22-Apr-2003 -- Continued from 25°N 112°E.
Monday 21 April 2003 (Day 5) - It was the last day of the four-day Easter long weekend, and sadly time for Tony to return to Hong Kong in order to resume work on Tuesday. So at 9 a.m. we parted company at the Lianzhou bus station, Tony on a bus heading south to Shenzhen, and me on another heading north to Lanshan. From Lanshan I continued north on another bus to Xintian, then took a third bus west to Leixuan. At this point, public transport options evaporated, and I spent the final hour of daylight on the back of a motorbike, travelling 23 kilometres up a rocky track north to Huangtang, a small village consisting of just over 200 members of the Yao minority nationality.
Everyone in Huangtang was very friendly and welcoming. A place was soon found for me to stay, at the home of a congenial elderly gentleman, who also cooked me a very delicious dinner consisting mostly of egg. On the wall of the main room of his house was a map of the area that was even more detailed than the 1:100,000 map I'd brought with me. It showed a village named Xijiangyuan, not marked on my map, which was located very close to where the confluence ought to be, 8.2 kilometres SSW of our current position.
Chatting with my host and other locals during the evening, I was able to gather some valuable intelligence. Although there was a gravel track extending most of the way to the confluence, no one in the village had a motorbike, so I would need to walk all the way in and then back out again. I also learned that there would be a bus leaving Huangtang at around noon, which would be my last opportunity to get back to Leixuan without staying for another night. An early start the next morning seemed advisable.
Tuesday 22 April 2003 (Day 6) - A Leixuan bus was leaving Huangtang at 6 a.m., and I availed myself of it for the first three kilometres of its journey south, at which point I disembarked and headed off on foot southwest along the track towards the confluence. After walking for an hour and a half, I reached a small village named Yangtang, where some locals insisted I join them for a free breakfast. The confluence was still 2.8 kilometres away, so I didn't stay too long, always conscious of the time.
It was a gorgeous sunny day, and I was really enjoying the walk, despite the distance involved. From Yangtang, I continued along a path that ran up a river valley. I noticed that all the haystacks in this area were of a very distinctive style. Shortly after 9 a.m., I found myself just 17 metres away from the confluence, but it was on the opposite side of the river. I'd passed a bridge not long before, and it was a simple matter to double back, cross over, and find my way to the exact spot of the confluence. It was at an elevation of 689 metres, located between a small flat field to the north and west, and a plantation of trees on higher ground to the south and east.
Having already taken over three hours to reach the confluence, I headed back towards Huangtang as quickly as possible, pausing only once to watch in fascination as a dung beetle did its thing. I finally got back to Huangtang at 11:20 a.m., having walked a total of 22.2 kilometres in five and a quarter hours. The last bus to Leixuan was already on the starting blocks, the driver warming up the engine and tooting the horn. I threw my small day-pack through the window onto an empty seat, and implored him to wait while I rushed to the other end of the village to collect my big bag from the old guy's home. As soon as I got back to the bus and jumped on board, we were off.
Story continues at 27°N 112°E.