the Degree Confluence Project

China : Chóngqìng Shì

3.2 km (2.0 miles) W of Hongshiba, Chóngqìng, China
Approx. altitude: 544 m (1784 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreeMap ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 31°S 71°W

Accuracy: 5 m (16 ft)
Quality: good

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: At the Confluence Point looking East plus GPS #3: At the Confluence Point looking North #4: At the Confluence Point looking West #5: Peter Cao (left) and Richard Jones walking through the rapeseed - Richard Jones (left) and Targ Parsons taking a sighting on the Confluence Point #6: Group photo at the Confluence of residents and Richard Jones (left rear), Targ Parsons (center rear) and Peter Cao (right) #7: Laundry Day near the Confluence #8: Faces of China: Mother and son on the bus, residents near the Confluence Point #9: Transport options - Motorized or not. #10: Targ Parsons (front) and Richard Jones on the trail to the Confluence Point

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  31°N 109°E  

#1: At the Confluence Point looking South

(visited by Peter Cao, Targ Parsons and Richard F Jones)

30-Jan-2003 -- Prologue

This is the third of a series of six Confluence Points (beginning with 31°N 111°E) visited by Targ Parsons, Richard Jones and Peter Snow Cao (scribe) between January 26 and February 2 during Spring Festival 2003. We wished to make this journey to document the confluences before the filling of the Three Gorges Dam Project, due to begin in mid-2003.

Impetus: Targ had read the book, River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler, several months before and decided he would see the area after while attempting to visit several confluences. This book describes the life of an English teacher living in Fuling, Sichuan in the late 90’s.

Dedication: In honor of my charming wife, Xiaorong, for her patience and understanding, support and unending love, I have dedicated these stories to her.

Confluence Hunting - January 29, 2003

After nabbing the confluence at 31°N 110°E the three of us returned to Wushan via the small slow ferry boat. The two-hour ride was uneventful and the number of passengers was markedly less than the day before on our way to Qingshi. Apparently, the movement of Chinese runs from city to countryside before the New Year, as city dwellers return to the home of their birth.

The swath of destruction in Wushan was clearly visible long before we arrived. This line is the below the second phase water mark for the Three Gorges Dam Project at about 145 meters above sea level. Closer up the destruction area is brutal - looking more like a war zone than a city. Targ said it looked like scenes from Bosnia during the war. Nothing more than roads and rubble remain. The footprints of buildings are visible amidst the dust and scattered bricks. This scene was seen repeatedly on the trip as we moved up the Yangtze. Dusty streets turned into clouds of choking dust as vehicles came and went with pedestrians covering their mouth and noses.

In Wushan, our next objective was to move onto 31°N 109°E, 95.5 km from the last confluence point (CP). Being the two days before Chinese New Year, ticket sales were brisk. We were trying to get a fast boat to Yinyang. All available tickets were sold for the 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM boats, but the ticket seller said there might be some news arriving soon that would permit some additional passengers. Targ and I alternated standing in line with several other hopefuls, money in hand thrust through the ticket window, clogging up access for other ticket purchasers.

Outside the ticket area was a 50ish man, with a small purse that Chinese men are fond of carrying around under their arm. Targ quickly branded him "Satchel Man." He wielded the power at the ticket window as Targ witnessed the purchase of 13 tickets for a "sold out" boat. Targ asked me to go "get friendly with Satchel Man." But I deferred to him as that is not my cup of tea, and took his place in the pushing and shoving ticket line. Not long afterward, Targ returned with the news that Satchel Man can get us the tickets at 3 PM for the 3:30 PM fast boat. We were elated at having been freed from the task of waiting for an hour and a half in line and have assurance of getting on the boat.

We retired to the teahouse on the barge where the boats dock and relaxed to another Hong Kong gangster movie shot in Vietnam. Satchel Man came through as promised, delivering three 92 RMB tickets for the fast boat to Yunyang. Targ gave him 300 RMB and told him to keep the change.

Promptly at 3:30 PM the Russian-built Flying Dragon hydrofoil arrived. A cigar-shaped boat looking like something from Darth Vadar’s evil empire made a rapid stop and people while rushed off and on. The silver-tinted windows effectively blocked any view out the clouded windows of the gorges and also cutoff GPS signals. Also, several men were smoking in defiance of the No Smoking signs and another Hong Kong gangster movie was playing. We got seats in the back of the boat, not an ideal place as we discovered as soon as the ship started. The twin 16-cylinder engines created such a deafening roar that we had to read the English subtitles for the movie even though the language was in English. Amazingly, I spotted an engine worker positioned between the engines sitting there staring at the gauges without protective hearing gear. Maybe he was already deaf.

When the cabin became filled with smoke, I sought out fresh air in the front of the boat and discovered the sound levels were dramatically lower. Also, the access point to the ship was open to the outside so I hung out there where I could watch the scenery go by and take some GPS readings. There was a woman returning to her home in Yunyang from Shanghai where she worked. She told me her house used to be in the old town before the government moved them to the new town as a result of the Three Gorges Dam Project. She said her family’s old house was a lot better than the new one. She also mentioned that there were several good hotels in town and she would show us where to go. This was encouraging as we didn’t have a clue where to stay. The fast boat moved at about 50 km/hour and we were at our destination just before dark. The four of us jumped in a taxi already occupied with another woman headed for the same destination. What we thought would be a short ride up the bank to the town ended up being a 45-minute ride from the old town to the new town further away from our objective.

However, once we arrived, our reservations vanished as we were able to check into a three-star hotel with 24-hour hot water, central heating and elevators. The listed price was 268 RMB for a three-bed room that Targ was willing to accept without comment, but I asked if there was a discount. The desk clerk said yes and then quoted a very reasonable 118 RMB, including breakfast.

After a quick run up to the room to drop off bags, we headed out to find the local bookstore so Targ could purchase some more maps and atlases. Then we tracked down a decent restaurant and had a square meal. At that point, Targ and Richard went off to find out about transportation for tomorrow while I located an internet bar. I had been unable to log onto my internet account for the past five days. When I finally did, there were 363 messages waiting for me. I spent the next three hours dealing with the urgent stuff and forgoing the rest until I returned to Chengdu.

January 30, 2003

The next day we rose early to get going on to our objective for the day: 31°N 109°E. After a hearty breakfast where I consumed, among other things, six glasses of milk and one glass of soy bean milk. By 8:30 AM we were on the road heading back to the old town. Our mianbao van dropped us off at the junction to Hongshi (Red Lion), the township where the confluence lay. The bus was packed to the gills, but everyone was in a good mood as most were returning home to be with family for the holidays. We had to push the bus to get it started, and then it wound its way up the one-lane dirt road climbing higher and higher out of the Yangtze River valley.

Targ was in the back of the bus and positioned his GPS out the rear window, taking readings from time to time. At one point we were less than two kilometers away with the GPS arrow pointing up an inviting valley, but as we hadn’t yet arrived in Hongshi we didn’t get off. Once in town, it was a frantic search for a toilet as my milk had been processed and was ready to be discharged. Then a quick reconnaissance showed we were 2.5 km away from the confluence and a large hill stood in the way. Targ pointed out that the tracks on his GPS showed we were closer before we arrived in town and the path looked much more accessible. The decision was made to return to the point in the valley. We looked into bus transportation but the next one wasn’t leaving for 90 minutes. About ten guys on motorcycles were hanging around so I inquired as to the price to take us five km down the road. The first guy said ten RMB so I asked another. After some negotiating we got the price down to a reasonable five RMB each.

We told our drivers to take it easy, but Richard’s felt like he had to be first and raced ahead. Upon arriving at the point in the road where the valley lead up to the CP we meet some locals and talked the owner of the small shop into storing our bags for a while. As usual, no one could figure out why we wanted to go up this way. In fact, virtually every person we met asked us where we were going and what we were doing there. Our standard answer became to go for a walk and see the scenery. This seemed to placate them.

Unlike the first CP of this trip (31°N 111°E) where we had only a 30-meter visibility, we could clearly see where we were going. The paths etched into the hills showed us our options for arriving at our destination. The CP was dead ahead, but a steep ravine cut across out path. Folks from a nearby house asked where were going and then told us to cross the bridge up the valley and then come back down the other side.

The main paths on these mountain trails usually run from house to house, and generally run directly in front of the front door which is never closed in these areas. Consequently, we get a peek inside the simple living quarters and often end up surprising the residents. Today was no different when as I passed in front of one house and old man was pulling up his pants.

As we closed in on the CP, Targ and I were trying to guess where the exact point was based on our GPS headings. Mine pointed at a brick farmhouse while his pointed further down the hill where some people where working the fields. As we got closer, the excitement of reaching another confluence was building up and our pace quickened. The GPSs were pointing to a point somewhere between the house and the workers. Our presence was observed, and the entire family came to watch as three foreigners wandered around their land looking at cell phone-like gadgets and mumbling to themselves. This time the CP was on the side of a rather steep partially cultivated hillside.

Once again all three of us had slightly different points, but which were within two meters of each other. We found the point at 12:40 PM on January 30, 2003, Elevation 543 meters. The family was eager to watch us document the process, even though they had no idea what the heck we were doing. They poised with us for some photos and invited us to have lunch with them. We declined saying we had other things to do (like find more confluences!) but thanked them for their hospitality.

On the way back we passed many people headed up into the hills decked out in fancy clothes and carrying large bags of presents for the Chinese New Year. We arrived back at the small shop that was storing our bags just in time to catch a mianbao van back to the ferry dock. This time getting a ferry upstream appeared to be no problem and no option. There was only a slow boat leaving in about 30 minutes.

I christened this the Friendly Confluence Point.

Onto our fourth confluence on this trip: 30°N 108°E, 147 km away.

 All pictures
#1: At the Confluence Point looking South
#2: At the Confluence Point looking East plus GPS
#3: At the Confluence Point looking North
#4: At the Confluence Point looking West
#5: Peter Cao (left) and Richard Jones walking through the rapeseed - Richard Jones (left) and Targ Parsons taking a sighting on the Confluence Point
#6: Group photo at the Confluence of residents and Richard Jones (left rear), Targ Parsons (center rear) and Peter Cao (right)
#7: Laundry Day near the Confluence
#8: Faces of China: Mother and son on the bus, residents near the Confluence Point
#9: Transport options - Motorized or not.
#10: Targ Parsons (front) and Richard Jones on the trail to the Confluence Point
ALL: All pictures on one page