02-Aug-2003 -- Continued from 28°N 118°E.
Saturday 2 August 2003 – There is just one bus each day from the village of Shanqian, and it goes all the way back to the county capital of Shangrao. It leaves at 5 a.m. This morning I was on it.
I arrived back in Shangrao at 8:35 a.m., then took a no. 11 commuter bus across town to the long-distance bus station, from where I got the 9:40 a.m. bus to Yingtan. This got me into Yingtan at 11:45 a.m., and ten minutes later I was on yet another bus south to Shangqing, arriving there at 12:50 p.m. Keeping up the momentum, I engaged a motorcyclist on an hourly basis, and after leaving my big bag at the home of the ticket seller from the Shangqing bus, we set off southwards towards the confluence at 1 p.m.
We travelled down a good concrete road that brought us closer the confluence, but it was still several kilometres away in the hills to the west. I scoured the hills for the best way in, then instructed my driver to head off down the most likely-looking path. We went as far as he felt comfortable taking the bike, then parked it and set out on foot. My motorcyclist wanted to come with me, and I had no objections.
The confluence was still 2.4 kilometres to the southwest. We walked down pathways that linked one valley of rice paddies to the next, never having to climb terribly much. Although the route meandered first this way then that, we gradually reduced the distance between us and the confluence, until finally it was only 72.6 metres away, on a hillside covered in dense vegetation.
It was 2:10 p.m., and I thought of a hundred reasons to justify not going for a perfect reading on this one. I was still recovering from my twelve-and-a-half-hour ordeal of the day before. I was wearing only sandals and shorts. And the most compelling reason of all was that all of a sudden it had started blowing a gale, with blinding flashes of lightning and deafening cracks of thunder happening all around us. To say a storm was brewing would have been somewhat of an understatement.
I very hurriedly took the north, south, east and west photos, and noted down the elevation, 133 metres, and GPS accuracy, 10 metres. Combined with the distance from the confluence, this gave a DCP aggregate accuracy of 82.6 metres, which was good enough. My motorcyclist helped me snap a photo of myself at the confluence, the wind clearing whipping at my shirt.
And then the heavens opened!
No one could believe it. Most parts of Jiangxi Province, including this area, were suffering from severe drought, and there hadn't been any rain for more than a month and a half. But now it was coming down like there were no tomorrow. We fought our way through the swirling wind and sheets of rain back to a village some 300 metres from the confluence, where we attempted to find some shelter under the eaves of a house.
But with the wind gusting in all directions, it was impossible. There were no signs of life about. Everybody was snugly locked away indoors. All we could hear above the din of the storm were the sounds of unlatched doors and windows crashing and smashing. Trees were blowing over, bringing power lines down with them.
After waiting for a while, we took advantage of what seemed to be a relative "lull" to continue on our way. The storm immediately resumed with all its ferocity, but we pressed on regardless. After all, we couldn't get any wetter. At one point my motorcyclist probably saved my life when he stopped me from walking into a downed power line suspended just six inches above the flooded path. I'm sure my bare legs would have made an excellent conductor.
We gradually made our way back out along the same paths we'd come in on, most now underwater. Some of the paths were actually quite pretty, and as it began to ease off just a little, I took the opportunity to take some more photos. It was great weather for ducks. We finally arrived back at the bike, and got back to Shangqing at 3:30 p.m.
There was a Yingtan bus just preparing to leave, so I quickly paid off the motorcyclist (with soggy wet bills), grabbed my bag from the ticket seller's home, then hopped on board, still soaked to the bone. I started to dry out a little on the trip from Shangqing back to Yingtan. The storm had apparently been extremely localised, and it wasn't long before we were back amid the same hot, dusty, dry conditions that I'd been enduring for the past couple of weeks.
In Yingtan I was able to catch a train for Nanchang supposedly leaving at 4:42 p.m. Although it left a little bit later than its scheduled time, it still got me into Nanchang at around dusk. I took the opportunity to purchase my train ticket for the following morning before walking the few short blocks back to my now familiar haunt of the Nanchang Hotel.
This time I unfortunately could not get my regular room no. 437, and by comparison, the room I was given was not nearly as nice. Two of the lights didn't work, making it very dingy indeed, but after I made mention of this, the electrician came and fixed things. I submitted a massive amount of laundry, including clothes that were still wet from the rain, then went out for dinner, a shampoo and blow-dry, and a session in the Internet bar.
Story continues at 28°N 115°E.