08-Jul-2012 -- Story continues from 39°N 111°E.
I have a ticket on the 7:30 am bus south to Xīngxiàn (兴县), where I should be able to transfer to another bus further south to Línxiàn (临县). Shortly before 7:30 am, a minivan arrives at the bus station to pick me up, and take me to the Xīngxiàn bus, which is parked several blocks away, and is already full! Because I bought an official ticket at the bus station, the driver ensures that a prime seat with a modicum of leg room is vacated for me.
This bus is something rarely seen in China these days. It is more reminiscent of the way things operated five or ten years ago. It is absolutely packed to the gunnels with people of all ages - babies, children, adults and the elderly - all their luggage, and a pet rabbit. The whole lot are squashed in like sardines, with every conceivable spot utilised for seating. The remainder of the passengers, for whom no seating is available, are standing, wedged into position by their sheer numbers.
The reason for the minivan pick-up, and the bus being loaded up several blocks from the bus station, is obvious. This bus would never pass muster at the station!
The bus travels very slowly, because the slightest bump in the road elicits a chorus of groans from the mass of humanity plus rabbit, which sway to and fro as one amorphous blob. Fortunately there is not much traffic on this road, however the bus stops frequently to pick up or set down passengers.
When we get to within a few kilometres of Xīngxiàn, we encounter another traffic jam of coal trucks, just like the final few kilometres into Shénchí (神池县) yesterday. We eventually reach the bus station at around 11:30 am.
If Xīngxiàn has anything going for it, it’s the public toilet at the bus station, which is immaculate—one of the best bus station toilets I’ve seen in China. After using it, I join a couple of tables of bus station employees eating their lunch, and have a bowl of Shanxi knife-shaved noodles (Shānxī dāoxiāomiàn 山西刀削面).
At 12:30 pm, I board a Líshí (离石市) bus for the journey south to Línxiàn . This is a normal, civilised bus, where everyone gets a seat.
About half an hour before we get to Línxiàn, it starts raining. I get off the bus at the side street that leads to the confluence. The confluence is 230 m southeast of the main road. Under the shelter of a tree, I put on my raincoat, then head off down the side street.
Near the end of the street is an ornate doorway, after which the road narrows and climbs up towards the confluence. I leave my backpack in the shelter of another doorway further up the road. Just near the confluence, there appear to be a couple of suspicious-looking plants growing.
The confluence is either in, or beside, a vacant henhouse, next to a small field of pine tree seedlings, and a larger cornfield. The point keeps moving all over the place, sometimes inside the henhouse, and sometimes outside, making getting a good GPS reading problematical. Photographing the GPS is further hampered by the need to juggle the GPS, camera and an umbrella in the rain. I take the shots to the north, south, east and west from just outside the henhouse.
With the point documented, I walk back to the main road, turn left, and continue a short distance to the entrance to an expressway, where I am soon able to board a passing Tàiyuán (太原市) bus. Once settled on board, I ring Ctrip and book a flight back to Shēnzhèn (深圳市) tomorrow morning. I am looking forward to getting home to Hong Kong to see my wife and son again.
And so ends another satisfying confluence trip. The objective has been achieved: 14 out of 14 Shānxī (山西省) confluences successfully visited. Very good confluencing weather was enjoyed throughout, with all but the very last point done in dry conditions. A very big “thank you” to Peter Cao for his help and company on the first seven visits of this trip.