13-Aug-2005 -- Story continues from 30°N 112°E.
Sat 13 Aug 2005 (Day 16, cont'd), 8 a.m. - Back at the excellent family-run hotel in Shizikou, we gather our things and check out, then go and wait for a bus on the main road. After a wait of about 20 minutes, a bus comes by headed for the county capital of Gong'an, and we get on board.
10 a.m. - Arriving in Gong'an, we notice a large sleeper bus that includes Jingmen among its various destinations. We check with the driver, who says he will leave in one hour, so we go into the station to buy our tickets. However the driver follows us in, and while we're standing in the queue, asks us if time is of the essence. This seems a strange question. He then explains that, although he will leave at 11 a.m., he will not arrive in Jingmen until 3 p.m., and that if we want to get to Jingmen more quickly, we would be better off to get a bus to Shashi, the prefecture capital, and then transfer to a Jingmen bus there.
This is very helpful advice, and we do as he suggests, boarding a Shashi bus just preparing to depart. Three quarters of an hour later we are in Shashi, capital of Jingzhou Prefecture, where we immediately transfer to a bus (this one unfortunately not air-conditioned) heading north to Jingmen, capital of adjoining Jingmen Prefecture.
12:30 p.m. - We arrive in Jingmen. During the journey, I have explained to the driver that from here we want to get to Zhanghe Township, on the south bank of the enormous Zhanghe Reservoir, so he drops us off at a commuter bus stop, and instructs us to take bus no. 4. It's only a matter of minutes before a no.4 commuter bus comes along, and we're on the move once again.
1 p.m. - We arrive in Zhanghe, with the confluence just 8.7 kilometres NW. There isn't an awful lot going on in Zhanghe right now, probably because it's the middle of a very hot day, and most sane people are inside in the air-conditioning, having a siesta. After a bit of searching, we finally find a restaurant that's open for business, and order our lunch. It's nice to sit down in something other than a bus seat for a change!
2:15 p.m. - We hire a three-wheeler to take us along the road that roughly follows the south-western bank of the reservoir towards the confluence. Along the way we pass a sign advertising various recreational activities connected with the reservoir. Beyond the sign are some attractive rows of tea plants.
The road winds to and fro, making it difficult to know exactly when we've reached its closest approach to the confluence. We pass within half a kilometre of the confluence on two occasions, then the road heads off to the west and it looks like we're not going to get any closer, so we ask the driver to stop and let us off.
2:50 p.m. - The confluence is now 660 metres ENE. We walk back along the road a short distance until we come to a reasonably good vehicle track heading into the forest in roughly the right direction. We follow this for about 200 metres until it ends at a couple of farmhouses.
The route from here is not clear. There is a large pond blocking our way. We first try walking around the right side of it, but there is no path, so we head back the other way, past the farmhouses and their less than friendly dogs, and this time successfully circumnavigate it.
3:30 p.m. - We are now faced with some serious forest with lots of thorn bushes. I am wearing shorts and sandals, and there is already plenty of blood to show for my efforts, so we stop while I change into my jeans and boots--not the most comfortable clothing for such a hot day, but they do prevent further bloodletting. The confluence is 295 metres ENE.
Ten minutes later we break through the forest and emerge onto the bank of the reservoir, the confluence now a tantalising 250 metres ENE. From here the going is considerably easier, as we follow the bank of the reservoir around. We have to walk much much further than the 250 metres straight-line distance though, because there are three quite large bays to get around.
4:05 p.m. - Eventually we have the confluence in our sights, near the end of a narrow peninsular that extends northwards into the reservoir. The point itself is located just a couple of metres into the forest, so I elect to take the photos facing north, south, east and west from the adjacent open area, in order to reveal the true beauty of this confluence.
On the way back, we find a trail that leads us, with a minimum of effort, to a farmhouse, and then from here we follow a vehicle track back to the main road. This is the sensible place from which to approach this confluence. The track leaves the main road 485 metres due south of the confluence, and I've included a photo of the turnoff for the benefit of subsequent visitors.
Story continues at 31°N 113°E.