28-Jun-2008 -- After weeks of incessant rain, with a couple of typhoons thrown in for good measure, it's a good feeling to be leaving Hong Kong (香港) for a month of confluencing in more northerly, hopefully sunnier, latitudes. Knocking off work early on Friday afternoon, I take the train to Luóhú (罗湖) on the mainland Chinese border. My wife Ah Feng is waiting for me on the other side, having just returned from a couple of weeks visiting her home in Guǎngxī (广西). We enjoy some mùtǒngfàn (木桶饭, "wooden bucket rice") for dinner before retiring to the quite affordable GS Railway Hotel (广深铁路大酒店) for the night.
The next morning, we awake to yet more rain. By the time we leave for the Shēnzhèn Airport (深圳宝安国际机场), the rain is torrential! We make it in time, but the absolute deluge causes major flooding on the roads, which proves problematical for Richard Jones, who is making his way to the airport separately by taxi. Check-in has already closed by the time he arrives, and he consequently misses the flight. Richard is extremely disappointed, to say the least!
However, Richard is not the first member of our confluencing party to fall by the wayside. Also intending to join us for the first few confluences was Peter Cao, who planned to fly directly to Zhèngzhōu (郑州) from his home in Chéngdū, Sìchuān (四川成都), and wait for us at the airport there. But Peter's confluencing plans came to an abrupt end the day before departure, when he sprained his ankle playing rugby.
So, out of the original four starters, now there are just two of us: Ah Feng and me. It's a rather inauspicious start, but there are still 33 confluences in Hénán (河南) and Shāndōng (山东) beckoning...
At 3 p.m., a bit later than expected, our flight arrives, and we take the airport bus to the centre of Zhèngzhōu, capital of Hénán Province. Once in town, we share a taxi to the long-distance bus station with a helpful local, who was one of our fellow passengers on the airport bus. He is one of those really kind people one finds all over China, who absolutely refuses to let us pay for the taxi, and even goes to the extra trouble of helping us buy our tickets on the 4:35 p.m. bus NW to Wēn County (温县).
In stark contrast to waterlogged Shēnzhèn, Zhèngzhōu is sunny, hot, dry and dusty. It's a large, sprawling metropolis, which takes an inordinate amount of time to get into and out of, on account of the traffic. Once we are finally outside the city, the landscape becomes an endless expanse of cornfields. The terrain is absolutely dead flat. The corn has only recently been planted - still just knee to waist height.
We make good progress on the excellent network of freeways. At 6:15 p.m., our bus turns north, and we cross the wide, somewhat swollen, Yellow River (Huánghé 黄河), China's second longest (after the Yangtze (Chángjiāng 长江)). We arrive in Wēn County at 6:30 p.m., where we engage a minivan taxi to take us to the confluence, 9.6 km NW.
After one wrong turn, and a little bit of circumnavigation, we eventually arrive in Gāozhào Village (高照村), where we find the right track heading off into the cornfields. The track is barely navigable by our minivan, but it gets us to 155 m south of our objective. From here, it's an easy stroll through a cornfield to the confluence.
The young corn plants, which have been planted in neat rows amongst the stalks of recently harvested wheat, extend from the point in all directions: north, south, east and west. About 80 m north of the point is a line of trees, which marks the location of a small canal. It's late in the day, and the sun lies low in the western sky.
Story continues at 34°N 112°E.