18-Jul-2003 -- 08:30 Another foreigner and myself began our journey from the city of Qingdao, via ferry (see Picture 4) 7.4 km and 43 minutes journey southwest to Huangdao. This is my first trip to China (a high school graduation present), and my first confluence attempt/success. On the ferry I was delighted to meet a local Chinese student who is the same age as me (also just graduated from high school), and after some visiting he happily joined our confluence trek! He and his mother had just gotten off the train after travelling 40+ hours (!) from his hometown, to visit his aunt in Huangdao for the first time. His name is “Pink,” having named himself after Pink Floyd….
09:13 – Arrived in Huangdao, and hopped bus number 1 by 09:28. We rode the bus for 18.3 km and one hour, finally arriving near my Chinese friend’s aunt’s home at 10:28, where we two waited while he rushed his greetings with his auntie and returned to us within 15 minutes. Fortunately, just before he returned, a private taxi minivan pulled up asking if we needed a ride, so we secured the taxi for the major drive to get close to the confluence point. Picture 5 shows the minivan, intrepid taxi driver, myself, and my new Chinese friend “Pink”. Due to not having a camera tripod along, my other (foreign) friend, Richard, is never in any of the photos (well, we did prop the camera up and got one, but the quality was not good enough to send in for the Confluence Project).
10:44 – Departed my Chinese friend’s auntie’s neighborhood and started driving to the general area of the confluence, driving a total of 33 km and using one hour and twenty minutes. Although we had a Chinese map with some detail, it was not up to date, and our driver was not sure of the less-travelled roads and small villages. Along the way she stopped and used her cell phone to call a friend and ask for directions a few times. We also stopped and asked village people, icecream vendors, and even a couple boys on bikes (see Picture 6)! One stop at a fruit stand along the road was very fortunate – the vendors pointed us back to a dirt road we’d just passed, saying it was a back way to the small village of Shagou that we wanted to drive to (the turn-off was at N36.03039 E120.01469), so we headed south there. From this point these back roads were all dirt roads, and quite muddy from the recent rains, running through lush farmlands on gentle hillsides. Picture 7 shows an example of the muddy roads, at this point passing through Shagou village – we appreciated our brave driver and her great little minivan, we never got stuck once! Coming upon the first village, we found out Shagou village is split into three separate sections – we continued on to the second part of the village. On the way it was interesting to pass a survey team that was using modern and highly accurate GPS surveying equipment. They were very friendly, and thought our trek was slightly odd but also interesting. Finally we were nearing our confluence and seeing we could drive no further, we got out to start our hike from Shagou village, now only 1.46km from the confluence (N36.01306 E120.00122). Our driver agreed to wait for us, fortunately.
12:03 – Starting the hike, we were at an altitude of 54m and began ascending and working our way towards the confluence. There was a narrow muddy dirt lane that headed basically in the right direction, and after a while we came across one that seemed to fork off towards the confluence (at N36.00964 E120.00188). However that narrow dirt lane eventually came to nothing and we began working our way around stepped fields of watermelon, taro, corn, tea, vegetables and other crops we didn’t recognize. There were a number of small cliffs we had to negotiate, and some slushy walks around a pond, but at least we were slowly narrowing the gap. We frequently queried our new Chinese friend to see how he was doing, but although he had just finished such a long journey, he is a healthy young man, and was quite game to continue on (though probably wondering where this was all going to end up)! As we continued on and read off the numbers – 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m it served to spur everyone on although it was warm, raining sporadically, and past lunch time. Finally we cheered as we came closer than 100m, knowing now that the confluence wasn’t in the middle of one of the numerous ponds in the area.
12:49 – After hoofing it for 2.06km (climbing 52m in altitude) and 46 minutes we arrived at the confluence of 36N 120E. Picture 8 shows the GPS reading there, but the confluence was actually slightly down a steep embankment covered with nettles, so we held the GPS a meter above the spot while it averaged the location – so the actual altitude at the confluence is 106m. Since the confluence was on a hillside, and south of the point is a high hill, we only took a panorama shot looking out from the confluence – Picture 1 shows the panorama, many verdant farm crops on steppes and villages visible in the distance – a quiet and peaceful setting. Picture 2 shows the cliff side where the confluence is, and in Picture 3 I’m pointing out the spot, with my Chinese friend with me.
13:35 – After getting a good average of the confluence location, and many pictures, we started to head back to our waiting taxi minivan. By this time my Chinese friend was getting pretty tired, and mentioned that he was concerned as to whether we could find our way back to the car… he was relieved to know that our GPS had the point marked, and thus guaranteed we’d find our way. In retrospect, he was truly brave to meet two new foreigners and take off on such a trek! He also had quite good English, and enjoyed practicing further with us, many enjoyable conversations. His home is way north, near where the borders of China, Mongolia and Russia join. Being much wiser from the trek up, we first hiked over to a farmhouse we’d seen, asked the curious and shy (and dubious—no foreigners had ever been in this neck of the woods before!) occupants where the access lane was, and we headed off. Our return trip was longer (2.12km vs 2.06km), but much faster (25 min vs 46 min)!
14:00 – Arrived back at our taxi, the driver had called us on the cell phone when we were still 12 minutes out, so she was plenty patient to wait for two hours. The drive back to my Chinese friend’s auntie’s home was uneventful since we were all now well versed in the various rain-soaked routes, and key turns. A final goodbye at the taxi at 15:16, and my friend walked off to his auntie’s home, probably for hours and hours of sleep after his l-o-n-g train ride followed by a trek to a confluence point! Our taxi driver was game to include a drive back to the ferry for a small added fee. She was a good driver and a good sport, and didn’t mind having her minivan muddied up – with one (interesting) ride she made about a day or two’s worth of income. By 15:42 we were back to the ferry for a ride departing at 16:20.
Overall we spent US$19 on ferry tickets and taxi fare, excellent for such a good trip! Not only was it exciting to reach the confluence point, but also the friendly and helpful Chinese friends we made along the way were a big part of the enjoyment. The chance to help add a smile to their day added happiness to our adventure as well!