18-Oct-2003 -- This is the first of a two-confluence hunt done on the weekend of October 19, 2003.
A late night start from Chengdu on Friday after work, I caught the 23:36 train to
Guangyuan in northern Sichuan. I got a hard-sleeper berth and soon after starting out, I
crawled into bed for a fitful sleep. I guess I was too excited about being back on the
I arrived in Guangyuan at 05:05, dark and and wet from a recent rain. I had hoped to
get an early bus south toward the confluence, but the only action was a swarm of annoying
taxi drivers chasing too few prospects. There was a bus station next to the train station,
but unfortunately, the bus I required was on the other side of town, conveniently
accessible by taxi!
Deposited at the south bus station at 5:30 AM, I had to wait for the first bus to leave
at 06:40. I read some H.G. Wells on my Palm V in the waiting room. I should have known
better than to expect to really get started at that hour. I was the only passenger in the
bus when we left the bus station, so the driver spent the next hour or so cruising and
re-cruising every street in Guangyuan trolling for passengers.
About 8 AM we moseyed out of Guangyuan to the turn off to the confluence at Weizi. It
took an hour and a half to cruise the 50 km. At Weizi, I discovered my bus was turning off
the main road and heading toward the confluence. I thought that was extraordinary luck.
Twenty minutes later, I am wandering the only street in Wangjia with the locals looking at
me like I stepped off a spaceship from Mars. I discovered that while the map shows a road,
there is no public transport in the direction of the confluence because it lies just on
the other side of the county line. The ever present pesky motorcyclists are willing to
assist, but at an exorbitant cost, so I opt to return to the main road and try another
approach. Surprisingly, I get a ride on a motorcycle for a fair price after I turned down
his first offer.
Jumping on another bus, I arrive at the south approach turn-off at noon. It has taken
seven hours to travel 85 km. I can do better on my bicycle!
A laid-back motorcyclist talks to me about where I want to go and offers a fair price
to take me to Lianghe, the town closet to the confluence. We arrive in town and I get a
bite to eat, while he chain smokes cigarettes. After lunch, my driver tells me he wants to
accompany me on my trek, so we park the bike at a house a the end of a dirt road and start
hiking up the hill.
Unlike my previous confluences, I decided I would do a bit more research and downloaded
the NASA satellite photos and found
my confluences using MrSID.
They showed that both this confluence and 32N107E both lie at the top of a hill, so I had
an idea of what I was in for before I began. This is pretty handy because mapping in China
is extremely scant and often wrong.
When my driver asked me where I was going, I showed him the satellite photo and pointed
to the cross-hairs on top of the mountain. He said he wanted to go with me, but insisted
on knowing how long it would take. As anyone knows who has done this, the time it takes to
find a confluence is very difficult to predict. I said more than an hour. He said okay,
lets go. After about 15 minutes he was huffing and puffing and started acting like a kid
in the back of a car on a long trip asking, "Are we almost there yet?" and
"How much longer?" every few minutes. I got tried of it and said he can go back
and wait. But first he wanted to get paid. Ahh! Maybe this is the real reason he wanted to
come along. I paid him and continued the climb.
The area was fairly heavily cultivated, but being also steep, had a lot of area that
was left untended. Also the trails were circuitous and did not follow the pointer to the
confluence, so I usually just went the bull-headed direct approach, come what may.
After climbing for a while, I reached another level area with many farms and the steep
treed hill behind seemed to be uninhabited. I asked a local boy if there were any paths
leading up the hill and he said no.
I saw a power line going up to the top so I thought I might get lucky. I started
climbing in the same fashion, generally following the GPS pointer and path if it went in
the right direction. When I was within 300 meters, I ran into a cliff wall. Searching for
a way up it I came across a place where it looked scalable. Up to this point, I had been
carrying my pack, but I thought it would be best to leave it behind for the final push.
Stashing it and marking a waypoint, I felt light as a feather. The rock climbing looked
difficult but not impossible, and now free of the excess weight, visions of Superman
popped into my head.
The climb was on loose unstable rock, and I got about 10 meters up when I heard the Big
Man upstairs say in no uncertain terms, "GET YOUR BUTT OFF THIS ROCK, NOW!" the
next thing I know I am sailing through the air, first crashing on an intermediate landing
about 5 meters down on my butt, and then bouncing down a another five meters through a
thicket of rose bushes vines. The result was not pretty. My right hand was covered with
blood from grabbing at a passing thorn bush, and my butt hurt like never before from the
first hard landing. I wasn't sure if I cut up my face too, so I took a photo with the
digital camera and did a preview to see (another use of digital camera - can be used as a
mirror). It didn't look too bad.
I took the warning seriously and decided to try and find safer ways up the mountain. It
was a bit round about, but I discovered a number of small streams and then later, some
footpaths used by cattle. These paths lead to another large farming area at what looked
like the top of the mountain.
The confluence was located just behind one of the farmhouses in a wooded area. When I
arrived, there was no one about, which is a blessing as I can get the documentation photos
out of the way without being disturbed. On the way back down, I ran into many people
farming the land with water buffalos. I also happened across a couple of spry old ladies
hoofing up the hill with 40 kg of supplies strapped on their backs. It made my effort seem
like child's play by comparison.
Back in Lianghe, I had to deal with a horde of arrogant motorcyclists again. This time
they wanted double what it cost me to get there for the return trip. I decided to walk and
see what happens. About 45 minutes later, I got a lift from another motorcycle at the
right price. This put me back on the main road to Cangxi where I am writing up this report
in my deluxe hotel room. After getting off the bus, I felt like an old man, sore and stiff
and thought I should treat myself to some nice accommodations. So my 40 square-meter room
was well worth it.
Time: 3:20 PM
Accuracy: 3 m
For the continuation of this story, see 32N 107E.