26-Jul-2012 -- This is the 17th out of 20 confluence points that I reached on a bicycle trip to the North-East of China. The narrative of the trip starts from 41°N 117°E.
This remote confluence point was surely the most exciting one of the whole trip. It is located in the middle of a huge, mountainous forest with very little human made infrastructure. I predict that if I hadn’t visited the point yet, it would have remained unvisited for quite a while. Although very difficult to reach, I wanted to make an attempt to finish my series of confluences on the 48th degree latitude.
For the attempt, I stayed in the nearest town called Xīnqīng (新青区), which is 50 km north-west in straight distance from the confluence, but 100 km on the network of forest tracks. Since I didn’t rely on the possibility to find a restaurant on my way, I brought along food and water for a day. The critical point was that I couldn’t expect to find any place to stay in the area, and I wasn’t carrying a tent. So there was some uncertainty how that adventure would end up.
In the morning I got up at 2:18 AM and started cycling after having a self-prepared breakfast in my hotel room at 3:15 AM – already at that moment dawn was coming. The particularly early start would give me some flexibility in the evening for reaching a place to stay. The ride began as planned and using some waypoints I found my way through the labyrinth of forest tracks. To my surprise, there was a village on my way where I could even get some food. The village is called
Shuǐyuán (水源), which means freshwater. When I reached the village at 6:30 AM, I wanted to use this opportunity to have some good breakfast. There was only one restaurant and when I entered it, the owner was still sleeping. But she was willing to serve me some dumplings (Jiaozi). When I told her that I wanted to go deeper in the forest, she warned me that the weather forecast was predicting heavy rain and suggested that I should stay here for one or two days. Well, it was still early and not raining, so I thought I should give it a try.
Right after having breakfast, rain indeed started and the road degraded. At 8:30 AM I had reached the turnoff to the confluence. Now it was another 15 km beeline on an extremely rough forest track. The rain worsened the road conditions. I had to ride almost constantly in either deep water puddles or slow-going soft sand. At a distance of 7.5 km (exactly half-way), I suddenly had a flat tire. Normally I can handle that well, but in this case it turned out to be very difficult to repair. There was no place I could shelter myself and dry the glue before attaching the patch. I used my raincoat as a tent to protect the tube from the rain. But whatever I did, it wouldn’t dry. I tried several times, but somehow a drop of rain moistened the tube. I was already quite desperate, because if I wouldn’t be able to repair it, it would be a long way of walking until I would reach human infrastructure again. The third attempt however was successful. But after I had pumped up the tire, the vault wouldn’t hold the pressure anymore. I pumped it up a second time, but the air came out again. This was a desperate situation, since I just had left my spare tire behind. I cleaned the vault carefully and then the third attempt of pumping up the tire was successful.
At a distance of 900 m, I had reached the nearest point on a track. This place was in a hairpin bend of the winding track. I hid my bike in the forest and started to hike straight to the point. The hike turned out to be extremely difficult, due to the dense vegetation and the soft, water soaked ground. But I also got wet from the top due to the rain. All above, mosquitoes were waiting for an opportunity to soak some blood. Soon, the density of the shrubs increased and I was hardly able to make any progress. At a distance of 260 m I was almost ready to give up. But then I found a way out, progressed a little and then got stuck again in the slings of tendrils.
After all I made it to the exact location, which was as expected in dense forest. But 10 m from the confluence there is a little clearing (the only clearing on my hike!). There I took the pictures of the cardinal directions.
On the way back, there were some more surprises waiting for me. First, I noticed that my batteries of the GPS receiver were out of power. In all the excitement, I had left the spare batteries on the bicycle. Without the help of GPS, it would be very difficult to find my bicycle near that hairpin curve. Moreover, there was the danger that I miss the track at all or even walk in circles! There was no sun out to get orientated and the average view in the forest was about 20 m! I shut the GPS receiver down and let the batteries recover. After a walk of 150 m, I turned the device on for a second, got direction and shut it down again. Repeating this for 6 times, I safely reached my bike. The second surprise came after I had reached the road. The strong rain had turned it into a “mud-collector” surface, where more and more mud gets attached to the tires until they don’t turn anymore. Riding on such a surface is impossible. So I had to either carry the bike including the luggage or ride in the ditch’s sward. This was extremely slow-going and required patience. I also got into one of the heaviest thunderstorms that I ever experienced (luckily just in the moment when I reached sealed surface). Just at dusk, I reached the town Hèběi (鹤北镇), after a very long day. Here, it turned out that I was the first foreigner to stay in this hotel. The hotel manager got very excited about having me and arranged some spontaneous party with photo session. This activity was not really in my mind, I was craving for a bed…
CP visit details:
- Distance to an asphalt (or concrete) road: 20 km
- Distance to a track: 890 m
- Distance to a footpath: 890 m
- Duration of the hike to reach the CP: 45 minutes
- Distance of bicycle parking: 890 m
- Distance to houses: 21 km
- Time at the CP: 12:00 noon
- Measured height: 504 m
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 0 m
- Position accuracy at the CP: 8 m
- Topography: hilly terrain
- Vegetation: mixed forest of birch trees, poplar trees, maple, ground covered with high grass and leaf tendril
- Weather: rain, 20° C (felt temperature)
- Given Name: The Remote Flat Tyre Confluence
Story continues at 47°N 130°E.