
Upon arrival in Yánjià at 1:15 p.m., we walked 50 metres to the ferry pier on the Běipán River (北盘江), which forms the border between Cèhēng and Wàngmó counties. We expected to find a boat heading SE towards the confluence, nine kilometres to the SE. Things were looking good until we learned that the waiting boat was instead heading NW, and that no boats headed SE from here.
So, at 1:30 p.m., we caught a passenger truck eight kilometres back along the main road to Piānpōqiáo (偏坡桥), arriving 15 minutes later. Here we waited, together with a Miáo lady and her large wooden trunk, at the turnoff to Dáyāng Town (达秧乡). The confluence was 9.4 kilometres ESE.
It was a mostly overcast day, but no rain. Occasionally the sun broke through the clouds. The absence of rain turned out to be fortunate, because our 15-kilometre ride into Dáyāng was in the open back of a passenger truck. Sharing our discomfort in the back of the truck, as it bounced along the unsealed road, was the Miáo lady and her wooden trunk.
We arrived in Dáyāng at 2:40 p.m., at an altitude of 900 metres, and with the confluence 5.18 kilometres NE. We spent 15 minutes talking to various locals, but couldn't manage to rustle up any transport down towards the confluence, so we left our bags at the roadside shop and began walking in.
Just over an hour later, at 4 p.m., following a long steep descent of more than 450 metres vertically, we reached the valley floor. Accompanying us were three middle school boys, who had arrived in the same passenger truck as us, having had the luxury of seats in the cabin up front. They were returning home. After showing us a few shortcuts as we descended the mountain, they now guided us along the rocky riverbed. We had to cross the stream countless times. We noticed that horses outnumbered traditional water buffalo in this area.
A little further along, we came upon two Miáo girls in traditional costume, who had just finished washing their hair in the stream. They joined our troupe, making seven of us. About 500 metres short of the confluence, the three boys and two girls peeled off and started climbing a hill on the south bank of the stream, which was the way to their home village. Ah Feng and I continued along the stream, which was heading in just the right direction.
Eventually we found the confluence less than 100 metres north of the stream, amid a collection of tiny, newly planted rice paddies, surrounded by corn fields. To get a zero reading, I had to balance on the very narrow mud bank between two of the paddies, which required tremendous dexterity and coordination. The sweat poured off me as I performed various feats, including changing the GPS batteries, which had chosen that precise moment to run out, and taking the four photos facing north, south, east and west.
We started heading back at 5:15 p.m., eager to return to Dáyāng before dark. On the way, I was thinking to myself how wonderful it was that we had finally managed to complete a confluence visit unaffected by rain. Bad move. I shouldn't have allowed this thought to enter my head. At 6:15 p.m., just as we left the stream to commence the steep ascent, it started raining.
I found the steep climb particularly taxing, probably because I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. We were accompanied by two young girls on their way to the boarding school in Dáyāng, and their ranks gradually grew as we went along, until we had quite an entourage of schoolchildren, all rather amused by my difficulty climbing the hill.
By the time we'd completed the steepest part of the climb, it had thankfully stopped raining. We made it back to the shop in Dáyāng at 7:30 p.m. and collected our bags. We learned however that there was no more transport out, and it was impossible to even ring for a minivan or a passenger truck because all the mobile phones were out for some reason.
Just as we were contemplating the ramifications of all this, a private vehicle came by, and we asked for a lift, which was given, much to our relief. The two male occupants were heading for the Cèhēng County capital, and took us the whole way, dropping us off at the Tàihé Hotel (泰和宾馆) at 8:45 p.m.
We were very pleasantly surprised to find such a nice clean room for just 40 yuan (US$ 5) a night. We dumped our bags in the room, and immediately went out for dinner at a roadside stall. We were starving! After dinner, as we made our way back to the hotel for a soothing shower, it started raining again.
Story continues at 26°N 106°E.