26-Sep-2004 -- Story continues from 24°N 108°E.
Sun 26-Sep-2004, 5 a.m. - I awake to the alarm after a long, restless night. The previous evening there were men playing a very popular Chinese drinking game that involves much shouting and chanting, and the cacophony reverberated up the 10-foot-wide gap between the front of the hotel and its false facade. I switched to the bed further from the window in a vain attempt to gain some respite from the auditory onslaught. Then there was the incessant noise of girls' voices in the corridor and phones ringing in adjacent rooms as the prostitutes plied their trade. (I'd already unplugged my phone in anticipation.) Once all that died down, I continued to be woken at irregular intervals by the sound of an animal scampering around my room making a hell of a racket--a rat, no doubt. I switched on the light several times but never managed to catch a glimpse of him, however judging from the commotion, he must have been a whopper.
The shower starts promisingly hot, but as soon as I'm all lathered up the hot water stops, and I'm forced to rinse off using bracingly cold water.
I check out of the hotel, cross the street to the bus station, and find the one daily bus that goes from Du'an to Xincheng: the 6:45 a.m. sleeper bus to Liuzhou.
11:30 a.m. - Eleven kilometres from Xincheng, I give Brian a call to let him know I'll be arriving shortly.
In researching this confluence, I'd discovered that the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) is running a programme in Xincheng known as the Karst Environmental Rehabilitation Project (KERP), the goal of which is to assist the Chinese government to restore and protect the environment and alleviate poverty in the karst mountain areas of Guangxi. Specifically, KERP is demonstrating a community-based model for sustainable restoration of the degraded karst mountain areas in nine poor townships in Xincheng County, including Andong Township, in which the confluence is located. Brian is the team leader of KERP. We'd corresponded via e-mail before I set off on this confluence trip, and agreed to visit the confluence together.
Brian and his driver Huang Haili are waiting for me as the bus pulls into the Xincheng bus station. We drive back to Brian's residence, where we pick up Brian's wife Lynne, KERP colleague Jim, and Jim's wife Nur. All six of us then set off in pursuit of the confluence.
Along the way, Brain and Jim point out and explain some of the things KERP is doing in the region. A lot of the work involves encouraging the planting of various types of vegetation, such as rendou (Xinnia) and a number of different pine species, in an effort to arrest soil erosion.
1:30 p.m. - Finding this confluence is a piece of cake. We follow the main road until the confluence is just 200 metres west, then turn right down a dirt track and park 60 metres short of our goal. The confluence is atop a small hill to our southwest. Jim and I scramble through some thick vegetation at the base of the hill, taking the beeline approach, while the rest of our party sensibly walk back along the track until they find the inevitable path. They are all waiting for us as Jim and I emerge sheepishly from the scrub.
Jim, using my spare GPS, is soon back in the lead, and before long is doing the confluence dance at the top of the hill, getting all the zeroes to come up. I take the photos facing north, south, east and west. The confluence is located on a patch of unplanted ground. There is a field of immature huangdou (soya beans) just a couple of metres south, and some sugar cane further away to the northwest. The team poses for a group photo, a field of mushu (cassava) visible a short distance behind us, southeast of the confluence. On hillsides to the west and southwest of the confluence are stands of eucalypts that have been established for pulp.
On the way back down the hill, we meet a local farmer, and Jim takes the opportunity to hand him a leaflet outlining the KERP programme.
We later celebrate our successful visit with a hearty lunch at a small restaurant in the neighbouring township of Datang. After lunch, we drive further north to the next township, Oudong, where, with precision timing, I hop out of the KERP vehicle and straight onto a bus headed for Yizhou.
Once on board, I reflect on the ease with which this confluence visit was accomplished. I owe a big debt of gratitude to Brian and the KERP team for all their help. It certainly makes a difference having a vehicle and driver at one's disposal, rather than relying on public transport. No doubt the next confluence will be more challenging...
Story continues with 25°N 108°E.
Postscript: On the day I'm writing up this confluence report, Jim is on leave in Hong Kong, and comes to visit me at my home on Lamma Island. He proudly shows me his latest acquisition: a brand new Garmin Summit! He's hooked. :)