27-Jun-2006 -- Story continues from 25°N 106°E.
Monday 26 June 2006 (Day 27)
Once again, owing to our exhausted state, we elected not to set the alarm. We awoke at 7 a.m., and checked out of the hotel shortly before 8 a.m. We took a three-wheeler to the bus station, which turned out to be quite some distance from the hotel, owing to the fact that the Cèhēng County (册亨县) capital is apparently divided into two halves, separated by a large expanse of countryside.
At the station, we were pleased to learn that there was a bus that would take us north all the way to the capital of Zhènníng County (镇宁县) - it was actually a Guìyáng (贵阳) bus - however it wasn't due to depart until 10 a.m. We bought our tickets, found the bus in the station parking lot (a sleeper bus) and put our bags on board, then went off in search of breakfast. Ah Feng was adamant that we had to eat rice, because we'd eaten nothing but noodles and wontons for the past two days.
The bus left on time at 10 a.m. I was suffering from a cold, and slept most of the way. We got off the bus when it passed through Zhènníng at 3:45 p.m., took a three-wheeler to the wrong bus station, then walked back a few hundred metres to the correct one. We were looking for a bus ESE to the town of Gélì (革利乡), but none was in evidence. The station staff told us to "wait a while".
However, persistent questioning of everyone in sight ultimately revealed that there was only one bus per day to Gélì, at 3:30 p.m., and we had missed it. So instead, we took a bus SE to the closer township of Jiānglóng (江龙镇). This bus left at 4:15 p.m., and arrived in Jiānglóng at 5:15 p.m. Here we were very fortunate to be able to transfer to the Gélì bus that had left Zhènníng at 3:30 p.m. I think the Jiānglóng bus driver must have phoned ahead to the Gélì bus driver and asked him to wait for us. Another passenger from the Jiānglóng bus also made the transfer with us.
No sooner than the bus to Gélì set off from Jiānglóng than it stopped again, while an enormous slab of concrete was laboriously manhandled onto a truck that was completely blocking the road.
The road to Gélì was in incredibly bad condition, and it was a miracle that the bus could make it at all. Nevertheless, we arrived in one piece at 6:10 p.m., the confluence 6.3 kilometres NE. We checked into the extremely basic guesthouse - the only one - then went for a stroll before dinner.
Gélì is situated in an elevated position, affording a great view of the terraced rice paddies in the valley below. We met a primary school girl, who told us her father was Hàn Chinese and her mother a member of the Miáo nationality. This girl took us on a guided tour of the small town, including both the primary and secondary schools. The secondary school was quite impressive, obviously funded by outside money. Throughout Guìzhōu we had witnessed this phenomenon.
At around 8 p.m., we enjoyed a meal of spicy hot bean curd and pork with our landlord, his wife, his mother, and a couple of his friends.
Tuesday 27 June 2006 (Day 28)
The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. Ah Feng had not slept well due to the mahjong game that had gone on well into the night in the room next to ours. We were all set to leave at 6:15 a.m., but there was no sign of our landlord nor another motorcyclist that Ah Feng had arranged for a 6 a.m. departure. After much banging on doors, the landlord's wife finally emerged and unlocked the door to the kitchen, where we found the landlord fast asleep in a chair! He was obviously one of those who had played mahjong all night. He called his friend, and ten minutes later, at 6:40 a.m., we set off on two motorbikes.
At 7:20 a.m., with the confluence 1.34 kilometres north, we parked the bikes at a fork in the road, the upper fork not suitable for motorbikes carrying two passengers. Just as we were setting off on foot, two more guys arrived on another motorbike, and they joined the confluence hunting party, which now numbered six.
After climbing for ten minutes, we reached a small village with the confluence 1.21 kilometres north. Here we left the road and started following a walking trail on our right. When the confluence was about 650 metres to our NW, we came upon a couple more farmhouses, from where the route forward was unclear. We started going one way, then changed our minds and went another. On the second path, we soon encountered a local coming the other way, shouldering an enormous scythe, who told us that our first choice had been the correct one.
Ah Feng gave her GPS to my motorcyclist, who then led the way; he seemed to have caught confluence fever! We eventually emerged onto the relatively flat crest of the mountain range, and walking became much easier. As so often happens in confluence hunts, we crossed an exceptionally good path within 200 metres of the confluence!
The point itself was approximately 40 metres down a very steep and densely forested slope. Reaching it meant scrambling amongst the foliage, still wet with dew, which left our clothes saturated. Accompanying me all the way to the point were my motorcyclist (still holding Ah Feng's GPS), and one of the two guys who had joined us when we parked the bikes.
I took photos looking in the four cardinal directions, but nothing was visible through the trees, so I went back up to the very top of the hill (from where the confluence was only 55 metres north), and took another set of north-south-east-west photos from there. As a point of interest, this confluence is located a very short distance over the Zhènníng County border, in Zǐyún County (紫云县).
We followed the good path back, and discovered where we'd earlier made a wrong turn: going right instead of left when the confluence had been 1.1 kilometres north.
We got back to the road near the village at 9:25 a.m., and ten minutes later had descended to the "main" road where we'd left the bikes. On the way back to Gélì, we stopped off at a village where the other latecomer lived. It turned out that he was the village chief, and we were roped into a celebratory breakfast, which meant spending an awful lot of time that Ah Feng and I didn't want to spend, while the village chief's wife single-handedly took care of all the preparations, including killing and cleaning a chicken. While she was working frantically, the men were sitting inside drinking and playing cards. Ah Feng eventually lent a hand on the cooking front, only to end up burning one dish! Breakfast morphed into lunch, and it was 12:45 p.m. before we finally left.
Story continues at 26°N 107°E.