10-Jun-2006 -- Story continues from 29°N 108°E.
We were told there would be a bus SSW to the township of Zhuóshuǐ (浞水镇) coming through at any time between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. After a long wait, the bus finally arrived at 7 p.m., much to Ah Feng's relief. Zhuóshuǐ held out the prospect of a long overdue hot shower.
Relief turned to despair, however, when we arrived in Zhuóshuǐ, only to discover that the entire town's water supply had been cut due to some unknown reason. Still, we were able to go for a very enjoyable hair wash that included an hour-long full-body massage, all for just 20 yuan (US$ 2.50) - just what we needed after the day's long hike.
Friday 9 June 2006 (Day 10)
At 7 a.m. we emerged from the fetid guesthouse, which reeked of an entire night's unflushed communal toilets. We secured seats on the 7:30 a.m. bus south to the county capital of Wùchuān (务川县), leaving time for a bowl of noodles each at a nearby restaurant.
We arrived in Wùchuān at 10:40 a.m., and immediately got onto a Zūnyì (遵义市) bus due to depart at 11:30 a.m. This allowed sufficient time for lunch in one of the station's small restaurants, ahead of the long journey.
Zūnyì is a large city - the prefecture capital - and is located some considerable distance SW of Wùchuān. It was shortly before 5 p.m. when we finally arrived. We checked into what seemed to us, given our previous two nights' miserable accommodation, the ultra luxurious, newly opened, Victoria Hotel, just across the street from the bus station. The room rate was 235 yuan (US$ 29) per night, including complimentary breakfast. Ah Feng worked out that, on a monthly basis, this amounted to only slightly more than the rent we pay for our Hong Kong unit. Was she trying to tell me something?
We couldn't wait to get under the hot shower, our first in over 48 hours! We did some clothes washing, giving some more difficult items (jeans, etc.) to the hotel to wash at exorbitant rates, then went out for some dinner.
Saturday 10 June 2006 (Day 11)
We went downstairs for our complimentary buffet breakfast shortly after 7 a.m., and set off in a taxi for the Máocǎopū Bus Station (茅草铺车站) at 8 a.m. Five minutes later we were there, and hopped straight onto a bus that was just emerging from the station, bound for Suíyáng County (绥阳县) to the NE. We were the only two passengers!
It was a very foggy morning, and visibility was no more than 100 metres most of the way to Púcháng Township (蒲场镇), although the sun was trying to make its presence felt. We got off the bus in Púcháng just before 9 a.m.
We asked a taxi driver how much to the Hòushuǐhé Reservoir (后水河水库). He said 80 yuan (US$ 10), and we said no thanks. He suggested we take a motorbike instead. While I went off in search of a toilet, Ah Feng found a motorcyclist, and negotiated a ride for 20 yuan (US$ 2.50).
We set off at 9 a.m. for the half-hour ride to the dam. It turned out that the road to the dam left the highway a couple of kilometres back towards Zūnyì, near a village called Gāofāngzǐ (高坊子). It was a very good dirt/gravel road that first wound its way through the hills, then followed a small river along a pretty valley. The fog lifted, the sun finally broke through, and the beautiful scenery was fully revealed. It was the first time in nine days that we'd seen the sun in all its glory, so we were in great spirits.
The confluence was 2.55 kilometres NW of the dam. Our next objective was to find a boat. The dam area appeared deserted, however there was one lone dinghy with an outboard motor tied up nearby. Our motorcyclist, who was very friendly and helpful, guessed it belonged to the dam authority, and promptly rode off to find the persons responsible.
A short while later he reappeared with two passengers: Cáo Fújiàn (曹福建) and Yuán Chāngchāng (袁昌昌). They said that the standard rate for hiring the boat, as mandated by the dam authority, was 50 yuan (US$ 6.25), and that for an additional 20 yuan (US$ 2.50) they would wait for us while we hunted for the confluence, then bring us back. We agreed and set off at 10 a.m.
The boat ride up the reservoir was very quick. Five minutes later we disembarked at a small inlet, with the confluence just 353 metres SSW.
We walked back along the edge of the reservoir until the confluence was 130 metres WSW, which was its closest point to the water, then headed uphill into the forest, fighting thorn bushes eager to leave their mark, and struggling over or under vines that did their best to wrap themselves around us and tie us in knots. There were even vines with thorns on them, which were the worst!
The slope was extremely steep, and progress very slow, as we painstakingly dragged ourselves ever upwards. Finally we reached the top of the hill, from where the going became much easier. The confluence was about 50 metres down the other side, which wasn't nearly so steep. From the confluence point, there wasn't much but forest to see in any direction: north, south, east or west.
Returning to the reservoir and our waiting boat was just as difficult as the climb up. At one point we found ourselves marooned on a large rocky outcrop with a long sheer drop below us, and had to expend a lot of energy climbing back up again to circumnavigate this obstacle.
We finally got back to the boat at noon. The dam employees seemed a bit agitated at having to wait so long. It turned out that their agitation stemmed from their eagerness to get back to the company canteen for lunch, which they invited us to share with them. It was very good... and free!
After lunch, Yuán Chāngchāng helped us find a motorcyclist to take us back to the main road for only 15 yuan (US$ 1.88). We arrived at the main road at 1:15 p.m., and were able to immediately hop onto a Zūnyì bus, getting back to the Máocǎopū Bus Station just before 2 p.m., from where we took a taxi back to our hotel.
Total elapsed time for this confluence visit: six hours.
Story continues at 28°N 108°E.