05-Apr-2002 -- This story continues from 29°N 112°E.
FRIDAY 5 APRIL 2002. I again set the alarm for 6 a.m., and at 7 a.m. again took a taxi to the Changsha west bus station--same as the previous morning. At 8 a.m. I was on a bus to Qingshanqiao.
The road to Qingshanqiao was relatively new -- no potholes yet. But there was a terrible haze covering everything, and visibility was often no more than a few hundred metres. I arrived in Qingshanqiao at 10 a.m., 6.8 kilometres SE of the confluence.
From here, a local gave me a lift on his motorbike. The confluence is located near the edge of the very large and picturesque Tianping Lake (picture #2). I arrived at 10:45 a.m. A perfect reading was no problem (picture #3). Elevation: 264 metres.
This was tea country (picture #1). In the view facing north, a small part of Tianping Lake is visible in the background, and a large part of the author in the foreground (picture #4).
There were a few people out picking tea (picture #5). The tea leaves are green and succulent when freshly picked (picture #6). Placing them in a wicker basket over a wooden barrel containing a smouldering fire then dries them out (picture #7). A special kind of large seed is used as the primary fuel in the fire, which gives the tea a distinctive flavour (picture #8). The finished product looks decidedly different from the freshly picked leaves (picture #9).
I am a great tea drinker, so before leaving, I stocked up on a good supply. In order to calculate the correct price, the tea leaves had to be carefully weighed using the traditional Chinese handheld scales (picture #10).
On the way back from Tianping to Qingshanqiao, the wind suddenly started gusting, lifting enormous amounts of dust up into the air. There was no way to avoid it on the back of a motorbike, and by the time I arrived, I had dust in my eyes, my nose, my mouth, my ears, everywhere!
Right on noon, I caught a passing bus back to Changsha. During the trip, there was a spectacular thunderstorm, and the bus proved less than watertight. But thankfully it was all over by the time I arrived back at the Changsha west bus station.
Before returning to the hotel, I took a commuter bus across town from the west bus station to the east bus station, where I purchased a bus ticket for the next morning's attempt at 28°N 114°E.