29-Jun-2008 -- Story continues from 35°N 113°E.
We leave Wēn County early, shortly after 7:30 a.m., on a bus SW to Luòyáng City (洛阳市), crossing back over the Yellow River on the way, and arriving in Luòyáng at 10 a.m. We immediately transfer onto a bus further SW to Sōng County (嵩县). Fortunately, both buses are air-conditioned.
I previously examined this confluence on Google Earth, and thanks to the extremely good resolution of the satellite imagery, was able to pinpoint exactly where we need to turn off the highway. Feeling confident I know where we're going, we hire a taxi in Sōng County, and start SW down the highway in the direction of the confluence. I mention to our driver that our turn-off is on the south side of the Yī River (伊河). We are currently on the north side, and he says that there is no bridge across the river up ahead, only the one back in town. So on his say-so, we do a U-turn, and head back into town, and across the bridge.
We now follow a narrow, but good, cement road for some 20 odd kilometres, until it becomes patently obvious that this road is not going back to the Yi River to join up with any highway there, despite our driver's initial insistence that it would. Never mind, it's been an interesting diversion. We turn around in a small village consisting of several old mud houses, one with a rather ancient-looking lock on its wooden door.
So back to Sōng County we go, back over the bridge, and back down the highway we'd initially started down, on the north side of the Yī River. And sure enough, after only a few kilometres, the highway crosses the Yī River! Our taxi driver is either very dumb, or very smart.
We take the turn-off I'd identified, at 34°3'0.5"N 111°58'14.0"E, from where the confluence is 6.28 km SE, and head up a winding cement road into the hills. The road ends 650 m NW of the confluence, at Dàzhuāng Village (大庄村). The arrival of our taxi draws out some curious locals.
From this point, we head off on foot, leaving the road near some mud houses, then following a path uphill through the hilly terrain, eventually having to climb a steep, rocky - and thankfully dry - creek bed to reach the point. The final 80 m are exceptionally steep, and with the GPS accuracy degraded by the surrounding hills, the actual location of the point seems to jump all over the place. The angle of the slope makes it impossible to do the normal confluence dance, so, with the sweat pouring off me, I finally give up, satisfied at having attained all the zeroes, even though the GPS still says there's one metre to go.
By design, we chose this confluence as the second of our trip, because it looked like it might be the hardest of the 33 confluences, and would therefore provide some degree of challenge for Peter and Richard, had they been able to join us for the first three or four confluences, as they'd planned. They are now both very much in our thoughts.
The only one of the north-south-east-west photos in which anything other than the immediate vegetation is visible is the view to the north, where there is a glimpse of some hills on the other side of a valley.
We take the same taxi back to Sōng County's one and only three-star hotel, only to discover that Sōng County is a closed county, and we are persona non grata (well, I am). Fortunately, the hotel staff are kind enough to simply inform us that I can't stay here, rather than keep us on some pretext whilst summoning the police, which was our experience in a closed county once before - see 30°N 110°E. Perhaps they have been told to be nice to foreigners in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics?
Anyway, wanting to minimize the chance of any confrontation with the authorities, I decide the best thing to do is to get on the first bus out of Sōng County, no matter whether it's going our way or not. As it turns out, at this relatively late hour (5:30 p.m.), there aren't many buses going anywhere except NE, back to the municipal capital Luòyáng, from where we came earlier this morning. We take one of these buses, and get off midway, in Yīchuān County (伊川县), where we are able to check into a hotel for the night without any further problems.
Story continues at 34°N 113°E.