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the Degree Confluence Project
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China : Yúnnán ShÄ›ng

7.3 km (4.5 miles) N of Madian, Yúnnán, China
Approx. altitude: 2935 m (9629 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 26°S 77°W

Accuracy: 10 m (32 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: North #3: South #4: West #5: GPS #6: Flat Tire #7: Terraced Rice Fields #8: Ice VS Codie #9: Go Team #10: Wierd Erosion

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  26°N 103°E  

#1: East

(visited by Gary Overett, Beng Fang, Rocky Ou and Codie Shen)

17-Dec-2005 --

Getting There

It seems to me that Yunnan's confluences like playing hard to get. Yunnan has every thing to make a confluence hunt a true adventure. Some decent altitudes, bad roads and rough terrain. This confluence is just over 95k's from my house so I didn't think that it would present too much of a challenge. After all, I'd flown there several times in Google Earth and that didn't seem to hard! My new advice for Yunnan confluences is that you play it like golf. Try to get all of the driving out of the way first (preferably the day before) and leave yourself little more than a putt to score a hole in one.

As per usual I'd spent quite some time planning my attack from home base in Kunming. With the help of my Chinese friends from work in Kunming we hired a car for the day and tried to dig up as much local wisdom as possible. Unfortunately for us when a driver says, "Yes, I know how to get to THAT TOWN.", they really mean, "Sure I know its North of here and so I guess we just go North, Right?". Experience told me to allow a serious amount of time to get there even though it was just 95k's due North from Kunming. Some trip planning software showed that the route was just 140k's to get there. So even at 40kmph it should take just 3.5hours. My guess was 4 hours to get there.

As it turned out it took 8hours to get there and 8hours to get back! Thats without a single wrong turn! I spent some time in the car nervously watching my compass as it seemed that we were spending at least half the time heading south! The road is a series of winding dirt roads heading up and down the mountains. Gain 300m altitude, lose 250meters, gain, loose, gain and so on! The poor driver was already starting to regret taking the job as the whole 200k's was on dirt roads! Soon we were pushing the car over some gravel road works.

Soon after that we found that the car had a flat tire. Everybody including the driver seemed really worried at this point. Then I found out that I was the only person who'd changed a tire. Luckily, its not that hard and in no time at all we had a full team working to fix the tire. Of course, the new tire was also pretty flat but on dirt roads thats not really a problem.

No sooner was the tire fixed than we found ourselves stuck in the market of a small town for about 20minutes. We were making great progress at about 1kmph! On special today were Yunnan cigarette bongs, pig food, jewelry and pyjamas.

Next we found ourselves in the middle of a very beautiful setting of harvested dry terraced rice fields. A sign by the side of the road insisted that the current spot was the best place in China to take pictures, so we obliged. It really was very beautiful.

Still hoping that that would be the last delay we got stopped by a lollypop man. We waited in the car for some time expecting to see a group of school children crossing before being told it would be 15 minutes before we could go. So we got out and started to kick the ice off the bushes!

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After having our fill of fun we continued on quite a good road. Perhaps, it was good because it had just been made 15 minutes before. This is a very poor part of Yunnan which is a poor part of China. Most of the men have gone to the cities to work leaving mostly women to work on the roads. In some parts all female teams of women are working with heavy pick-axes on the road.

The Hike

Eventually we got to the mountain and parked just 2.5k's from the CF point. We start out at about 2600m above sea level. Initially we are on a flat road. From experience we stay on the flat as long as possible. Once you hit the mountain you don't want to have too much distance to go. Eventually, the point is to much to the left of the road to stay on the flat and we hit the mountain. We were actually very lucky on the mountain without having to double back very often and seldomly having to lose much altitude. The last section of the mountain is very steep and forces us to pretty much bash our way through the small pine trees. My Chinese friends, who are on their first confluence, are surprised at how long it takes to actually cover the last 400meters to the Confluence. Despite being able to move around an the mountain and having a high rated GPS signal I wasn't able to get the GPS to tell me I was within 10meters of the confluence. It kept jumping either side of it so I gave up and took the picture of the GPS. Then it was time for the required North, East, South and West pictures.

The point is near to the county border which is defined by the ridge at the top of the mountain at 2945meters. The other side of the mountain was covered in ice covered conifer's and so made a great (freeeeeezing!) photo opportunity for the team

Back Toward Home

The way down was so steep that walking down it took about as much energy as running down. Except that running down seemed more efficient for the distance we covered because you didn't need to keep catching yourself to slow yourself down. So we ran most of the way down the mountain, occasionally stopping to hand out some candy for the local children. The local farming practices seem to have taken their toll on the mountain and the erosion is really severe. We found ourselves running alongside this rather interesting gully. We took a different route back down which got us down the mountain pretty fast although it seemed we had come down to a different point on the road than where we started so we had to pull out the GPS again to work out which way we needed to go. Soon enough we were back at the car.

It seemed wiser to try to get to a nearby big town and then back to Kunming using the local highway. Chinese highways are usually very good. I'd asked to avoid that route on the way there because the town is at just 1200m and I was assuming the mountain pass would be slower than the direct route. As it turns out a new tarred road has been built to get down to 1200meters from a town near to the confluence. To get to the new road we had to go via the same lollypop man section as before. We were stopped for about 30 minutes before he said the road was clear to go. This was a dirty trick on his behalf because we really had to wait for another 45minutes to wait for a steam roller to clear the road! Unfortunately, our driver was so conservative down the mountain that we might as well have taken the same way home.

We then made it onto the highway and still the driver didn't speed up. Chinese express toll-ways rival the best roads in the world. However, I don't think our driver had gone faster than 50k's while driving in Kunming so she didn't break 70kmph on the way home. She applied the brakes for just about any reason at all. "Eek! A man by the side of the road, better slow down to 50." "Mmm, another sign saying to go 100kmph coming up ahead. I'd better slow down again!" I was quite ready to ask permission to drive us home!

In any case, a successful visit makes it all worth it. So having endured a good 16 hours on the road and 3 on the mountain I still fell asleep feeling pleased. With 3 new confluence hunters just having claimed this great confluence it was certainly all worth it.

Rating of this hunt:

Degree of Challenge: 5 (for the car) 2 (for the hike) - A really really long drive which ever way you take. It will be better soon when the road work has upgraded the dirt roads. (1 = very easy - drive to the point; to 5 = a death march - glad it is over)

Scenery: 4 - Large mountains, forest and great terraced farms (Scale: 1 = not interesting at all; 5 = take your breath away)

Culture-social factors: 3 - Great local villages show you the way people really live out there. Very poor area with very friendly people. (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)

Many more good pictures were taken on this trip. To see them go to www.giboryl.net


 All pictures
#1: East
#2: North
#3: South
#4: West
#5: GPS
#6: Flat Tire
#7: Terraced Rice Fields
#8: Ice VS Codie
#9: Go Team
#10: Wierd Erosion
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)