19-Jun-2006 -- Story continues from 27°N 108°E.
We arrived in Xīnqiáo (新桥) on the back of the tractor truck at 11:05 a.m., and at 11:40 a.m. caught a passing bus back to Huángpíng (黄平县). It was standing room only. Fifteen minutes later, all standing passengers, as well as all those sitting on unofficial seats, were ordered off the bus by the ticket seller, who waited on the roadside with us while the bus continued on with a legal complement of passengers past a police checkpoint. It turned out to be a false alarm however, as a short while later the bus reappeared with everyone still on board, and we joined them and continued on our way, arriving in Huángpíng at 12:20 p.m.
The next bus WSW to the provincial capital Guìyáng (贵阳) did not depart until 3 p.m., so we went off in search of some lunch. After lunch, we went back to the hotel to collect the rest of our belongings, and to change into more comfortable shoes. Ah Feng bought yet another new backpack - the one she'd bought a few days before had proven to be of very poor quality. She immediately took her new backpack to a roadside shoe repairman to get it reinforced. The repairman managed to do the necessary stitching while simultaneously cradling a young boy in his arms, who remained fast asleep throughout the entire operation. We also bought another memory card to accommodate our ever growing collection of photos.
We got back to the bus station with plenty of time to spare, and sat and watched the passing parade of people, which included some women wearing brightly coloured traditional minority nationality costumes.
The bus to Guìyáng left on time at 3 p.m. It went all the way back to the prefecture capital Kǎilǐ (凯里市), which we were hoping it wouldn't, given the appalling state of the road, and then the rest of the way along the freeway, from Kǎilǐ to Guìyáng. We arrived in Guìyáng at 7:45 p.m.
As one would expect, the provincial capital Guìyáng has a number of different bus stations. Once we established which bus station we needed to go to in order to get a bus NNE to Kāiyáng County (开阳县), we took a taxi there. At that bus station we learned that there were no more buses that evening, but that the first one the next morning left at 7 a.m. Still in the same taxi, we continued on to the relatively nearby Qiánlíng Grand Hotel (黔灵大酒店), which offered a comfortable night at a reasonable price.
Monday 19 June 2006 (Day 20)
We awoke to the alarm at 5:30 a.m., checked out of the hotel at 6:30 a.m., then took a taxi the short distance to the bus station, which proved just as well, because we got the final two tickets on the 7 a.m. bus to Kāiyáng, which left as soon as we boarded, at 6:40 a.m. We had no time for breakfast.
Although the bus was filled to its legal capacity, this didn't prevent it from stopping along the freeway to pick up more passengers, who had to sit on tiny little plastic stools in the aisle.
We arrived in Kāiyáng at 8:35 a.m., and immediately found a bus ESE to the town of Nánlóng (南龙乡), due to depart at 8:50 a.m. The confluence was 8.14 kilometres SSE. Ah Feng bought two delicious takeaway bowls of noodles in soup, which we ate on the bus. It was a trawler bus, and was soon cram packed with peasants and their baggage.
We travelled along a very good, wide, sealed road, arriving in the village of Dǐngfāng (顶方) at 9:15 a.m., where we got off. The confluence was 2.8 kilometres south of Dǐngfāng. The sun was shining.
We left our luggage at a shop where we bought some bottled water for the hike ahead. The shopkeeper remembered Rainer's visit from a couple of years before. She asked if that had been me! All foreigners look the same to Chinese.
The shopkeeper pointed us to the concrete road that Rainer had taken, and we set off at 9:30 a.m. On the way we passed a couple with a bullock cart, and not much further along, we saw some experimental crops being grown off to the right of the road. This was just before we reached the village of Guānzhuāng (关庄).
We walked through Guānzhuāng and reached the end of the concrete road, with the confluence 1.75 kilometres south. As we continued on along a walking path, some dark clouds gathered overhead, and we hoped it wouldn't rain.
At 10 a.m. we had a convenience stop in a nice quiet pine forest, with the confluence 1.4 kilometres south, and surmised that this must have been where Rainer had hidden his bicycle and belongings.
A short while later, with the confluence 1.2 kilometres south, we came upon a muddy vehicle track of sorts, and it wasn't immediately obvious whether we should turn left or right. We tried following it to the left for a short distance, but it seemed to be going in the wrong direction, so we turned around and followed it to the right. This proved to be correct, because before long the trail that we had been following reappeared, heading off into the forest on our left.
At 10:20 a.m., with the confluence 957 metres south, we emerged from the forest onto a really good dirt road that ran along the edge of a large valley with fields and houses and people. This was Báiní Village (白泥村). We followed the road to the right until the confluence was 600 metres SSE, then headed down a well-used path leading off to our left.
This path went down, down, down, to the bottom of the valley, where we left it and followed a smaller trail, once again leading off to the left, which crossed a stream via a few stepping stones. The confluence was now 250 metres ESE.
As we followed the trail up the opposite bank, we soon came upon two small rice paddies. From here, the trail continued up a much smaller valley, in the direction of the confluence.
It was a good trail, easy to follow, but as we neared the confluence, we were hampered by satellite problems. We were locked onto four satellites, but they were all in a straight line, so our GPSs refused to give any reading. It was time for another convenience stop, while we waited for the satellites to realign themselves.
When we finally got a reading, we realised that the confluence was about 50 metres to our right, up a relatively steep slope. We dragged ourselves up this slope, and soon emerged at the flat crest, on a decent path, right at the confluence point, and now with excellent satellite reception. We took the obligatory photos: north, south, east and west, then followed the path, which led back to the trail we'd followed up the little valley.
We retraced our steps to the good dirt road in Báiní Village, then followed this back as far as Guānzhuāng, at which point it veered off to the east, most likely to link up with the main road. We followed a short side track to our left that connected the dirt road to the concrete road. For the benefit of future visitors, this side track leaves the concrete road just where the concrete road enters the village of Guānzhuāng, and the confluence is 2.05 kilometres south.
Story continues at 27°N 106°E.