16-Aug-2005 -- Story continues from 32°N 113°E.
Mon 15 Aug 2005 (Day 18, cont'd), 4:15 p.m. - As luck would have it, just as we make it back to the main road there's a bus going past heading west towards Xiangfan. We are able to flag it down, and are pleased to discover plenty of empty seats inside. Managing to catch this bus is quite fortunate, because it means we don't have to change buses in Zaoyang as originally envisaged. Instead, we just sail right on through Zaoyang and on to the prefecture capital Xiangfan.
6:30 p.m. - We arrive in Xiangfan, from where the confluence is only 14 kilometres west. The three-star Aeolus Hotel is conveniently situated next to the bus station, and we check in. After dumping our stuff in our room, we go out for a welcome bowl of Lanzhou lamian followed by a session at the Internet bar for me, and at the hairdresser for Ah Feng.
Later we meet up at a different Lanzhou lamian establishment for another bowl. The people who run this restaurant are from Qinghai Province, and they are very helpful. When we tell them that we want to go to the township of Nizui tomorrow morning, they explain the best way to get there: a no. 1 commuter bus followed by a no. 6 commuter bus.
Tue 16 Aug 2005 (Day 19), 7 a.m. - The Aeolus's complimentary breakfast is not much to write home about, like most other aspects of this disappointing hotel.
7:45 a.m. - We check out, and, following the instructions we received last night, walk the short distance to the train station, opposite which we find the starting point for the no. 1 commuter bus. We catch this as far as People's Square, then get off and change to the Nizui bus.
It's a nice sunny day, for a change. The Nizui bus is soon packed to the gunnels, and yet more passengers keep squeezing on. I am forced to sit in an extremely uncomfortable and cramped position over the engine block, hemmed in on all sides by other equally uncomfortable passengers. Ah Feng is nowhere to be seen, down the back of the bus somewhere.
9 a.m. - We disembark at the terminus in Nizui. The confluence is 2.56 kilometres south. From the southwestern outskirts of Nizui, we need to make our way down a valley, but the only likely looking road simply leads to the entrance of a cement factory. We keep walking west looking for another road heading south down the valley, but without success. Eventually we meet a woman on a bicycle and ask her the way, and she tells us we need to go through the cement factory in order to reach the valley behind.
So we walk back to the cement factory road and this time proceed through the gate. Sure enough, emerging from the other side is the road we have been looking for, which takes us south past a reservoir and on towards the confluence.
10:30 a.m. - With the confluence 375 metres ESE, we come across a path that leads up into the hills on our left. Immediately opposite, on the western side of the valley, there is a row of houses, separated from us by a number of rice paddies.
We leave the road and follow the path upwards until we are only 60 metres from the confluence. From this point onwards we have to fight our way, slowly and painfully, through many thorn bushes in order to reach the confluence, which is near the hilltop.
Getting all the zeroes takes a surprisingly long time, despite the fact that we are getting six-metre accuracy. We take photos facing north, south, east and west from the spot, as well a close-up of an attractive hawthorn bush.
Being so close to the summit, we decide to continue upwards rather than run the 60-metre gauntlet of thorn bushes again. The top of the hill turns out to be relatively flat, and, as we hoped, there's a trail running along the crest. We follow the trail northwards and are soon rewarded by some excellent views of the row of houses across the valley to our west, and the cement factory and Nizui to the north.
Story continues at 33°N 111°E.