16-Jun-2006 -- Story continues from 27°N 109°E.
We arrived back in Kuǎnchǎng (款场乡) at 4:30 p.m., and sat by the roadside waiting for a bus east to Tiānzhù (天柱县), capital of the neighbouring county. At 5:10 p.m. a Kǎilǐ (凯里市)-to-Tiānzhù bus came along, and we were on the move once more.
We arrived in Tiānzhù at 5:45 p.m., and checked into the Tiāndōng Grand Hotel (天东大酒店), apparently Tiānzhù's finest. It was only 100 yuan (US$ 12.50) a night, reasonably clean, and good value. Then we went out to buy a new backpack for Ah Feng, followed by dinner, then the Internet bar for me.
Thursday 15 June 2006 (Day 16)
We checked out just before 8 a.m., then walked five minutes to the bus station, where we got tickets on the 8:50 a.m. bus south to Lípíng County (黎平县). This was actually a Róngjiāng (榕江县) bus that went via Lípíng. We had time for a bowl of noodles each for breakfast at a nearby restaurant before the bus left.
The bus departed on time, then trawled around town looking for passengers for a while, visited another bus station (the one we had arrived at the night before), trawled around some more, visited a petrol station, did a final bit of trawling, and then we were finally on our way at 9:15 a.m. During all the trawling around town, we saw a veritable army of schoolchildren cleaning absolutely everything in sight: telephone poles, walls, shopfronts, you name it. Tiānzhù must have been preparing to enter the tidy towns competition.
It was a glorious sunny day. We had seats at the front of the bus, and enjoyed a very pleasant and comfortable journey. We passed many beautiful old wooden houses on the way to Lípíng, arriving shortly after 1 p.m.
At the Lípíng bus station, we found a bus SW to the town of Shuāngjiāng (双江乡) due to depart at 2 p.m., and secured our seats. The ticket seller spoke to me in English! After leaving on time, the bus did a bit of trawling, and was soon filled to capacity with passengers, luggage, and body odour. Many high school students were returning home, having just completed their final exams.
On the way to Shuāngjiāng we passed within four kilometres of the confluence, and also saw the turnoff to the village of Kēngdòng (坑洞) when the confluence was five kilometres east.
We arrived in Shuāngjiāng just after 5 p.m., the confluence now 10.6 kilometres east. The bus driver directed us to a very nice clean guesthouse for 20 yuan (US$ 2.50) a night. We later discovered that it had one of the best showers of our trip so far!
We left our bags in the guesthouse, then went for a long walk through the interesting Dòng minority nationality (侗族) town. It consisted predominantly of old wooden buildings, with a few new brick and tile structures sprouting up amongst them. Some of the local women still wore traditional costumes. Shuāngjiāng means "two rivers", but we saw only one, spanned by a long narrow pedestrian suspension bridge.
We had dinner at our guesthouse before retiring for the evening.
Friday 16 June 2006 (Day 17)
We had it on good authority (the previous day's bus conductress) that the first bus back to Lípíng would leave at 6 a.m., so we set the alarm for 5 a.m., and were at the bus station at 5:40 a.m. That's when we learned that the first bus wouldn't actually leave until 6:30 a.m. Ah Feng lamented the lost half hour of sleep.
At 6:50 a.m. we got off the bus at the Kēngdòng turnoff, and started walking. It was a pleasant walk in the relative cool of the early morning. We made our way up through mist-enshrouded hills and then along a river valley. After walking for an hour, a distance of five kilometres, we arrived in Kēngdòng, with the confluence 2.17 kilometres east.
Kēngdòng was relatively big for a village, with mostly old wooden houses and a tower. We continued past Kēngdòng along the main road beside the river, until at 8:25 a.m. we reached a small collection of houses and several paths leading off to the right in the direction of the confluence, 1.19 kilometres SE. Our objective was beyond the first mountain, and we asked a local for advice on the best approach, then followed the path he suggested.
As we made our way along this trail, which swung around behind the mountain and along its far slope, it started raining, making the trail very slippery. Eventually the trail led down to a substantial steam, and there followed a number of treacherous stream crossings on slippery rocks.
Progress became harder when we were still 300 metres short of the confluence, with the trail all but petering out. Two more fraught stream crossings followed. Then, at 10 a.m., with just under 200 metres to go, the confluence was above us to the SSE, up a steep slope covered in dense vegetation.
We began climbing. Although it had stopped raining, everything was wet, slippery and muddy. Eventually, after ascending 150 metres vertically, we finally reached the confluence, and took the regulation north-south-east-west photos.
We were pleased to finally reach this confluence. We had originally planned to visit it in December 2005, at the same time as we visited 26°N 108°E, but were thwarted by bad weather which washed out roads and disrupted transportation.
It looked like we were near the top of the mountain, so we continued upwards in the hope of finding a trail at the top. Fifty metres from the confluence, we emerged onto the edge of a recently planted rice paddy. Just at this juncture, the sun began to break through the overcast sky.
We found a path leading down from the south end of the rice paddy, and started following that. After a short while, we encountered a lone farmer, who guided us to a vehicle track that led directly back to Kēngdòng.
Story continues at 27°N 108°E.