28-Jun-2006 -- Story continues from 26°N 106°E.
We arrived back in Gélì (革利乡) at 1:05 p.m. to the news that the police wanted me to register. I changed out of my hiking boots into my sandals, grabbed my passport, and then my motorcyclist took me the short distance to the police station.
Registering took an extraordinarily long time. The young officer had obviously never registered a foreigner before, didn't know what he was supposed to do, and had no idea what to make of my passport. He spent a long time on the phone. When he was finally finished on the phone, he asked me a bunch of questions, and filled out a form. Once all this was done, he returned my passport, and informed me that I had to go to the police station in the county capital Zhènníng (镇宁县) to register again! I couldn't believe it, but promised I would.
We finally set off west to Jiānglóng (江龙镇) at 2 p.m., on the same two motorbikes that we'd visited the confluence on earlier that morning. We arrived 40 minutes later, and five minutes after that were on a bus heading NW to Zhènníng. We arrived in Zhènníng at 3:45 p.m., and took a three-wheeler to the long distance bus station, where Ah Feng got out with our luggage, while I continued on to the police station.
At the police station, I found a policeman on the ground floor and explained why I was there. He sent me up to the third floor, where I found another policeman and told him the same story. He said there was no need for me to register, and handed me back my passport. I gave it back to him and insisted that he at least record the fact that I'd shown up as promised. With a sigh of reluctance, he scrawled "PARSONS" on a scrap of paper, handed my passport back again, and sent me on my way.
I walked back to the long distance bus station, which wasn't that far, arriving at 4 p.m., and we bought tickets on the next bus NE to Guìyáng (贵阳), which departed at 4:30 p.m.
I had had enough encounters with the police for one month, and there were only two days left on my 30-day visa, so I was ready to head home directly from Guìyáng. But Ah Feng was adamant that we complete the final unvisited confluence in Guìzhōu before giving up. An uneasy standoff ensued.
The trip to Guìyáng was on a proper divided freeway. As we travelled through more Guìlín (桂林)-esque countryside, it started raining heavily. Then the bus began shuddering violently, most likely due to a poorly balanced wheel. The rain eventually stopped, but the shuddering didn't.
We arrived in Guìyáng at 6:25 p.m. Ah Feng had convinced me to keep going. The bus deposited us near the train station, and after asking a few people, we established that there were no buses south to Huìshuǐ County (惠水县) from here, so we took a taxi to the main bus station. After fruitlessly scouring the main bus station and two other bus stations nearby, we eventually found a Huìshuǐ bus on a street corner, trawling for passengers. We got on at 7:05 p.m., and were lucky to get seats. After a little more trawling, the bus was filled to overflowing.
Once we left the suburbs of Guìyáng - which took a very long time; the suburbs just went on and on - the driver started driving like a maniac, in the dark, on a very bad road, with lots of other traffic and pedestrians. He had the pedal to the metal most of the way, and the overtaking manoeuvres (and attempts) were heart-stopping. The journey took only two hours, but took ten years off my life!
When we arrived in Huìshuǐ, we took a three-wheeler to a hotel that the ticket seller claimed was Huìshuǐ's finest, but in actual fact was quite a disappointment. We were too tired to go looking elsewhere, so checked in anyway.
We went out for dinner. Horse meat seemed to be Huìshuǐ's speciality, so we ordered a serving of fried horse meat. That was a mistake. The meat was as tough as old boots! The restaurant owner proudly announced that his fried horse meat dish had recently been featured on TV, and asked what we thought of it. We told him the truth, and he suggested we come back tomorrow and try the boiled horse meat, which he said wasn't as tough. Um, no thanks!
Wednesday 28 June 2006 (Day 29)
The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. I had diarrhoea. It was raining. We checked out at 6:30 a.m. and took a three-wheeler to the bus station, where we bought tickets on the 7 a.m. bus SE to Dàtáng Township (大塘镇) in neighbouring Píngtáng County (平塘县). There was some confusion buying the tickets because everyone seemed to refer to Dàtáng as Xīguān (西关).
The rain was easing off as we left the station and began trawling. At roughly half distance, we stopped in a township while the driver ate breakfast at a roadside restaurant. We arrived in Dàtáng at 8:50 a.m., with the confluence 8.44 kilometres NE.
During the half hour it took us to negotiate with two motorcyclists to take us to the confluence, we walked up and down the main street of Dàtáng several times. There was a freshly slaughtered calf laid out on a bench on the side of the road for sale (presumably in whole or in part), and a gentleman in gumboots was puffing away on a long-stemmed pipe.
We set off at 9:20 a.m. The first three kilometres were back along the main road, but the next eight were along a very rocky road, almost all of it downhill, which made for a rather uncomfortable ride.
At 10 a.m. we reached a fork in the road. The confluence was 750 metres ENE, on a large hill. The choices were to go left (north), and approach the confluence from the west, or to go right (east), and approach the confluence from the SE. We elected to go right. The road quickly turned south, and we found ourselves moving further away from the confluence, but then the road turned back towards the east, and later to the NE. We finally asked our motorcyclists to stop when the confluence was 560 metres NW. From here, at an elevation of 1,100 metres, we set off on foot to climb the hill. Our motorcyclists elected not to accompany us.
It was pretty heavy going at first, as we forged our way across rocky, overgrown terrain, with no path to follow. I paused to take a photo of a pretty flower that was growing wild. Once we reached the top of the hill, a climb of 90 metres vertically, we found the occasional path, and the going became easier.
The confluence was on a fairly steep, north-facing slope that we needed to descend, once again without the aid of a proper path. Fifty minutes after leaving the road, we were at the point, and took the regulation north-south-east-west photos. The land to the north and west of the confluence was cultivated, and we continued our descent to a very good path.
As is so often the case, there was a much easier way out from the confluence than the way in. We followed the good path down the NW side of the hill, past a village, and at 11:20 a.m. emerged on the left fork of the road, with the confluence 510 metres ESE. Unfortunately, we didn't have either of the motorcyclists' phone numbers, and to make matters worse, it started raining. There was nothing to do but begin the long walk around the base of the hill in the rain.
As we were approaching the fork in the road, another motorcyclist came by, and he kindly gave me a lift around to our two waiting motorcyclists. We then all went back to pick up Ah Feng, and headed back to Dàtáng, arriving at about 12:30 p.m., with the rain still coming down.
I was very glad that Ah Feng had persuaded me to do this final confluence, which meant we had successfully visited all 19 of the confluences we'd set out to do on this trip, and in the process completed both Húběi and Guìzhōu provinces. We returned to Guìyáng that evening, and flew back to Shēnzhèn (深圳) the following day, just in time to cross into Hong Kong before my visa ran out.