12-Oct-2004 -- From Hamburg, Germany, my family visited my brother in law family who is currently living in Shanghai, China. From there we wanted to combine the search for a confluence with a sightseeing tour to the city of Hangzhou. Other local friends, Geeske and Murray Venance, were so kind to arrange that Ms. Julie Zhou, Chinese citizen, helped us as a translator.
We met at Shanghai south station and after lengthy negotiations we started around 10:30 in a mini van with a group of seven: Philine (5yrs), Philipp (9yrs), Birgitt (me) and Thomas Schmedding. Mr. Xu Qiu Chao, Mr. Sheng Yong, the Chinese drivers and Julie were also part of our group.
At 13:00 we checked in at the hotel in Hangzhou, a city which is absolutely worth a visit, and headed off for the confluence. At first we didn’t manage to buy a local roadmap because it was sold out in a incredibly huge bookshop. Then the drivers drove mistakenly up northeast instead of southeast. During lunch in a restaurant beside the highway, which was surprisingly good as well as cheap, my husband Thomas started the GPS to check the position. Apparently we were at a completely different highway then the drivers told us. It turned out that the German map had wrong longitude and latitude readings. But the Chinese map, with a scale of 1:70,000, was 100% correct. Therefore I had to navigate our explorer team with two maps: One for the names and one for the topology.
Somewhat late we left the Hangzhou-area at 15:00. We approached 30°N 121°E with the following repetitive procedure: Thomas called out position as well as bearing and distance to the confluence. I marked that information on the maps. Then we discussed where to drive next. Julie translated this to the drivers and from time to time they asked locals how to get there. In that manner we came from the highway to wide roads to narrow roads to tracks without pavement.
After a while Julie told us the drivers were quite unsure about us. They didn’t understand what we wanted to do and asked Julie if we were possibly western spies camouflaged as a family. Additionally we hadn’t fixed the price for the whole journey to the spot and back to Hangzhou. So moving forward to the spot we had a little bit of a tension in the van.
Then Thomas got nervous because of the rising hills in the area and being so late. I said I’m not willing to give up after a 6000km trip and the confluence some 10km ahead of us.
In a range of approximately 5km from the spot an old Chinese lady was blocking the road with bundles of bamboo sticks. She may have wanted to make money from all passers by. Thomas got out of the car and started to put away the bundles, but the drivers stopped him immediately. Instead we had to fill two deep potholes in the road to allow the car pass beside the bamboo-bundles. However we managed that problem and got very near to our destination.
Everybody in the car now understood our mission and we were really excited to be so close. About 800m to the spot we had to pass a simple factory producing clay bricks. Many poor people with children were working there. We had to stop the car at a dead end of the road right in front of a very small village. There we were almost 300m away from the confluence. With the GPS guiding us through undergrowth we finally reached it at 17:15. Big hello and yahoo. All of us were happy. My son Philipp got the exact point making the GPS reading zero minutes.
On the way back we stopped by brick factory workers, who had fun having their pictures taken with Philine and Philipp. The above mentioned potholes were empty again, so we had to look for stones and stuff to fill them again.
At 20:30, tired and happy, we reached the hotel in Hangzhou. After an emotional farewell Julie and the drivers headed for Shanghai.
We would like to thank:
Xu Qiu Chao
Steffi and Tobias Schmedding
Geeske and Murray Venance