25-Oct-2003 -- This is the second of a two-confluence hunt conducted on October 25.
Arriving in Yangpingguan after my 11-kilometer hike from 33N 106E,
I return to the train station with the hopes that there will be a train going to Hanzhong
soon. No such luck. The next train is in the evening, so I have to go by bus. As I leave
the train station, a bus arrives with a Hanzhong placard. I am in luck. The driver stops
for breakfast and I tell I want to go to Hanzhong. The driver tells me we should arrive in
Hanzhong about 3:30 PM, but the road is bad and there could be delays.
The ticket seller ushers me to the best seat in the bus, riding shotgun. This seat is a
deluxe model with an extension for the legs. Receiving special treatment like this in
these out-of-the-way places is common, and I eagerly occupy the seat while everyone else
goes to eat lunch. Getting this seat is worth missing lunch. On the trip, I share the
front part of the seat with a young boy about 7 who, like me, also likes to be up front.
Along the way, I realize with a start that I had cycled this road on a trip from
Chengdu to Xi'an in 1999. Not much has changed. The road is indeed bad and full of
caravans of huge cargo trucks heading west. We are stopped for about 30 minutes while a
crane loads a road paving machine on a truck. The roadside is lined with restaurants
advertising Sichuan food. Given the lack of Shaanxi restaurants their food must not be too
The driver is one of the continual honkers and the horn seems to be pointed inside the
bus making it a deafening experience. He must be a native of Hanzhong, which has the worst
case of honkitis I have experienced in China. It was memorable in 1999 and is just as bad
Once arriving in Hanzhong, the transport to the CP is very smooth. I need to get about
10 km south of the city and a minibus going in my direction is leaving from the bus
station as I arrive. The driver, however, is intent on trolling until the already full bus
is packed. We stop along the way to pick up more passengers with two 50-liter jugs, 25
sheets of glass, and a good number of steel pipes and rebar.
As the bus heads south I watch the GPS pointer swing to the right. As we entered a
village, I spot a side road in the direction of the CP that looks promising. I ride the
bus to the end of the village and spot another road in the same direction. At this point I
am 1.75 km away and need to decide which road to take. A waiting mini-van makes the choice
easy and I jump aboard one full of high school boys returning home after school. They were
excited to see me, but at the same time full of self-conscious shyness. A few got up the
courage to ask a few questions in English.
At about 250 meters from the CP the GPS pointer turns right angles to the road and I
get off and start walking up a small footpath. It is now around 5 PM and the villagers
were all out working the fields. This is a densely populated area with low hills. Finding
the CP is a piece of cake. It lies in the side yard of a mud and straw house between plots
of crops. Nearby the farmers are burning the dried straw left over from a recent harvest
and will spread the ashes as fertilizer for the next crop.
Returning to the city of Hanzhong, I go to the train station and got a "no seat" ticket
to Chengdu due to depart at 8:49 PM. This gives me time to have a well-earned meal, my
first since breakfast 12 hours earlier, and check my email at the nearby internet bar.
On the train, I am able to upgrade to hard sleeper without any trouble. While walking
back to my berth, I come across Sebastian, a German university student studying Chinese in
Qingdao for a year. He is with a group of seven Chinese businessmen heading to Chongqing.
This entailed a 40-hour train ride and a 5-hour bus ride to attend a two-day motorcycle
conference. Sebastian was recruited to be the "white face" for the company just for this
event getting free trip and a small payment for his time. When he sees me, he is overjoyed
to see another Westerner on the train and begged me to sit and talk with him for a while.
The train has mini-VCD players for rent and his group is watching a war movie. We had a
little chat before I went back to claim my berth.
I arrive back in Chengdu at 6 AM, 30 hours and two successful confluences later.
This confluence was christened the Smoky Confluence.
Details: Time 5:02 PM
Elevation: 566 meters
Accuracy 3 meters