06-Oct-2003 -- N – 41 and E – 116 Located in Zhang Jia Kou Prefecture in Hebei Province, China
Expedition team: Sierra Yip-Bannicq, Florence Bannicq, Ray Yip, and Oreo (our dog)
This is our first line-hunting expedition, and the first try out of the GPS in the real world (Sierra coined the term of line-hunting, everybody thought we meant lion hunting – is there lion in Beijing?). We learned about this project from a recent article in the South China Morning Post (a Hong Kong daily) and found out that many points within striking distance of Beijing had not been visited. Early October is the best time of the year to spend time in the countryside in this part of China.
The point we selected was about 100 km north of Beijing, and we knew it was a hilly area and it appeared to be near the Great Wall according to the map. We actually started our trip on the morning of October 5, and drove past the Ba-Da-ling part of the Great Wall, which is right next to the expressway, and the most visited point of the Great Wall (30 km from Beijing). There were wall-to-wall people on the wall because this was the peak of the National Day Holiday week. Our first stop was the county town of Yan Qing county of Beijing Municipality where we bought a local map so we could find our way out of this little city. From Yan Qing we connected to a secondary road going north – 85 km of a winding and very scenic drive through many little villages – to the national Highway 112. Even though this was a major east-to-west highway the main traffic we encountered were donkey carts. According to the map, the point we were looking for are about 15 km from where we got on Highway 112.
We followed Highway 112 north and east and came to a village named Gu Shi, which means “lonely stone” in Chinese, and based on our Inner Mongolia map (we did not have a Hebei map), we were near the confluence point that we had marked as the mid-point between N 40 and N 42. The GPS indicated that we were within 3-4 km from the confluence point. Thus far, this seemed like an easy exercise. Our venture into the village turned out to be a memorable one. We got stuck in an alley for some time waiting for the unloading of a donkey cart loaded with corn stalk which pretty much blocked the entire alley way. Of course the villagers were bewildered by a big white SUV with strange looking people in it. At the end of the village, there was a small cliff standing about 20 meters above ground, and there was a tiny little temple on top of the rock – this probably was the lonely stone. At this unusual spot we could tell that N 41 was about a few km south, so we headed for that direction. We went through another village and crossed N 41, and estimated we are about 3-4 km from E 116. We parked our car at end of the village, and started heading west on foot toward the E 116 line. After going over a hill we emerge in a valley with a wide dry riverbed, which was heading in the right direction, we were almost half way there. However, by the time we got within a 1.5 km range, it was already 5 pm, not enough time to make it to the point and return to our car before dark. Reluctantly we turned back. By the time we got back to Highway 112 it was dusk. We realized it would be a long drive back to Beijing in the dark. All the sudden the idea of staying overnight started to make sense except for the fact that we were not prepared for this eventuality. The thought of going to the confluence point first thing in the morning was also appealing – it would be a piece of cake, our car could make up most of the river bed that we had just hiked, at most an hour of walk to the point. The vote was 2 against 1 for staying overnight; Oreo did not express her preference.
We drove north and found a place about 12 km away in a placed called Bai Chow Xian (White Grass Township). The lodging cost was15 Yuan per person (US $2), no charge for Oreo. A big meal, and 3 sets of new tooth brush later set us back $15 – by far the best buy we had in China. We were in bed by 8pm – a new record.
The morning of October 6, we got up and left around 7 am without eating breakfast. It was chilly and cloudy. We drove to another village named Dong Wan Kou, which in our estimation was right next to the valley where we were the day before. After passing through the village, we found the riverbed, where we had come by foot the day before. We drove up the valley, and took the right fork after about 1 km, and the GPS was telling us that we were closing in on the point of interest. About ½ km up this fork, there was a little hamlet with about 8-10 households, and this is where we have to abandon our car. At this point, we estimated that the confluence point was about 1 ½ km to the west and south. We followed the riverbed until it ended and climbed up the hillside. We followed the ridges of the hills for 2-3 km, and found another village, even though we were getting closer, we were still not there. At this village, we could tell the point was at the other side of a rather tall hill, about 300-400 meters high. Again, we were not prepared for such a long hike, we thought it would take us less than an hour to reach the point. We were three and a half hours into the hunt and almost out of water. Not having had breakfast did not help either. We also had left our dog Oreo in the car because she had injured a paw the day before. At this point it was decided that it was best for Sierra and Florence to start heading back to the car while I would try to pursue and complete the quest alone.
The final push going over the hill took another hour. The saving grace was that the sun had come out and the view was spectacular - it was the peak of the fall colors. The ridge of the hill appeared to be some of the remnants of the old Great Wall, pretty much the crumbling loose stones of the inner core and the outer mud layers already melted away. I could see the tower part of the wall in the distance still standing. This was by far the most run down part of the Great Wall I had ever visited. On the ridge, it was surprising to see there was a fairly good size village down there, about 50-60 households – about where the confluence point should be. This meant that if we had located another existing fork of the dry riverbed gong to the left of the one we had followed, we might have driven to this village, instead of doing a 4-hour hike. The village name is Ching Ping Lou. After a few minutes of zeroing on the point, the confluence point was located about 150 meters at the northern side of this village, on a 40 degree angle slope studded with pine trees. The view in this pine forest was somewhat limited and the elevation was 1300 meters (almost 4000 feet). It was 27 hours since we had left our home in Beijing until both lines were “hunted”.
It took about an hour to walk back to our car, and it was 1.30 pm – a 6 hours adventure of 3 villages and 3 hills and valleys, and worth every minute of it (we define hill as less than 2000 meters high). This has been a wonderful start of our use of GPS. Lessons learned:
1) carry more water than you think you need;
2) a more detailed map would have made life much easier;
3) double the distance estimated by GPS as the actual walking distance; and
4) always see if there is a closer village or valley to the point you are hunting for.
We manage to drive back to Beijing in just about 4 hours, and feeling good about the success of our first line-hunting trip, even though it took a bit longer than expected. Oreo, who is 10 years old, in spite of her rest on the second day did not move for the next 24 hours after our return except for absolute essential activities.