25-Jan-2004 -- This is a continuation from 26N 110E
of a four-point Confluence hunt in Guangxi Province during Chinese New Year with Targ
Parsons, the King of China Confluence Hunters.
In Guangnan the local bus arrived stuffed to the gills. We had to force our way on and
dance around looking for a place to put our feet, bags and hands so we wouldn't fall over.
The 30-kilometer ride to where we had to change buses took about two hours. The next bus,
by contrast, was a plush new bus with few passengers, and best of all sporting NO video.
There were several foreigners besides us aboard emphasizing the popularity of this areas
to tourists. We had hoped we would be able to make it before the last train to Rongshui
departed at 6:25 PM. My comment on this lead Targ to tell me about the John Clease movie,
"Clockwise" where he says, "Its not the despair Laura, I can handle the
despair. It's the hope."
But it wasn't meant to be, and we arrived shortly before 7 PM. Getting a tip on a good
hotel from a another traveler we quickly got ourselves installed. We had dinner at a
noodle restaurant sharing a table with a local couple. The man was well-dressed and
interested in knowing all about us asking many questions. Towards the end of dinner, I
asked him what he did: a police officer. It threw a new light on our conversation.
After dinner, Targ sought out a hair wash and I found an internet cafe. I had 1,102
messages waiting for me that I had to plow through sifting the wheat from the chaff. There
were more than a hundred terminals in the net bar there and it was nearly full. The main
form of entertainment was video games with others in the room each set up with speakers
blasting away each other a thousand different ways. The noise was deafening and I had to
give up the after an hour. I was able view the confluence web site and saw with relief
that China was still hanging in at 4th ("but it is not a competition") place
from the rapidly advancing Brazilians.
Returning back to the room, I started writing up this report before crashing at 2:30
Targ set his phone to wake us up at 6:30 to catch the 8 AM train. A quick mainbao
(bread loaf van) ride to the train station where we had time for breakfast. Targ left
quickly to sort out the tickets Rongshui. There were several hundred people waiting when
the train arrived and the predictable mass rush for the doors ensued. Targ and I snagged a
place to sit in a seat table. Three of the people were a family, and the third was a
helpful English-speaking guy who gave Targ quite a bit of useful transport options for
when we arrived in Rongan. I was able to sit at the table to work on writing up this
report. Any chance I get I pull out the Palm V and the keyboard.
Arriving in Rongan we needed then to get to Rongshui, about an hour travel time by bus,
except there is no bus, only the small utility trucks that double as a jitney
para-transit. They are four-door mini-pickup trucks with a covered cargo area fitted with
two narrow benches on either side. Seating is on a first-come-first-serve basis and the
one that Targ pick had the best seats in the passenger area taken leaving only the
uncomfortable and cold cargo area. I decided to try and find something better. Just
arriving was an empty jitney and I told the driver I wanted to reserve two seats while I
went to get Targ. The change was dramatic improvement; it was not only much warmer and
more comfortable, but we could also see where we were going.
Along the way, there were hundreds of these trucks plying the route between Rongan and
Rongshui. About midway, in the middle of nowhere, the driver spotted a police checkpoint
and immediately stopped and backed up a hundred meters or so out of sight of the police.
He then told everyone to get out of the back of the cargo area and walk past the
checkpoint where he would meet them on the other side. He then closed up the back and
proceeded to the checkpoint. The police stopped him, asked to see his papers, inspected
the back of the truck and waved him on. He then drove pass about 500 meters and waited for
his passengers to walk past the checkpoint. He told me that if he got caught, it would
cost him 200 RMB (about US$25). He said the whole thing was a sham, but there was no way
around it. The police are not stupid, they know what is going on, but that is just the way
Arriving in Rongshui, we went directly to the bus station to check on Targ's options
for getting to Guilin before his flight to Shenzhen at ten minutes before midnight. At the
time, we could only get bus tickets to Liuzhou, so we got two for 5 PM giving us five
hours to bag the confluence.
Targ was keen on getting a taxi to take us there instead of our usual bus and train
modes. It was expensive, but time was of the essence, so we bit the bullet and hired a
husband and wife team from Chongqing living in Rongshui and operating one of the 28 taxis
in town. The husband was changing one bad tire with an equally dodgy-looking tire in front
when we saw him. While he was doing that, the wife worked hard to get us to agree to take
their taxi. On asking them why they were in Rongan, they said the business opportunities
are much better here than back at home. I then asked them why they didn't go home for
Spring Festival. They said that this is the best time of year for business, so they dare
not go back now.
Along the way, they tried to change our plans to use their taxi to go to Guilin or
Liuzhou, or in fact anywhere we wanted to go. I said I wanted to go to Taiwan to visit my
good friend Tim, could they take me there? Unfortunately not, but they could take Targ
back to Hong Kong. Intrepid business people.
The road was good half the way and then deteriorated into a very rough dirt road. The
driver, however, seemed to not care about what it was doing to the car and drove like mad.
The landscape was the fascinating karst limestone hills that make up the classical
Chinese landscape paintings. They are big, sometimes very big, but not on the order of
mountains. As one passes by, the constant changing perspective gives one a very
interesting visual treat. This area seemed to be dotted with as many as can be seen around
Yangshuo. Targ said this area could become the next backpacker's hangout, or a
We rode in the taxi about an hour to Longan. After we crossed the river we were on
the same side as the CP and 3.1 kilometers from the CP. We kept our eyes peeled for a
likely-looking turnoff in the right direction. It was soon coming and we bumped and
grinded between the sugar cane fields. Targ was riding shotgun, his favorite spot, with
the GPS mounted on the dashboard. At forks in the trail Targ would direct him according to
the arrow. There were no maps of the trails, so it was a shot in the dark. At 1.7
kilometers to go, the car could go no further, so we jumped out and told them we would
return in an hour. We left our bags in the car as a reassurance that we would come back
however, they wanted us to pay them before we left saying that we could trust them. Targ
responded with the same logic and we left it at that. We traded cell phone numbers and I
noted the plate number, just in case.
From the satellite photo, the CP was located in a triangular section of land, so Targ
reasoned that we just had to follow the river. However the trail beside the river was slow
going and I thought going cross country would be quicker. Targ balked at first, but
finally acquiesced. He much prefers roads and established trails to trail blazing. I guess
it is because he like to keep on eye on the GPS at all times and trail blazing can make it
easy to trip or fall.
The entire area was quite flat and devoted agriculture. some field were low vegetables,
some sugar cane and others lay fallow. As we moved closer to the CP it became apparent
that it was going to be near a village and within sight of the karst hills. What good
fortune to get such a picturesque CP!
The village was rather small, about 20 buildings, mostly made of a pale yellow clay
that made up the soil in the area. About 100 meters south of the village in a field lay
fallow was the Confluence Point. We took our photos and recorded the necessary
information. But I regretted not bringing fireworks to this one. We were in such a hurry,
it simply slipped my mind.
On the way back to the hopefully waiting taxi we passed through a few villages and
wished the confluence residents a Happy New Year. The taxi was there waiting for us and we
returned to Rongshui three hours after we left.
Back at the bus station, Targ spotted a bus to Guilin, but the ticket seller said their
were no seats, so he went back to talk to the driver. The driver told him to wait for the
bus outside the bus station about 500 meters down the road where he would pick him up on
his way out of town.
So I followed him to his departure point where two young women were also waiting for
the same bus and we said our good-byes. It was an action-packed four days making three
I was headed to Liuzhou to see about getting a train to Nandan so I might try and bag a
fourth "bonus" confluence before I had to return home on Tuesday.
I christened this the "Karst Confluence."
This story continues at 25N 107E.
The Confluence Visit Details:
Accuracy: 4 m
Elevation: 140 m