26-Aug-2001 -- Having discovered The Confluence Project through a mention in "The Washington Post" I thought that being the first to visit a confluence would be a great geography lesson for my seven year old daughter.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon the whole family left our home in Beijing where Mom and Dad work at the US Embassy. After a drive of approximately one hour along some typical Chinese excuses for highways we arrived at the confluence of N40 116E.
The village of Xiaweidian, China is within the Municipal boundaries of the city of Beijing but this does not mean that it is an urban area. in fact, Xiaweidian is far out in the country about 24 road miles from Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City at the center of Beijing.
According to the website, the confluence should have been 1.4 Km east of Xiaweidian. Imagine our surprise when we found the the confluence was actually at the edge of the village! As I walked to where the GPS led me I thought that things would be very easy. WRONG! The first obstacle arose at the closed gate of an abandoned housing area for employees of an electric power sub-station on whose land the confluence actually sits (Photo 1). The gate itself is actually at 40N but is about 200 Meters from 116E.
I still thought that the confluence might be on the grounds of the housing area so, after making sure that nobody resided there, I opened the gate and walked to the opposite end of the complex. In a cul-de-sac filled with loose pieces of coal and coal dust and directly in front of me I met the enemy, a 3.5 meter stone and brick retaining wall that was keeping a cliffside of loose rocks and dangerous debris from sliding into the power sub-station and the housing area. To top that off, the power company has erected a rusty, barbed-wire fence that runs up the entire cliffside from top to bottom, making access to 40N 116E extremely hazardous to one's health. (photo 3) The frustrating thing is that at the base of the retaining wall I think that I was only about 100 meters from the confluence (photo 4).
The sheer face of the cliff can be seen in photo 1. I believe the actual confluence is above and to the right of the tall fir tree in the center of the photo. My wife and daughter (and her bunny friend "Rabby" who goes absolutely everywhere with us) can be seen in photo 7 at the "Welcome to Xiaweidian" sign about 250 meters from the confluence. Fortunately, the trip was not a total loss because of the surprisingly lovely scenery in the area. Photo 5 was taken about 200 meters from the confluence at the gate of the housing area looking Northeast and photo 6 was shot from the same point as photo 7 but looking Southeast. Believe it or not, the road in the photo is the main highway between Beijing and points west.