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the Degree Confluence Project
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China : Shǎnxī Shěng

1.9 km (1.2 miles) S of Zhaojiahe, Shǎnxī, China
Approx. altitude: 624 m (2047 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 33°S 74°W

Accuracy: 4 m (13 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: Looking south from the confluence #3: Looking east from the confluence #4: Looking south west the confluence #5: The area with the confluence located across the river on the low hill #6: GPS #7: Breakfast with my driver studying the map #8: Locals #9: Motor-tricycle taxi and my driver #10: Satellite Photo

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  33°N 106°E  

#1: Looking North with the Big Brown Bull sitting on the Confluence

(visited by Peter Snow Cao)

25-Oct-2003 -- I made a spur of the moment decision made a in the morning to try and visit two confluences in neighboring Shaanxi Province. These two are close to the railroad, so I can use my second favorite form of transportation after bicycling, and looked like I should be able to visit two in a day if my transportation connections synched properly. That is always a big "IF" in China. For the second Friday in a row, I bought hard sleeper ticket for about US$8 on the overnight 1486 train at 23:36 to Tianjin with my stop in Yangpingguan arriving at 6:49 AM.

The journey this time is not as peaceful as the last as there are a group of loud and chatty older folks heading home after an excursion in Sichuan. Their northern dialect is a sharp contrast to the southern Sichuan dialect I have grown accustomed to. About an hour after they start to wear out, but a baby a few compartments down decides to fill the void with astounding tenaciousness for such a small thing. I kept thinking that she must tire out after more than an hour, but instead continued unabated most of the night.

Arriving in Yangpingguan, only a handful of passengers get off at this sleepy village. There were the requisite gathering of buses and three-wheeled enclosed motorcycles. I go down to see what my options were for getting closer to the confluence point (CP). The GPS indicates it is 4.8 km away, but in this mountainous area, getting there can be far from straight forward. One of the maps I have shows the CP along a road to Zhaojiahe, so I ask about getting there. Nobody ever heard of it. Uh-oh, a bad sign. I bring out the map which draws considerable interest and the verdict is there are no buses going in that direction. I find this hard to believe, since buses can be found on virtually every road in China. My advisors tell me I have to take a motor-tricyle taxi. The town on the map is 18 km away, so I ask for a price. It is expensive, but the alternative of waiting may make me lose the opportunity to get to the second confluence near Hanzhong, so I agree.

But first some breakfast. A nearby stand has Lanzhou pulled noodles, one of my favorite dishes, so I tell the driver I am going to eat first. I make it rule to eat a good meal before tackling a confluence, because I never know how long it is going to take. My driver comes with me and studies my map while I eat. Two other locals come over to check out the foreigner, asking the usual questions and they agree to be photographed.

The road is bad, the shock absorbers nonexistent, and the ride is painful. We bump and bounce along at 10 km/hour as I watch the dawn break over the mountains. The town is beside a large river, and using the NASA satellite photos I have seen that the confluence is near a tributary. After an hour, I tell the driver I want to stop, seven kilometers short of the agreed upon destination. I tell him I am going to walk around a bit and then head back. He says he can wait, so I ask how much will it cost to go back. He tells me more than triple what we agreed on originally. I realize I got another clown who things I am his lottery ticket. I tell him to forget it, and just pay for the way there.

At this point I am 150 meters from the CP and the GPS arrow is pointing across the shallow river. I look for a bridge, but there is none even though there are houses on the other side. Following the road further I discover an ingenious construction. A 1-meter wide path has been built across the river using river stones with a sand top. The water continues through the porous wall and I am able to cross without getting my feet wet. The CP lies on the east bank of the river between two mud and straw houses with a big brown bull tied to a stake right at the CP.

After taking photos documenting the location, I head back to Yangpingguan, wading across the river instead of backtracking. On the way back I am running against the morning rush-hour traffic. I meet 12 bikes, 8 motorcycles, 5 trucks, 1 pushcart, 1 bus, and 1 car all leaving Yangpingguan and nothing going my way, so I walk the 11 km back to town. On the way back, there are a number of colorful birds like blue jays and white egrets flitting about. I also spot marijuana growing along the road, a sign that some Muslim Hui minority are in the area.

Details: Time: 08:34
Elevation: 603 meters
Accuracy: 4 meters

I christen this the The Big Brown Bull Confluence.

This story continues at 33N 107E.


 All pictures
#1: Looking North with the Big Brown Bull sitting on the Confluence
#2: Looking south from the confluence
#3: Looking east from the confluence
#4: Looking south west the confluence
#5: The area with the confluence located across the river on the low hill
#6: GPS
#7: Breakfast with my driver studying the map
#8: Locals
#9: Motor-tricycle taxi and my driver
#10: Satellite Photo
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)