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the Degree Confluence Project
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China : Sìchuān Shěng

3.7 km (2.3 miles) ESE of Tuxi, Sìchuān, China
Approx. altitude: 496 m (1627 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 31°S 73°W

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

#2: Looking South from the confluence #3: Looking North from the confluence #4: Looking West from the confluence #5: GPS #6: Ferry boat to Sanhui #7: Fishing boat on the river at Sanhui #8: Sichuan Chili peppers and a butterfly #9: Cut hands and feet #10: Train photos: Hard seat (left) hard sleeper

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  31°N 107°E  

#1: Looking East from the confluence

(visited by Peter Snow Cao)

25-Aug-2003 --

This is the second of a three-confluence hunt trip done in northeastern Sichuan in late August, 2003.

I felt things were going pretty well. I was back on the road waiting for the bus after being freshly showered and laundered following a strenuous, but successful visit to 32° N 108° E.

Not far from the miners apartment building was a group of workers doing other coal-related things. There was no sex discrimination here. A couple of women had the unenviable job of loading the coal trucks. This entailed climbing into the dump truck bed, and the opening a coal chute. Coal thunders into the bed of the truck a thick cloud of fine coal dust engulfs the truck. The women were dusted black from head to toe. Their faces were smeared with coal dust and they had filthy “dust masks,” mere rags, hanging around their necks.

I had nothing to do but wait in the hot sun, so I watched them work. They got curious about me and came over to chat. They said buses to Dazhou were frequent which was encouraging. One group, including two other women, was working on lowering the pavement where the coal was loaded because the trucks could not fit under the loading chutes.

Buses northbound to Wanyuan where I just came from were passing by every five or ten minutes, but the southbound us to Dazhou did not make an appearance for 90 minutes. By this time I was very thirsty from having sweat buckets on the last confluence. When the bus arrived, it felt like stepping into refrigerator; the air conditioning was on full blast. When we stopped to get the bus washed, I bought two bottles of ice cold water. Now I was in heaven.

The bus ride was a wonderful rest from the work out I got at the previous confluence. Unlike most of the drivers in China, this one was in no hurry and eased on down the road at a moderate pace. We arrived in Dazhou at 4 PM and the bus conductress said the best was to Sanhui was by train. I jumped on a local bus to the train station. Once there, I took one look at the lengthy lines and went to the information desk to ask about trains to Sanui. The middle-aged woman said that the train cost 3.5 yuan and said she would buy me a ticket before I could ask her about the schedule. I did not want look a gift horse in the mouth, so with only 3.5 yuan at stake, I gave her the money and hoped for the best. She came back two minutes later ticket in hand, saving me at least a half an hour of waiting in line.

Fortune was similing on me; the train left in an hour, giving me time for a leisurely dinner. The 17:30 train left four minutes early – I am glad I did not try to wait until the last minute. Thirty minutes later we arrived in Sanhui. Stepping from the station an swarm of motorcycle taxis beseiged me with offers to take me wherever I wanted to go. The time was 6 PM and I thought if I was lucky, I might have a chance to do the confluence in Qinghua before dark. A fellow train passenger came over to help. He said was going the same way and invited me to join him. He led me through a tunnel under the tracks and then we boarded a mianbao taxi. It was a ten-minute ride to the ferry and he would not let me pay.

The five-minute farry ride was also paid by him. On the other side, he contracted with a motorcycle taxi to get us to Tuxi, a 15-minute ride. Once again, he would not let me pay neither mine nor his fare. It was now 6:30 PM and I had a little more than an hour of daylight left. I told my new friend my objective lay about five kilometers to the west near the village of Qinghua. My friend suggested I get a different motorcycle taxi for the rest of the trip, as the one we took was not familiar with the area.

My new motorcycle driver was a young man of 22, and very curious about what I was doing. I showed him the GPS and told him that I wanted to go where the arrow pointed. This is always a difficult concept to get across to people in the countryside, most of which have no idea about latitude and longitude, never mind a GPS.

However, this young man was at least receptive, and kept asking me the way and how much farther to go. The road detriorate to a small track, and then at 750 meters from the confluence, it became a footpath which he would not ride on.

From the pointer of the GPS it appeared the confluence was just around the next hill. I left my backpack with him and told him I would be right back.

I had about 30 minutes of light left, and I took off running down the path with the GPS and camera. One thing I can not seem to do well, even after 17 confluences is estimate the distance to landmarks, and this was no exception.

Just around the hill turned out to be just half the distance I needed to cover, with the pointer going up the hill. I had come this far, and it looked like I could get there pretty quick, so I decided to give it a shot.

The trails were like those throughout the fields of China: narrow, raised paths snaking along the the edges of the fields of rice, corn, and rapeseed. Where the land is too steep to culitivate, trees and thorn bushes thrive. Picking trails is a matter of choosing the most used trail in the general direction of the pointer.

Along the way, I passed a farmhouse with two very protective dogs and no one about, so using a fallen branch to keep them away, I safely made my way past.

Again, my sense of distance measurement, mislead me as I had only 400 meters to go, if seemed as if the confluence should be on this side of the hill I was on, but as I got closer I realized it was further still. So close, yet not there yet.

Time and light were both in short supply, so I made a dash for the confluence, and reached it at 7:40 PM. It lay near the top of a cultivated hill. I quickly took the photos and then monkeyed around with the GPS trying to get and photograph the "perfect reading." Sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it does not. This was the latter. Teh GPS elevation was 554 meters.

By the time I got the GPS photo darkness was falling fast. I did not come prepared to walk in the dark as I had no flashlight. I knew that the straight line back would be the shortest distance, but I felt it was better to retrace the way I came. I thought about my motorcycle taxi driver and hoped that he would wait for me. Leaving my bag with him was in a way a kind of insurance that he would not leave. That and the fact that I had not paid him yet.

The first part of the return trip was easy as I could still see in the fading light. But then as I crossed back to the east side of the hill, the path became almost invisible. I saved my route and then went traceback mode. This worked pretty well for a while.

I could hear the dogs at the farmhouse below and decided to hone in on that rather than use the traceback function. But between here and there was a steep treed section of the hill and I lost the trail for a while. Stumbling along blind, I slipped and went tumbling down into a thicket of sticker bushes. Extracting myself from this mess was painful and difficult.

After brushing myself off and making sure I still had my camera and GPS, I continued toward the barking dogs. Nearly all the field trails run from house to house, so getting around invariably means going past the farmhouse front doors. I could hear the people inside yelling at the dogs to shut up, but they continued barking up a storm.

When I got closer, I yelled to the occupants to get the dogs so I could pass. A young girl emerged looking very surprised to see me. She grabbed one dog and yelled at the other while I passed beside their house.

Safely past, I was back on track I took to get to the confluence. I could make out the general layout of the land, but could not see the trails clearly. I continued to use the traceback function on the GPS, but at some point I got off track. It appeared that I should be heading down, but the pointer said go left. Checking the map page, I saw that I was about 50 meters off track, but decided I would just continue along the path I was on rather than climb back up and get on the original trail.

The narrow path, passed a rice paddy, and once I slipped and fell in sinking up to my knees. Fortunately the camera did not get wet. But my feet kept sliping around in and out of my Teva sandals. I love wearing them, except when it gets muddy. I really should have worn proper shoes.

The night was moonless and lightly overcast making it very dark. By now I was only able to move slowly, but could track my progress on the map page of the GPS. I was nearing a turn in the hill where I would be in sight distance of where I left motorcycle taxi.

When I reached that point, I could see his headlight and hear him beeping his horn. I yelled to him that I was coming. Hi continued to beep the horn, flash his headlight and rev the engine. I still had 450 meters to go, and even though I could see where I needed to end up, getting there was far from easy. I fell twice more, but fortunatly into dry fields. Then I ended up in a rice paddy nearing harvest with the stalks up to my chest.

There was another farmhouse with dogs I needed to pass and I called out to the owners to get the dogs. My driver kept yelling for me to hurry up while beeping and the horn and reving the engine. As I got closer, he tried to be helpful by shining the headlight at me, but it ended up just blinding me and slowing me down.

When I finally got back to him, he castized me for taking so long saying he was worried to death. Looking at myself in the light, I saw I had ripped my shorts from the hem to the belt exposing myself. Fortunately, I had my long pants that I wore earlier that day and washed in Qinghua. They were still wet, but it was better than hanging out.

After changing, we hit the road, fast. I was in no position to tell him to slow down since I had caused him to miss his dinner and his young wife and boy were waiting for him.

I asked him about trains going east, but he suggested that I spend the night in Tuxi and catch the morning train.

When we arrived, his family and the man who helped me get to Tuxi in the afternoon met us at the guesthouse. They confirmed that the best course of action was to spend the night and I was put up in a big double bed room. After a desperately needed shower, I felt much better and went down stairs for dinner.

The big thing going on at night in this village was the nightly barbeque. I was shown to a table and everyone came by to have a chat with the foreign guest. By 10 PM I was exhausted after a two-confluence day and retired to my room.

I named this the The Dreaded Sticker Bush Confluence

This story continues at 31°N 106°E.


 All pictures
#1: Looking East from the confluence
#2: Looking South from the confluence
#3: Looking North from the confluence
#4: Looking West from the confluence
#5: GPS
#6: Ferry boat to Sanhui
#7: Fishing boat on the river at Sanhui
#8: Sichuan Chili peppers and a butterfly
#9: Cut hands and feet
#10: Train photos: Hard seat (left) hard sleeper
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)