04-Apr-2002 -- This story continues from 29°N 113°E.
THURSDAY 4 APRIL 2002. This morning, I woke up even before my alarm went off. I took a taxi to the Changsha west bus station at 6:30 a.m., and bought a ticket on the "fast" bus to Hanshou. However, it was not until 8:15 a.m. that all the seats were full (including half a dozen that materialised in the aisle once all the normal seats had been occupied), and we were finally under way.
The trip of over 100 kilometres up the excellent freeway was then truly very fast, and mercifully uneventful. This was in stark contrast to the hair-raising, white-knuckle stuff to which I'd grown accustomed over the past few days, travelling on buses whose drivers threw all caution to the wind as they engaged in the riskiest of overtaking manoeuvres on busy two-way carriageways. For today's trip, all I had to worry about was finding a comfortable way to sit, following the torture to which my bum had been subjected the day before.
When we finally turned off the freeway, the surrounding terrain was absolutely flat as a pancake. I was not all that far south of the mighty Yangtze River. Mist hung over everything, and I had the impression that it had rained here recently.
At 10 a.m. the bus arrived in Hanshou, 10 kilometres south of the confluence. From here I took a small three-wheeler to Weitihu, on the south bank of the Yuan River, 3.8 kilometres WSW of the confluence.
The Yuan River is about 1.5 kilometres wide at this point. After a short wait, the cross-river ferry emerged from the mist (photo #2). It was nothing more than a bunch of old planks and an outboard motor (picture #3). Nevertheless, it got me safely across to the other side (picture #4). The crossing took 20 minutes, during which time I discovered that I was sitting next to none other than the mayor of Weitihu.
I got off the ferry 2.3 kilometres west of the confluence. I walked along the high northern embankment of the river (picture #5) until I was just one kilometre away, then descended to the plain below, where I continued in the direction of the confluence along a very muddy road.
The closer I got, the more water there was. Progress was possible only by following ever narrower--and ever muddier--paths, weaving my way backwards and forwards to the confluence through a series of 90-degree turns.
I reached the confluence at 12 noon. Well, I was actually still seven metres away (picture #6), precariously balanced on a tiny mud bank, completely surrounded by water (picture #1, picture #7, picture #8 and picture #9), and vying for position with an earthworm (picture #10). Elevation: 28 metres.
Getting back to Changsha was uneventful. Once there, I dropped into a very large bookshop, and scoured its extensive collection of provincial atlases. But only one of them, the Shaanxi atlas, had the lines of longitude and latitude marked. I bought it in case one day my confluencing takes me that far into China.
This story continues at 28°N 112°E.