27-Oct-2001 -- (This story continues on from our account of confluence
23º north, 112º east).
SATURDAY 27 OCTOBER 2001
Our bus arrived in Yun'an following the relatively short journey north from the border with Yunfu county, where we had just completed our first confluence of the day, and the fourth since leaving Hong Kong three days before. It was still early, and one confluence before breakfast is enough, so we popped into a small restaurant adjoining the bus station and enjoyed a bowl of wontons each. Yun'an was as far north as we were going to get without finding a way across the Pearl River. The Pearl River is the largest and most important river in Guangdong Province. Guangzhou (the provincial capital), Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Macau, and Hong Kong all lie in the fertile Pearl River delta area. The lady running the restaurant assured us that it was only a 10-minute walk from where we were to the pier. So, after having our fill of wonton soup, we donned our backpacks, and began walking to the pier in search of a ferry.
Unfortunately, the pier we found after a 10-minute walk turned out to be an industrial port, and it was only after some more questioning of the locals that we discovered the pier we actually needed was another two kilometres further down the road. We flagged down a passing tuk-tuk, and soon arrived at the correct spot, where indeed a cross-river ferry was operating. Safely on the other side, we boarded a bus heading west on the busy highway that runs along the northern bank of the Pearl River. Just as we got out of the bus at Deqing, a taxi arrived, and we wasted no time jumping in. We negotiated with the driver to take us north to Huaijixian, a not inconsiderable distance. This he agreed to do for 300 yuan (US$37), which we felt was not totally unreasonable given the distance involved, and the large amount of time it would save us. If we were to have attempted the same journey using public transport, it would have meant a whole series of short-hop bus journeys. And besides, the taxi was air-conditioned!
The road to Huiajixian was mostly paved, except for one short gravel section that proved incredibly dusty, and forced us to stop and buy copious amounts of bottled water, both for ourselves and for our driver. We arrived at Huaijixian at around 3 p.m. When we urged our driver to take us the remaining 15 kilometres to the confluence, he balked, claiming the road was in very bad condition. We persevered however, and eventually managed to convince him to take us. The "very bad" road turned out to be a major highway, paved all the way, carrying much traffic between Guangzhou and Guilin. Although it did have some severe potholes, it was certainly not in the desperately poor state that our driver would have had us believe. Upon arriving at our destination, we asked the driver how much more it would cost if we were to go back with him to Deqing. This is where he showed his true colours, and became just too plain greedy, asking for 700 yuan (US$85) for the round trip! Simply outrageous! Any hope that he was going to get any sort of bonus for taking us the extra 15 kilometres immediately evaporated, and we sent him on his way with only the originally agreed 300 yuan (US$37) to show for his trouble. The confluence was only 100 metres off the road to the right, in an easily accessible paddy field. The bright green colours of the rice paddies made this certainly the prettiest of all the confluences we were to visit. We followed the tiny embankments between the paddies that served as paths, and got as close as we possibly could to the confluence, which was to within just a few metres. According to the GPS, we were still 0.1 second away. This was the first time we were to visit a confluence and not get a perfect reading on the GPS, instead settling for 24º north, 111º59'59.9" east.
Delving into the mud of the rice paddy did not seem worth it for that extra 0.1 second, and the owner of the paddy field would certainly not have appreciated us trampling his crops either. As usual, Tony ensured that this confluence conquest was not entirely without incident. He attempted to jump across a ditch from one narrow embankment to another, only to lose his balance, primarily due to the additional weight of his heavy backpack combined with his lofty two-metre stature, and wound up in the ditch instead! Had he toppled the other way, into the paddy field rather than into the ditch, he may well have traversed that final 0.1 second to the confluence.
Undeterred by this small mishap, we took our photos, then walked back to the road, our second confluence of the day safely under our belts. (This story continues with our next confluence attempt at
23º north, 113º east).