25-Oct-2001 -- (This story continues on from our account of confluence
21º north, 110º east.)
Flushed with success from our first confluence conquest, we walked the kilometre or so back down the majestic tree-lined street to the main road, route 207, and hopped on the first bus heading north. This took us as far as the city of Suixi. To continue our journey northwards, it was necessary to avail ourselves of a lift on the back of two motorbikes to a major roundabout on the opposite side of Suixi, from where we were able to flag down a bus heading further up route 207 to Huazhou.
In Huazhou, we transferred to another bus that took us to Gaozhou, also on route 207. The driver of this bus did not leave until he had had his fill of long deep tokes from an enormous bong made from a piece of hollow bamboo. We were to see these giant bongs all over the place for the next couple of days of our confluence hunting expedition; obviously they were a local custom. We declined the driver's offer to share whatever it was he was quite obviously enjoying. Arriving safely in Gaozhou (it didn't seem to affect his driving skill), we caught one final bus north-west to Changpo, arriving in time for a tasty lunch of wonton soup in a corner of the local market.
As we were eating, we drew an immense crowd, none of whom could fathom why we were there, and none of whom had ever heard of Chentang, a nearby village that was clearly marked on our map as being the closest thing to the confluence. Eventually one of the crowd suggested we go ask at the police station, and Targ thought this sounded like a pretty good idea, because there are usually good maps at police stations. So we finished lunch, then jumped on the back of two motorbikes and headed off to the police station. Sure enough, there was a large, detailed map on the wall. Unfortunately, it bore practically no resemblance whatever to our map, and of course did not have any lines of longitude or latitude as references. Eventually, we figured out roughly where we had to go by comparing the few features both maps did have in common, which were a large dam and several streams and rivers. Our destination lay near a village called Hedong. Just at this juncture, a rather officious and rotund officer emerged to find out what all the fuss was with the two foreigners. He, like everyone else, knew nothing of confluences, and began demanding to know just exactly who it was in Hedong that we intended to go and see, so that he could make all the necessary arrangements. Luckily, our motorcyclists were still waiting in the wings expectantly, so we were able to jump back on, and beat a hasty retreat from officialdom.
We headed into the countryside in the direction of Hedong, with the GPS pointing the way. When we got close, it became apparent that we needed to head off down a different path than the one that actually led to Hedong, which caused our motorcyclists much consternation, because they were adamant that they knew the way to Hedong, and how could two foreigners, who had never been to these parts before, possibly know where they were going! Eventually, however, we managed to convince them to go our way, and finally wound up next to a banana plantation, with the confluence a few hundred metres off to our left. A small group of excited children emerged from nowhere to witness the spectacle of two foreigners arriving on the back of two motorbikes. They quickly scattered and hid though, when Tony pulled out his camera. We made our way on foot through the banana trees, then up a hill, and eventually located the confluence on a ridge atop the hill. Our motorcyclists left their bikes on the path and followed our every footstep, but to this day, they still have no idea what they or we were doing! It was now 3:45 p.m.
We took our photos, congratulated one another on attaining our second confluence in one day, and then headed back down the hill, through the banana trees, and out to the path. At this point, our chaperones decided that our ride back into Changpo would cost three times the price of the ride out. With no other means of transport available, we realized that we were not exactly in a strong bargaining position, so we reluctantly agreed to be exploited, if you can call 40 yuan (US$5) for the round trip, which lasted a good couple of hours, exploitation. (This story continues with our next confluence attempt at 23º north, 111º east).