03-Jul-2008 -- Story continues from 35°N 112°E.
We are fortunate enough to get a lift back to Xīn'ān with a couple of businessmen from Zhèjiāng Province (浙江省), who drive by in their minivan and see us waiting in the cool breeze by the side of the road. We ask them to drop us off at the freeway tollgate, hoping that we can catch a bus west to Sānménxiá City (三门峡市) from here. But after about an hour of fruitless waiting in the hot sun, we eventually give up, and take a taxi to the train station, where we buy tickets on the 3:56 p.m. train to Sānménxiá, giving us time to relax and enjoy a late lunch before it leaves.
Our train tickets are wúzuò (无坐), meaning "no seat", and we are relegated to standing the whole way. Fortunately it's not a long journey. But the train arrives late, and by the time we disembark and find our way to Sānménxiá's long-distance bus station, it's already after 6 p.m., and the last bus south to Lúshì County (卢氏县) has just left.
There are several other people who also want to go to Lúshì, however, and the extremely helpful woman behind the ticket window miraculously arranges for the bus, now several blocks away, to stop and wait, while we are all ferried to it by car.
We arrive quite late in Lúshì, around 9 p.m. A helpful local points us in the direction of the Lúshì Guesthouse, which is a brand new, really nice hotel, with excellent service that one would expect in a five-star hotel. We ask to look at the cheapest room available, which at 188 yuan (US$ 27), is amazing value for money. The room even has its own electronic mahjong table! It all seems too good to be true.
There's a knock on the door, and the porter informs us that "there's a problem". We're told to remain in the room, and await the arrival of the police. I know immediately what the "problem" is: Lúshì must be a closed county for foreigners.
After a short wait of 10 or 15 minutes, two policemen from the "aliens" department of the public security bureau arrive, and we go through the usual round of questioning: from where have you come; what are you doing here (always a tough one); where are you going next; etc. My Hong Kong permanent ID card and my Chinese wife both seem to count in my favour however - the police describing me as "half Chinese" - and we are spared the usual search of our belongings.
The policeman doing most of the talking says: "Lúshì is a closed county... but you didn't know that". In similar situations, that is usually my line, and it never counts for anything! But surprisingly, the police simply tell us to leave the county first thing in the morning, and to not go anywhere in the meantime. My theory that there must be some edict to be nice to foreigners in the lead-up to the Běijīng Olympics gets another boost.
The next morning, we eat our complimentary breakfast (excellent), and check out early, before 8 a.m. Out on the street, with a very great deal of trepidation on my part, we engage a taxi to take us to the confluence, which is only about 7 km SW.
It's extremely easy to find. We park in Xiàliǔ Village (下柳村), 80 m north of the point, then find our way through a majestic entranceway into the courtyard of a house, walk past the front door, and reach the point, situated between buildings to the north and south, and the rear garden to the west. The front door is back towards the east, where two children have appeared, to see what the crazy foreigner is doing.
This is the perfect setting for a confluence, lending itself to stopping and chatting with the locals, taking lots of interesting photos, etc., but my heart has been racing all morning, knowing that we are not exactly acting in strict accordance with the police instructions, and all I can think about, after snapping the GPS and the four cardinal directions, is to get to the bus station and on a bus out of Lúshì County as soon as possible.
As we prepare to leave, I notice that the no. 8 commuter bus goes right past where we are parked in Xiàliǔ Village - a useful tip for any future (non-foreign) visitors.
When we get to Lúshì's bus station, we find we must wait an hour and a half before our bus bound for Nányáng City (南阳市) will depart. I am immensely relieved when we are finally on it, and on our way out of Lúshì.
Story continues at 33°N 112°E.