This is the second of a two-confluence hunt done on the weekend of October 18. The trip
started with 32N 106E.
I woke up in my cavernous room before my Palm V BigClock went off. The hotel room
included breakfast opening at 7:30, so I made it a point to be there when it opened. The
cafeteria was full of Chinese businessmen and government officials and the food was
marginal on par with the hotel's two-star rating. After yesterday's experience with trying
to get an early start being thwarted by fact that the bus won't leave town until it is
full, I decided to go with the flow and get going when everyone else is.
Arriving at the bus station at 8 AM, I wasn't sure if I would be able to get to my
destination in time to attempt the confluence. The GPS indicated I was only 98 km from CP,
but getting there by public transport across jurisdictions can take forever. Yesterday
someone told me I should take the Longshan （96 km)
bus then transfer to a Bazhong bus (76 km). I confirmed this with the Longshan driver, and
he told me the encouraging news that it would take only two hours to get there and an hour
and a half to get to Bazhong. The CP is located near Baimiao another 40 km away. If
I was lucky, I should arrive in Bazhong by 2:30 PM and I could hire a taxi to take me the
rest of the way.
The drivers in these parts find foreigners a novelty and often give preferential
treatment. Both on this bus and the subsequent bus I was given the shotgun seat beside the
driver with acres of glass to view the landscape and free of the crowding, smoking,
spitting and other annoyances that happen back in cattle class.
This part of Sichuan is a joy to pass through. I can't wait to cycle this area when the
pressures of work permit the time. Lying on the edge of the huge Sichuan basin, the
landscape is a series of ridges and valleys extending like fingers pointing toward the
center at Chengdu. My objective lies due east and requires traversing these ridges. The
Chinese have an interesting way of constructing roads in this area. They typically build
the roads near the top of the ridge rather in the valleys like in the U.S. providing
wonderful views of the surrounding areas. The land is completely cultivated from the
bottom to the top with terraces that have been uses here for thousands of years and an
abundance of rain makes for a lush green environment.
Cruising along there is never a dull moment; China is always full of surprises. Here,
far from the maddening crowd, in the middle of rural China, there is a giant billboard
painted on the side of a three story house for GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) for
wireless computing! I recently looked into this for a client of Bike China Adventures
wanting to use his computer while on tour and while the costs are reasonable by western
standards, it seems absurd to advertise GPRS in this area.
The road takes on a life of its own and the things one sees makes the trip most
enjoyable. A baby in a farm basket strapped on the back of the mother, five people on a
125 cc motorcycle, a man rapidly walking with a full basket on his back with his arms
swinging in front of him from side-to-side like two pendulum grandfather clocks side by
The driver makes money from the passengers; the more he takes the more he makes. So
overcrowding is common. The police occasionally set up checkpoint in a futile effort to
control this. As we round a corner the driver catches sight of one just ahead and screams
for everyone to GET DOWN!? You would think we were under terrorist attack. Everyone
standing promptly crouched down and we passed by without incident. Out of sight, the
crouchees resumed their standing positions and conversations.
At the town of Yuexi I notice that the name means "fishing stream" in Chinese
and then, spot with a start, kids hanging over the edge of a bridge with a fishing poles
and one hauling in a catch.
The bus is stuffed and the driver isn't stopping for anyone, anyone except a cadre in
full dress and then later a pretty girl. White egrets dot the fields like snow flakes on
mud. School kids returning home for lunch stop and turn to salute the bus. Some of the
passengers make small talk with me and guess my age to be 30 something. I can't figure out
if they are serious, or if they are just trying to make me feel good.
Another pretty woman flags down the bus as we round a corner and she unabashedly zips
up her pants in front of the bus, obviously having just finished relieving herself by the
side of the road.
In Longshan, four Bazhong high school students invite me for lunch, and one of the boys
tells me I have beautiful blue eyes. I learn from them that there are several American
English teachers in Bazhong, apparently from Peace Corps. It was market day and the town
was a beehive of activity. Cobblers lined the streets doing a brisk business repairing the
shoes from the farmers coming to town. Street food venders are busy cooking scrumptious
snacks, and the chicken slaughter area is splattered with feathers and blood. Bags of
piglets with noses sticking through squirming around the sidewalk getting under foot of
The bus from Longshan to Bazhong leaves at 1:30 PM, a half hour later than I expected,
but if we are able to get there in an hour and a half as I was lead to believe, I should
be able to make it. However, one look at the road, and my hopes are dashed. It is a
mudruckers dream, and a confluencers nightmare. Huge ruts through the clay up and down the
hills makes for an experience like driving on ice. The bus slips and lurches from side to
side, the back end slips to the left while the front weaves to the right toward a
precipitous cliff. Whoa! This confluence hunting certainly is risky!
Fortunately, the road improves after 20 minutes of fun on mud, and I am once again
dreaming of getting to the CP. I checked the NASA satellite photo and know that, like the
last at 32N
106E, it is on top of the ridge and it looks to be about 4 km from the last village on
Suddenly, the bus loses power and the driver pumps the accelerator for all he is worth,
to no avail. We putter to a stop. A mountain of luggage and farm produce is on top of the
engine cover and it takes a while to everyone to themselves and their stuff out of the
way. The driver and his assistant open up the engine compartment and I am surprised at how
small the engine is: a six-cylinder 3.0 liter. No wonder it pooped out.
A few minutes of tinkering around and we are off again, barely making it up the hill.
We continue down the hill and then halfway up the next, the engine dies again. This time,
however, the prognosis is more serious. We need a part. The assistant is dispatched in a
passing truck, and the bus unloads. The locals come up to investigate and people make
small talk to pass the time. One of the passengers is dressed in full Tibetan grab and I
go over to see why he is here in Hanland. He tells me with a mischievous smile, "For
fun!" I laugh.
Now my hopes of making it are dashed. An hour later the assistant returns with the part
and we are soon off, but the time is much to late. We arrive in Bazhong at 5 PM. The
village of Baimiao is at least an hour away by taxi. I ask a few drivers for the price to
take me to Baimiao, and decide it isn't worth the money knowing that I can't possibly make
it before dark. So on the banks of the Ba river, I photograph the GPS 28.7 km from the
Commitments to be at work on Monday prevent me from spending the night and trying in
the morning, so I book a bed on the night bus to Chengdu leaving at 9:30 PM. I will have
to come back another time.
Sleeper buses are a misnomer. They should be called sleepless buses. Even though there
are beds and blankets, the bad roads make for a disturbing rest and I arrive back in
Chengdu just before dawn.
Despite not making it to this CP it was, nonetheless, one of the most enjoyable solo trips I