08-Jul-2008 -- Story continues from 34°N 115°E.
We get a lift back to Tàikāng from a couple of businessmen in a minivan, however in Tàikāng we learn that there are no more buses emanating from there that are heading our way today, so we end up spending several hours by the side of the highway, in the rain, before finally a bus bound for Bózhōu City (亳州市) in Ānhuī Province (安徽省) to the east comes along.
Safely in Bózhōu, we treat ourselves to some four-star comfort in the reasonably priced New Metropolis Hotel (新贵都城市酒店). We further treat ourselves to dinner from the reasonably priced room service menu, however we steer clear of the "mentally dense soup"!
The next morning, we enjoy the best complimentary breakfast of the trip so far, before setting off east again on the 9 a.m. bus to Yǒngchéng City (永城市). There has been a lot of rain overnight, and a lot of water remains on the road. Based on Ray Yip's description of the previous visit, we're expecting to encounter a lot of mud on the way to this confluence.
We get off the bus at the turnoff to Lónggǎng Township (龙岗乡), just inside the Hénán provincial border (7.1 km SE of the confluence), then get a tuk-tuk to Lónggǎng (5.5 km SE of the confluence), followed by another tuk-tuk as far as Tiānjí Village (天齐村), where the road is blocked off. We must do the remaining 1.4 km on foot, through the mud.
When the confluence is 435 m north, we turn right down a straight, narrow, tree-lined, dirt side road. As we approach the confluence, we see a group of people busy playing mahjong next to the confluence pond. We say hello as we walk by, but their game is of far more interest than the arrival of two strangers in their tiny village, and they are soon engrossed in it once more.
At the house closest to the confluence point, we meet the Zhāngs (张), and give them a print-out of Ray's confluence report as a souvenir. They seem pretty chuffed to learn that Mr Zhāng has become a celebrity, with his photo on the internet.
The Zhāngs tell us that, since Ray's visit two and a half years ago, they have given up on duck farming, saying it was too much trouble. A subsequent attempt to use the pond for fish farming also ended in failure, so now the pond is in disuse, completely covered in duckweed. Mr Zhāng also clarifies the name of the village: Zhāngzhuāng (张庄村), not Zhangjí (张集村), as Ray had previously recorded.
I go down to the edge of the pond directly south of Mr Zhāng's house, from where I am able, after some careful toing and froing on the steep bank, to get a GPS reading of only 11 metres distance from the confluence. I take the north-south-east-west photos from this point.
Story continues at 35°N 116°E.