19-Jun-2004 -- This is the first of a four-confluence hunt done with the China Confluence King, Targ Parsons, and myself, Peter Snow Cao, over a four-day period. Thanks to a combination of a
Hong Kong holiday on June 22 and a visit to Harbin China by the Secretary of the
Department of Commerce requiring my wife to be away, lead to the successful coordination
between Targ and myself. The Holiday was the Dragon Boat Festival: on the 5th
day of the 5th lunar month (this year June 22) honoring the patriotic poet, Qu
Yuan with dragon boat races and Zongzi dumplings; sticky rice with seasoning wrapped in
Targ has his eyes on visiting all the remaining confluences in Guangxi province and
desired help on three that were close to the Vietnam border due to unknown political
obstacles in that area. Having encountered difficulty in a restricted area once before
when he was alone, he thought that having someone else with him for moral support would be
a great idea.
As for me, running my Bike China bike tour
business, I am always eager to check out new territory for future tours, and while I had
been to Guangxi many times, it has always been in the well-known eastern part in and
around Guilin, Yangshuo, Wuzhou, Longsheng, and Sanjiang. So this trip posed a great
opportunity check out the western part of Guangxi.
Targ is big on pre-trip preparation, which is a good thing, because if it was up to me,I would just wait and see what happens. He says he thinks he gets a bigger kick out ofdoing the pre-hunt research than the actual hunt. Here is one tidbit he sent me:
I was doing a little research for our third confluence at 23°N 106°E, and came across this bit of info (below), which you may or may not find interesting. It comes from
this page: http://ling.uta.edu/~jerry/research/map.html,
which is part of an interesting site (http://ling.uta.edu/~jerry/research/)
containing lots of mp3 files with samples of the spoken languages in this (and other
I am getting really psyched up about this trip! (In case you hadn't noticed.)
I did notice. Targ plied my email box almost daily with tidbits he had dug up on our
upcoming trip. Our plan was to meet in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi and in order to
maximize our time, we chose to fly after work on Friday and meet late Friday night at the
airport. Just before the trip he wrote:
I'll be heading off in about an hour and a half. I'm starting to get that tingly feeling! See you soon!!
My plan was just ride my bike home, grab my bag, and catch the airport bus. Planning a
couple of weeks in advance allowed me to purchase round-trip tickets for half price, a
However, an unknown part of the bargain was the two-hour delay of my flight. This
actually presented no problems as Targ and I both arrived in Nanning within 10 minutes of
each other. The Dynamic Duo where reunited again on another China Confluence Adventure.
We took the airport bus into the city and stayed at the Phoenix Hotel, a massive affair
with seemingly thousands of rooms. We got room 30308, a triple-bed room that was less
expensive than a two-bed room (China logic at work, again).
After checking in, we hightailed it on the bus to the North Big Bus Station to get
tickets for the first bus to Ningming the next morning. On the bus Targ met a girl who
asked him why he was taking the bus when he could afford a taxi. He told her that if he
took a taxi, he wouldn't have a chance to meet someone like you. She smiled.
In the morning, we went across the street from the hotel for a breakfast of youtiao
(Chinese donut), soybean milk, and a bowl of rice noodles for me, and a small bowl of zhou
(rice porridge) for Targ.
Targ's previous experience in Guangxi led him to the observation that Guangxi has
magnificent buses going to every county seat making getting around a piece of cake. And he
was right! The Korean Daewoo 41-passenger air-con bus left the station right on time, and
didn't trawl for passengers like many buses do, even though it was only one-quarter full.
We arrived in Ningming at 11:30 AM and immediately transferred to a bus to Love Shop
(Aidian). Honestly, that was the name of the town in Chinese. Unfortunately, we never did
get to see Love Shop, as our destination was to the closer village not so enticingly
named, Beautiful Board (Banliang). The conductress kept trying to find out why we wanted
to go to Beautiful Board. "That place is no fun, come to Love Shop," she told us
Arriving in Beautiful Board, Targ pulled out his satellite photos with plots of
proposed routes to the confluence. A large river to north (Panliang) necessitated crossing
the river at Beautiful Board, but we couldn't tell our excited conductress that. Once off
the bus, we commandeered a motor-trike to take us into town. "Town" was a group
of two houses, but there was a promising looking dirt road behind it. The confluence point
was 3.75 km west of Beautiful Board and since we didn't know if there were any roads in
that direction we set out on foot. Unbeknownst to us, there was a newly constructed road
as part of a 2000 poverty alleviation program.
Targ had studied the satellite photos in great detail and was very excited to see the
photograph literally come to life. His planning on the route very closely matched our
actual route and he accurately predicted the crossings of streams and locations of hills.
Like a kid with a new toy, Targ was ecstatic about how closely his idea of the area
matched reality. The route was through a low hilly farming area with farmhouses along the
road once in a while.
Using the time-tested rule of confluence hunting to stay on the main road as long as
possible until something better comes along, we walked to the point where the arrow turned
90 degrees to the south and there appeared another small dirt road. Leading over hill and
dale, and sweating up a bloody storm since it was a hot bright sunny day with temperatures
about 35C we were able to walk on the road to within 35 meters of the CP. A short walk
through a sugarcane field lead us to the sweet spot where we recorded our visit in digital
format for all to see.
What seemed odd to us though, was that while we could see that the area was intensely
farmed with corn, banana plants, and sugar cane, there were very few people to be seen.
"Was this really China?" we wondered. In the five hours we spent walking there
and back, we saw no more than five people out in the fields. Normally a place like this in
any other part of China would be crawling with farmers and animals tending the fields.
Our way back was thirsty in the extreme, as we had not brought any water for the hike,
thinking that we would get something in the village. This proved impossible, as the two
houses didn't have anything for sale. So we decided to impose ourselves on the locals. The
first house we stopped at had a couple of kids playing outside, and Targ marched up
shirtless with his big sunglasses and hat on and asked a startled woman if she had any
water we could drink. Her answer was to grab the kids, throw them in the house and bolt
the door. Okay, now Plan B. Another house up the road proved much more inviting with seven
women and a man house outside the house chatting and playing cards. The man got us a glass
and a thermos of boiled water. It seemed ludicrous drinking hot water when it was 35 C in
the shade, but Targ assured me that hot drinks were the best for curing thirst.
Back in Beautiful Board we were able to find some more water and got a tricycle to take
us back to Ningming. Arriving at 5 PM, Targ suggested that it would be much easier to
return to Nanning to spend the night and then head out again to our next destination,
Tiandeng in the morning.
Due to the eerie absence of people out in the fields, I christened this the "Ghost
Farmer Confluence Point."
Coordinates: 22°N 107°E
Visit date: 19 June 2004
Visit time: 1:50 p.m.
Elevation: 228 metres
Distance: 0 meters
This story continues with 23°N 107°E.