03-Jul-2011 -- Continued from 39N 110E. This is Part Eight of my eight-point confluence trip.
Drive, drive, drive, now into Shǎnxī province, another major mining province. We had to leave the expressway and travel secondary roads jammed with semi-trucks filled with ore most of the way. The road was narrow, the red semi-trailer trucks were lined up bumper-to-bumper leaving a one-lane corridor down the middle. Car traffic played the game of chicken as opposing traffic would come as close as possible to each other before slowing and squeezing by.
One wild one driving a white sedan refused to yield and his driver’s side mirror smacked the roo-bar on the front of our jeep with a resounding crash. He jumped out, phone in hand, and came to try to get me to pay. I just sat in the jeep, turned the engine off and told him he hit me, I didn’t hit him. He persisted that I needed to pay and I just sat there and told him I would wait. We were blocking traffic, and the other drivers were impatiently honking and making extreme maneuvers to get around the blockage. Ten minutes of impasse, then the guy jumped in his car and drove off, so we continued on our way.
This was another minimally researched confluence. Rainer glanced at Google Earth the night before and drew a simple sketch of the approach. The confluence was off to the east about 5 km but the resolution was very poor. Rainer said the confluence was either in a valley or on a hill, which didn’t narrow the choices much. The terrain was hilly with the main road in the river valley and smaller valleys branching branching off about every 400 meters. At 90 degrees to the confluence we did a survey of our options cruising one kilometer further trying to locate a likely road. There were several, so we choose biggest of the bunch. It went up into the hills under a new high-speed rail line. The track was rarely used by four-wheeled vehicle, with motorcycles being the predominant form of transport. As we climbed the track got steeper and narrower and we were pushing the limits of the jeep to climb and cling to the edge. As we rounded an especially narrow turn with a precipitous drop to the left we surprised a motorcyclist coming the other way who almost hit us head-on. We stopped in the front of a cave home typical of the area of an elderly couple who were stunned to see us. We asked about a village that showed up on Google Earth as being near the confluence, but they didn’t recognize the name.
We left the jeep in their yard, and at 5:30 PM set off for the confluence that was 3.6 km away in hilly terrain. As those who have done similar treks will attest, 3.6 km is a very long way when the terrain is hilly. There are multiple hills and valleys to be crossed and without a good map, you are walking blind. We headed up the narrow river valley in the direction of the confluence hoping it continued in the right direction. About one kilometer later we happened upon a shepherd tending his flock of goats. He recognized the village we were headed toward and said it was the right direction.
Now we were faced once again with time constraints to get there before dark. Along the way Rainer and I would estimate the distances to landmarks in the distance, and Rainer consistently missed the mark by about double. Distances are deceiving in the hills appearing to be much closer than they really are.
Up and down, around hill and dale. The good thing was the area was used for grazing flocks of goats and some minor farming so there were plenty of trails to choose from. About 700 meters from the confluence we came to a village with nobody but a few dogs. One of them was loose and really didn’t care for us at all baring teeth full set of pearly white fangs, snarling and snapping. Rainer got very nervous and we threw stones at him to keep him at bay. A few hundred meters down in another river valley we were excited to be nearing the confluence on a good track.
Rainer was right, the confluence was on either on a hill or a valley; it was slightly up the bank of a narrow valley. At 7:30 PM we nailed this one.
On the way back, Rainer was determined to avoid the dog, and we ended up in a very steep and slippery valley that almost did us in. We used up at least triple the time to go the same distance, but avoided the dog. Light was fading and we decided to run most of the way back. When we arrived at the jeep, it was just turning dark and I asked Rainer to walk in front of the jeep until we got to more surer footing as I didn’t want him to risk going over the edge of the cliff in the jeep if I miscalculated.
At the bottom of the hill the village on the main road was having a Beijing Opera at the Buddhist temple and we stopped for a while to wander about.
We then headed toward the town nearest the next confluence that we wanted to try before I had to leave for Yínchuān 360 km away to catch my flight home. We arrived in the town about 11 PM and it was a lively place with the streets full of open-air barbeque restaurants and guys drinking copious amounts of beer. We got to bed after 1 AM and set the alarm for 5 AM hoping to have enough time to get the next one before I had to start back to Yínchuān. Alas, we took the long way around and I ended up not having enough time, so Rainer unpacked his bike from the jeep to continue the hunt on his own and we said our farewells. I drove back to Yínchuān, returned the jeep after 2,250 km of driving in five days, and flew back to my home in Chéngdū.
Dubbed: The Endless Truck and Snarling Dog Confluence
Rainer’s Recorded Details:
3.7.2011 CP 38-110 parking 3.6 km, 19:20 at CP, 22:00 in Héngshān, from main road 5 km, typical Shǎnxī houses, dog attack in Guoxingzhuāng Cūn.CP 50 m from valley bottom, festival.