22-Jul-2008 -- Story continues from 37°N 120°E.
After catching a passing bus back to Píngdù, we transfer to a bus going west to the municipal capital, Wéifāng City (潍坊市). The bus leaves immediately, at 1:05 p.m., full. But a short distance outside Píngdù, the bus stops again, and we all wait... waiting for what, we wonder?
Suddenly, a whole hoard of new passengers appear out of nowhere, and an equal number of miniature folding chairs magically materialise, having been hidden in all manner of different nooks and crannies around the bus. The new passengers are seated - although not very comfortably - and we are on our way again.
By the time we arrive in Wéifāng, which turns out to be a huge city, it's too late in the day to attempt another confluence, so instead we do some reconnaissance in preparation for tomorrow. We learn that buses for Hóuzhèn (侯镇), in neighbouring Shòuguāng City (寿光市), depart from the Shāngpǐnchéng (商品成) bus station, about 10 minutes' walk from the central bus station where we are now. So we make our way to the Shāngpǐnchéng bus station, where we further learn that we have to catch a Bīnhǎi (滨海) bus to get to Hóuzhèn, and that Bīnhǎi buses depart every 10 minutes. All good intelligence.
We then continue on to a tall building we spotted as we were walking to the Shāngpǐnchéng bus station, which has a sign on it reading "Eken Hotels". This is an absolutely fantastic find! We get the nicest hotel room we've stayed in for the entire trip so far, for the cheapest tariff: just 100 yuan (US$ 14.60).
We relax and savour the comfort of our 27th floor hotel room for a while, before venturing out to explore some more of Wéifāng. We get only as far as a large department store, where we spend over an hour, just like awe-inspired country folk on a rare visit to the big city. On our way out, we buy our dinner from the extensive ground floor selection of hot food, which we take back to the hotel to eat.
The following morning, we check out early, and walk the short distance to the Shāngpǐnchéng bus station, where we board the next Bīnhǎi bus. It leaves shortly after 7 a.m. Today is another dry, dusty day, with abysmal air pollution, severely limiting visibility. As usual, there is a whole army of street cleaners out sweeping the dust from the sides of the highway.
The bus travels NW to Dàotián Town (稻田镇), where we expect it to turn north towards Hóuzhèn, but instead Ah Feng and I are asked to change to another bus, with the explanation having something to do with the road to Hóuzhèn being under repair. Our new bus does indeed take some very minor back roads, zigzagging through the cornfields, in order to get to Hóuzhèn.
We get off just NE of Hóuzhèn, 2.4 km west of the confluence, and commence our own zigzag approach on foot towards the point. We pass by several people reaching up into the treetops with long bamboo poles tipped with some sticky green stuff to catch large bugs, which are apparently considered a delicacy.
At one stage along our way, with the confluence still about a kilometre away, we are forced to make a very large zag, in order to get across a wide canal, squarely in our path. Shortly thereafter, we come across a dirt road heading off directly towards the confluence. We follow this road through the cornfields, passing under some huge, high-voltage power lines, before eventually coming to a halt at a long, water-filled ditch, 225 m SW of the confluence.
The ditch is not too wide, and I manage to get across without sinking too deeply into the mud, but then fall over spectacularly as I try to scramble up the other side. Not only do I get my clothes all muddy, but I manage to inject the inside of my right leg, and the middle finger of my left hand, with nasty stinging nettles, which continue to sting with ferocity for several days thereafter. Ah Feng, on the other hand, being much more nimble on her feet, makes the ditch crossing unscathed.
But our troubles are not over. Less than 50 m further on, we are confronted by another wide canal, with no hope of getting across. Between the ditch and the canal, off to our left, we see a small building amid an apple orchard. We fight our way into and through the apple orchard to this structure, which turns out to be a storage shed. Luckily, from here, we can see a bridge across the canal a bit further up, so we continue on towards it, having to slip through a locked wooden gate at the entrance to the apple orchard.
Once at the bridge, it's a simple matter of crossing over, then turning right, down a good dirt road to the confluence, which is 100 m due south of the bridge, and just 18 m east of the road, in another wheat-cum-corn field. There are some farmers nearby, busy injecting the ground with plant food pellets. We take the GPS and north-south-east-west photos, before leaving the sensible way: by continuing down the dirt road to where it emerges onto a relatively busy, sealed road at 36°59'30.2"N 118°59'50.7"E.
Story continues at 37°N 118°E.