07-Aug-2005 -- Story continues from 31°N 119°E.
Sat 6 Aug 2005 (Day 9, cont'd), 5:30 p.m. - It's after 5 p.m. when we arrive back in Honglin Township in our minivan, and the last bus back to Xuancheng has already departed, so we negotiate with the minivan driver to take us there instead.
6:10 p.m. - We arrive at the Xuancheng Railway Station, and I leave Ah Feng in the minivan while I go up to the ticket counter to enquire about trains SW to our next destination. When I ask the ticket seller if there's a train to Yi County, she simply turns around and points at a train sitting on the platform. This is cutting things fine! I quickly buy two tickets, then race back to the minivan, pay off the driver, grab our stuff, and we make a dash for the train.
6:13 p.m. - The train pulls away literally seconds after we climb on board. Despite our "no seat" tickets, it does not take us long to find seats, and at last we can finally relax. It has been a long, gruelling day, with atrocious weather, but we feel very satisfied to have bagged two confluences.
We realise that we've eaten nothing substantial all day, so after a while we leave our seats in the hard seat compartment and make our way to the dining car to enjoy some overpriced train food. When we finish eating, no one seems in a hurry to kick us out, so we stay there for the remainder of the journey. Conditions are considerably better than in the crowded hard seat compartment.
There's a flurry of excitement about an hour before our arrival in Yi County. Apparently, during a fight between some men in one of the other carriages, a girl has been accidentally knocked unconscious by a wayward blow. The pale, lifeless body is brought to the relative comfort of the dining car to recover. In fact, it takes a few minutes of careful observation from my vantage point several tables away before I can satisfy myself that she really is still alive.
10:40 p.m. - The Yi County Railway Station (which is actually at a place called Yuting) is pretty small, so small in fact that, when the train comes to a halt, the dining car is still a long way from the platform. We have to make a giant leap, together with our large backpacks, in order to get off. We then need to wander through the scrub in the dark to reach the platform. Chinese train journeys invariably result in adventures of one kind or another, and this one has been no exception. Fortunately it isn't raining.
We get a minivan taxi to the county capital, some 13 kilometres north, and check into what is supposed to be a modest hotel, only to find we have a palatial room--a complex of rooms really--complete with a separate mah-jong annex, and a bathroom that's bigger than our entire hotel room was in Hefei the night before! Still, the price befits a modest hotel, so we are not complaining.
Sun 7 Aug 2005 (Day 10), 8 a.m. - We finally drag ourselves out of bed, only to be welcomed by yet another rainy day. We both have colds now.
8:25 a.m. - We venture out and stock up on supplies, then find a ubiquitous Lanzhou lamian restaurant for breakfast.
9 a.m. - We catch one of the many buses to the tourist destination of Hongcun Township, 10 kilometres NE. The confluence is 1.8 kilometres ESE of Hongcun.
After a few false starts, we manage to bypass the heavily touristed Hong Village and find the correct road to the village of Fengdengdui. It's a nice walk, passing by several genuine examples of old buildings, such as this one that still has the faded characters for "Long live Chairman Mao" visible above the door.
In Fengdengdui, there are logs being hauled by horsepower, and bamboo by more modern means. With the confluence roughly 500 metres north, we leave the road and follow a path up between a number of houses and onto the mountain. Although it's raining lightly the entire time, conditions are far more pleasant than the previous day, when there was a blustery wind to contend with as well as the rain.
We make our way through a variety of attractive vegetation: tea, corn, bamboo, sesame and so on, and eventually find the confluence in a small, narrow field that's been left to fallow. It's necessary to do battle with the scrub growing from the slope delineating the north-eastern corner of the field in order to get all the zeroes. We take the customary photos facing north, south, east and west.
It is interesting to note that this is the highest of Anhui's 13 confluences, with an approximate altitude of 363 metres according to the DCP (our GPS says 356 metres). In relative terms, it towers above its nearest rival, 30°N 117°E, at 183 metres, which is where we are headed next.
Story continues at 30°N 117°E.