24-Jul-2015 -- This is the 13th out of 18 reports of confluence visits while cycling from Kashgar (喀什) to Xī'ān (西安). I cycled through the Chinese provinces of Xīnjiāng, Qīnghǎi, Gānsù, and Shǎnxī, 3600 km in 25 days. The story starts from 39°N 76°E. The previous report is 34°N 102°E.
What a day! I would rate this as the most beautiful confluence on this trip.
In the morning, I started cycling with the first daylight at 6:15 AM. I had slept in a Tibetan yurt for the night, since the area around the main road G213 has several such yurt hotels. The night got very chilly (at 3600 m altitude). After I had cycled 30 minutes, my water bottle got frozen! Just when the sun made it above the horizon to warm me up a bit, I got into dense fog. The fog was so severe that on my glasses grew a thick layer of ice. The ice contributed to my already very short view through the fog, such that I could hardly see anything. I had to stop several times to free my glasses from the ice. But as soon as I left the main road, the fog disappeared and the sun warmed me up. I also started to climb a hill. At one point, when I realized that I began sweating, I took off almost everything: cloves, rain-coat, jacket, sweater, long-pants, and my hat.
The confluence is located on a special place from a topographical point of view. West of it, there is the more or less flat grassland with heights around 3500 m to 4000 m. But 5 km from the confluence point, a sudden steep canyon marks the beginning of a rugged mountain terrain with significantly lower altitudes up to 2000 m or even 1000 m along the rivers. As you can see in this picture, the valleys are forested while the terrain above is just grassland. For me, this meant climbing a steep hill down through the forest. I hadn’t seen any forest so far on my trip, just deserts and grasslands, so this change was particularly welcome to me. Secondly, there was no road, just a rarely used footpath. When I came through the last village on the grassland, the local people told me that this was a dead-end. I knew that, but since I was heading for this confluence, I nevertheless went down, partially carrying my bike along the rocky and very steep path, still hoping that I would make it through and find a track in the lower valley.
At one point half way down I somehow lost the path. Or more precisely, I took a wrong path that slowly degraded until it totally disappeared. But instead of going back, I tried to make it through the wilderness hoping to find a path. In this quite desperate situation, I had a breakfast break that not only filled my stomach, but also calmed me down. Now I began realizing how beautiful this area was and my slow progress played a minor role. I had two kilometres ahead to reach the confluence point and would surely make it there. But I kept on carrying my bicycle with me, still in the hope to find a track that would take me further down through the valley. Returning would have meant to climb up the steep hill with my entire luggage, which would have been nearly impossible.
I studied again the satellite image of the area and saw that 200 m above me should be a footpath. So I carried up my bicycle a steep hill. But the effort was worth it: I reached the footpath again. Happily I pushed my bike along that path. Progress was ten times faster along that path compared to the total wilderness. But still, this area was very remote and I didn’t expect to meet anyone this day. Therefore I was surprised, when suddenly three girls in minority clothing came along that path. When we passed each other, they demanded food from me! Actually, they grabbed my paniers in order to scan through it. But I just had eaten everything and had left nothing. I found this situation strange. I left the scene and was not followed by them.
Shortly after, I had reached the shortest distance to the confluence from the path. I hid my bicycle in a bush, packed a little backpack with water and some clothing and began to hike into a side valley from 1200 m distance. The hike into the valley was difficult, because I hiked through dense vegetation. At that point I didn’t know about a footpath that actually leads up to 100 m to the confluence point.
After a hike of more than one hour, I located the confluence on a steep grade with conifer forest with a ground cover of moss and ferns.
The return was very easy: I found a footpath that let me reach my bicycle in no time. And when I continued the main path further down the main valley, I was able to ride on it. I could coast down all the way to Diebù (达部县), where I enjoyed a late lunch. I continued rolling down the valley until I reached Luòdá (洛达乡) and spent the night there.
CP Visit Details:
- Distance to the road: ca. 10 km
- Distance to a track: 3 km
- Walking distance: 1200 m
- Distance of bicycle parking: 1200 m
- Time to reach the CP from the track: 70 minutes
- Time at the CP: 11:50 AM
- Measured height: 3344 m
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 0 m
- Position accuracy: 11 m
- Topography: steep grade, mountainous
- Vegetation: conifer forest, bushes, moss, grass
- Weather: partly cloudy, 24° C (felt temperature)
- Given Name: The Grassland Ending Confluence
The story continues at 34°N 104°E.