15-Feb-2003 -- This is the second of forty-two confluences to
be documented in Sichuan. Attendees were
"Xiaoerlang" (Small Boy) Larry, Godspeed Wood, and Peter Snow Cao
photographer). This was Godspeeds inaugural Confluence Point,
Larry’s second, and
Peter’s eighth. Larry enjoys nature and adventure, Godspeed is a
student and guide, and
Peter runs Bike
China Adventures, a China bike
This was my first confluence since the six-confluence trip up the Yangtze River
(beginning with 31°N 111°E) with Targ Parsons,
and Richard Jones at the beginning of Chinese New Year.
Our objective, 31°N 105°E,
is about 100 km east of the center of Chengdu. Road distance is probable closer to 120 km.
While I would prefer to cycle to these confluence points, the distance is too great and
time too short, so we cheated a bit (a big bit, actually) and took a bus.
Larry met me at my house a 7:05, ten minutes early he said to offset the last time when
he was ten minutes late. "Now I’m even," he said with a laugh. Godspeed
agreed to meet at the bus station on the north side of town, closer to where he lived. On
the ride there, Larry commented that he enjoyed cycling early in the morning before the
bike traffic in Chengdu gets heavy and slows him down. It was still dark when we met,
Larry’s time of day.
We met Godspeed at 7:40 AM and got the local bus to Zhongjiang about 90 km away. We had
to take the local bus because it has a rack on the top for the bikes. The regulars assured
us it was a two-hour ride. The bus left right after we got the bikes on the top, so we
were excited to get such a good start. However, there were only about eight people on a
thirty-passenger bus which was not a good sign. The drivers make money when the bus is
full, so the driver cruised along the road to Zhongjiang at a snail’s pace trying to
fill up the bus.
It is always difficult to predict what the weather is going to be like in Chengdu,
since it is overcast most of the time due to the high mountains surrounding the Sichuan
basin. Official sunshine rate is 28%, but it is grossly overstated. However, we were in
luck today as an outline of the sun made an appearance. Godspeed, a native of Chengdu,
pointed at it and asked with a grin, "What’s that?"
The road was flat and level for the first 40 kilometers, then we started climbing up a
long hill. There were at least ten switchbacks before the bus reached the top and we
cruised along the ridge, like many roads in China. Godspeed commented that it would make a
terrific road to cycle.
At long last, we reached our destination, three hours later. It was 11 AM and we were
all ready to eat a horse. No horses were on the menu, so we settled for three huge bowls
of noodles instead.
It was great to get finally get started cycling. The GPS indicated we were 30 km east
of the confluence, as the crow flies. Getting on the right road to the nearest town was
easy. But the road varied from great to pretty bad. Larry was having difficulties with his
bike and we stopped at a house with tires hanging in the trees, the China sign for bike
The elderly couple were holding down the shop for their absent son and helped us fix up
Larry’s bike. We did most of the work ourselves, but used their tools and some wire.
They said there was no charge which made Larry happy.
We continued east to Xiping, a small town that was having its market day. I always ask
the way at every corner and the locals pointed to the right. Larry was ahead and missed
the turn to Gujing so Godspeed raced after him. When they returned, there was a large
crowd around us wondering what brought us to their town.
Continuing east, we cycled along a picturesque river with mud brick houses and small
flocks of ducks. Arriving in Gujin (meaning "Old Well" in Chinese), the town
closest to the confluence point, we inquired where a small village on the map was that
appeared to be closest our objective. We were 3.5 km away. However, finding someone who
knew anything about it was challenging. Fortunately, the crowd of people we attracted
insured there was a large pool to poll. The consensus was that the village was accessible
up the road about two kilometers. The area was hilly, but the sun was shining are our
A likely looking dirt road appeared to the right in the direction of the confluence.
But we were still 2.4 kilometers away. Not a good sign. The road was rough, but cycling it
made it go fast. Unfortunately the road got smaller faster than we hoped and ended up as a
foot path at an elderly couple’s house. They were astonished to see us there and kept
asking who we were looking for. We were still 1.47 km from the confluence and it was on
the other side of the hill.
The man said there was a trail over the hill and pointed up steep path. Larry
wasn’t feeling so good and enlisted the help of two boys to help him with his bike.
Part of the trail was cut into the rock as we climbed the steepest part. Once near the top
covered with terraces currently growing winter wheat, we were able to cycle along the
narrow footpaths. Godspeed, our mountain bike guru, was in heaven.
We followed the arrow of the GPS on the most likely looking path leading us down the
other side of the hill through a bamboo grove where there was a deep aqueduct spanning the
small valley. At the bottom of the hill, we were closing in, but still had 753 meters to
go, on the other side of the next hill.
We asked a resident if there was a path to the other side, and he assured us there was.
We skirted around a small lake, and cycled and walked up through the saddle between the
hills. The arrow on the GPS was following the path with remarkable consistency and the
distance to the confluence was dropping fast. Up over the saddle cycling on a good single
track. On the other side of the second hill and entering the third valley we found the
confluence point about 20 meters off the path in the middle of a winter wheat field.
Godspeed brought his bike to the point for a photo while Larry wandered amidst the
winter wheat overjoyed to have finally arrived. As we were taking victory photos with the
bikes, and a villager came padding down the path in cotton and grass shoes with a tree on
his shoulder adding new meaning to the phrase, "Walk softly and carry a big
stick." He gave us a funny grin and continued on his way.
As usual, getting back was much easier as there was a small dirt road in the valley.
About one kilometer we hit blacktop again and then rode to the main road to wait for a
bus. It was about 5 PM, and transportation was drying up fast as this was the last day of
Chinese New Year, traditionally celebrated with family members around a large meal. I had
told my wife I would try to be home by 6 PM for the dinner, but it was looking all but
We jumped on a bus (after throwing the bikes on top) to Santai, about 15 km further
east. There, we scoped out transport back to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. This is
normally not a problem. We found a big air-con bus that was leaving in 30 minutes at 6 PM.
The driver said he couldn’t fit the bikes on the bus, but we showed him that we could
take them apart and store them in the baggage compartment under the bus.
So we wandered around getting food and the like. Getting back just before 6 PM, the
driver told us his bus was cancelled because there were too few people and the ticket
sellers said the next bus to Chengdu would be tomorrow morning. So we found yet another
bus going to Mianyang northwest of where we were, but with better connections to Chengdu.
Again we had to convince the driver we could fit the bikes under the bus and we were on
Arriving in Mianyang at 7:30 PM it was dark, and the bus station had no buses going to
Chengdu. But there was another bus station about a kilometer down the road. A quick
re-assembly of the bikes, cycle down to the other station, and then again dismantling and
storing the bikes underneath.
During the ride to Chengdu, we passed small towns and villages where many people were
shooting fireworks to celebrate the holiday. We arrived back in Chengdu at 9 PM and I got
home at 9:30.
15-Feb-2003 -- “但愿人长久”——元宵节探点记 二OO三年二月十五日