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the Degree Confluence Project
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China : Chóngqìng Shì

7.4 km (4.6 miles) SE of Wanshun, Chóngqìng, China
Approx. altitude: 575 m (1886 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 30°S 73°W

Accuracy: 5 m (16 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: Nearby the Confluence Point ourside the bamboo grove facing East #3: Nearby the Confluence Point ourside the bamboo grove facing South #4: Nearby the Confluence Point ourside the bamboo grove facing North #5: Confluencers group photo (left to right) Richard Jones, Targ Parsons and Peter Cao #6: Residents of the area #7: Chinese bus driver checking out the GPS - Village Sign with (left to right) Richard Jones and Peter Cao #8: At the Confluence Point, (left to right) Richard Jones and Targ Parsons checking the GPS #9: Confluence Point villagers on their way to celebrate Chinese New Year with friends and family #10: Village and a door with New Year's wishes pasted on the top and sides

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  30°N 107°E  

#1: Confluence Point in a Bamboo Grove facing West

(visited by Peter Snow Cao, Targ Parsons and Richard F Jones)

01-Feb-2003 -- Prologue

This is the fifth of a series of six Confluence Points (beginning with 31°N 111°E) visited by Targ Parsons, Richard Jones and Peter Snow Cao (scribe) between January 26 and February 2 during Spring Festival 2003. We wished to make this journey to document the confluences before the filling of the Three Gorges Dam Project, due to begin in mid-2003.

Impetus: Targ had read the book, River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler, several months before and decided he would see the area after while attempting to visit several confluences. This book describes the life of an English teacher living in Fuling, Sichuan in the late 90’s.

Dedication: In honor of my charming wife, Xiaorong, for her patience and understanding, support and unending love, I have dedicated these stories to her.

Confluence Hunt

February 1, Chinese New Year’s Day. We woke up surprisingly late for this crew, 8:10 AM. Targ mentioned he hadn’t slept straight through a night without having to get up for a piss in ages. Richard and I went down to have the hotel breakfast, hoping for something like the feast we enjoyed in Yunyang. It was nothing of the sort. But they did have some fresh sweet dumplings (tangyuan) that I savor. We were discussing our transport options over breakfast and thought we might have to hire a taxi at exorbitant holiday prices to get us to the confluence point 35 km away.

After breakfast we came up stairs and were disheartened to find the ground wet. However, it turned out to be merely a light mist. Nonetheless, we brought our raingear, just in case. On the transportation scene, it was altogether different than we expected. Buses and taxis abounded, so we got checked out in a hurry, stashed our bags at the hotel luggage room and jumped in a taxi to the bus station. There it was a beehive of activity and a bus leading to the town near the confluence point was just filling up.

Most bus rides in China are forgettable, one blending into another. This was not one of those rides. Targ and Richard snagged the front two shotgun seats and were discussing the best place for us to get off the bus using one of Targ’s brightly colored topographical maps he copied from the Hong Kong Public Library. The driver was fascinated, and started asking all about it. Richard then pulled out his GPS and showed the driver how it worked. This was also a novelty, and once we got going, Richard placed the GPS in front of the driver so he could see the map of where we were going as he drove.

The driver started playing a tape of standard Chinese music, and Richard mentioned how he wished he brought his tapes. Then he checked his bag and realized that he did bring one he labeled "Mix 1." The driver said he could play it over the bus speaker system. The tape had a variety of music including The Grateful Dead’s "Trucking", Commander Cody’s "Hot Rod Lincoln" and some clips from the Simpsons. The incongruity of that music on a stuffed Chinese bus made for a surreal experience. As we were climbing over a mountain pass, the words of "Trucking" rang all to true:

Sometimes the light’s shining on me
Other times I can barely see
What a long strange trip it’s been.

This was to be the theme song of our trip.

Today being New Year’s meant everyone was in a festive mood, laughing and joking with each other. A woman got on the bus with an infant she was breast feeding and I gave her my seat. The little girl was only four months old and cute as a button all bundled up like a stuffed doll, so much so that her arms stuck straight out from her body.

After about 45 minutes of Richard’s music at high volume, some of the passengers began to complain and the driver dropped the volume a tad. The bus was packed to crush capacity and many people brought gifts to bring to their relatives. Richard was in an isolated spot and got asked to hold a table top for one of the passengers. Targ maintained a strict vigilance over his GPS readings, tracking every move of the needle and the distance to go. As our route passed over the mountain, we entered a bamboo forest and I said it would be great to have a confluence point (CP) in a bamboo grove.

After an hour or so on the bus, our stop arrived and we left the friendly folks. We were now about four km away. Outside, the cool air blew over us and Targ suggested that we jump in a mianbao van to get us closer to the CP. Richard and I said we wanted to walk, so Targ reluctantly agreed. First order of business was a pit stop to get rid of all the milk, coffee and soy milk consumed at breakfast. Then we began a brisk walk to the CP on a very good concrete road. There was very little vehicular traffic, only a few motorcycles and an occasional mianbao van. However, there were lots of people out walking the road in groups of five or more with bags of gifts, and eating sunflower seeds as the walked and talked. Our presence was surprising and several people asked where we were going.

The area is a rural farming area of rice paddies, farm houses and hay stacks. At the end of the concrete road, we were still almost a km from the CP. The landscape was in a valley with a few low hills scattered about. From the topo map we knew that the CP was near the source of a small stream that flowed into the Yangtze River. After passing through a small village, we were 300 meters away. The dirt road forked and appeared to go around the hill directly in front of us. There was a small path leading into the hill and Richard said he wanted to take it. Targ and I opted to stick to the road for a bit longer as 300 meters was still a long way to be heading off into the bush. As we separated, Targ said, "We will meet you at the CP." After we left Richard, Targ said that he should have told Richard that we would wait for him at the CP. We both laughed.

Targ and I continued around the hill on the road with the GPS pointing to the center of the hill. At one point as the distance to go started to climb about 300 meters again we decided to take a small path up to a low saddle between the hills. We were now about 250 meters away. Following another path in the direction of the CP, we entered a thick brush and scrub area filled with low-lying thorns and vines. Interspersed were patches of bamboo stands that were free of the brush. The hill was rather steep in parts and the narrow paths would head off into the wrong direction. Targ and I were scrambling up and down looking for easier paths and getting cut up as the thorn bushes tore into us. As we got closer to the CP I called out to Richard in between curses and crashes. We thought Richard must be in even worst shape and congratulated ourselves on being the first to the CP even though "it is not a competition."

The CP ended up being just as I hoped, in a large grove of bamboo, with a soft bed of fallen leaves. A few minutes after Targ and I arrived, Richard came strolling up with a smug look on his face. He had left his GPS at his CP hoping that we would see it there and realize he beat us to it. However, as we discovered at previous CPs, each of our GPSs would come up with a slightly different location, though always within two meters or so of each other. We had a good laugh at that one.

With photos and readings made, we started heading back to the village using Richard’s direct route. At about 100 meters away from the CP, we entered a clearing where crops were being grown. I took some additional photos of the area and suggested that these would be a better representation of supplemental photos than four photos of the bamboo. Targ was a bit put out by the thought since they were actually taken at the CP proper. I argued that it was in the vicinity and would give a better impression of the area than four photos of essentially the same thing. Targ said it would be okay provided I made it clear in the photo descriptions.

Afterwards as we were heading back, flush with the success of our fifth and we thought would be our final confluence point on this tour. Then Richard and Targ began talking about a "bonus confluence" since they still had two days before their flight back to Hong Kong from Chongqing. I was anxious to return to Chengdu to be with my wife, Xiaorong. She was not very happy with me missing Chinese New Year with the family.

After checking the maps, Targ and Richard decided on trying for 29°N 106°E to the southwest of Chongqing, 147 km away. The trick would be to get there as quickly as possible, so there would be enough time to return to Chongqing for their flight on February 3. As they discussed the details, I got more and more excited about going for another but reserved my decision until later.

As we left the CP, we walked on a narrow path through a couple of villages. Many doors were freshly decorated with new red door banners wishing good luck for the coming year.

At the concrete road, we got two motorcycles to take the three of us to the intersection with the main road where we could catch the bus returning to Changshou. Our luck was with us, as the bus was just pulling up as we arrived. Another case of split-second timing. Arriving back in Changshou, we jumped in a taxi to take us back to the hotel to get our bags, then onto the long-distance bus station for a bus to Chongqing. This time it was a super-deluxe air-con bus with departures every ten minutes. Within an hour we were in Chongqing.

I christened this the Serene Confluence Point.

The continuation of the story can be found at 29°N 106°E.


 All pictures
#1: Confluence Point in a Bamboo Grove facing West
#2: Nearby the Confluence Point ourside the bamboo grove facing East
#3: Nearby the Confluence Point ourside the bamboo grove facing South
#4: Nearby the Confluence Point ourside the bamboo grove facing North
#5: Confluencers group photo (left to right) Richard Jones, Targ Parsons and Peter Cao
#6: Residents of the area
#7: Chinese bus driver checking out the GPS - Village Sign with (left to right) Richard Jones and Peter Cao
#8: At the Confluence Point, (left to right) Richard Jones and Targ Parsons checking the GPS
#9: Confluence Point villagers on their way to celebrate Chinese New Year with friends and family
#10: Village and a door with New Year's wishes pasted on the top and sides
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)