16-Oct-2004 -- This was my second attempt to reach this confluence. The occasion for doing it was the
arrival of my old friend, Rainer Mautz from Germany. Rainer and I first found each other
in Seoul in 1990 when we were both on long solo cycling trips. We decided to pair up to
try and get into China, which at that time was difficult to get ones bike into the
country. We found a way, and spend two months cycling from Hong Kong to Macao, Guangzhou,
Yangshou, Guilin, Giuyang, Kunming, Dali and Lijiang. Rainer had just arrived in Chengdu
after spending two weeks retracing part of our route through Hunan and Guizhou where he
miraculously met a young woman who remembered our visit to her village 14 years earlier.
She said she remembered because we were the first foreigners to ever visit her village.
Rainer came to Chengdu on his way back to Germany via Beijing after completing a
whirlwind car tour from Germany to Goa, India, where he already had visited 27 confluences. This
was the last but one visit on his trip. It was also significant since Rainer was the person who
introduced me to confluence hunting a year and a half ago. This would be first one we have
Rainer was only going to be in Chengdu for three days, and due to an extraordinarily
busy season for my Bike China Adventures tour
business, I was only able to spend one day with him looking for confluences. In addition,
I had already visited most of the easily reached confluences from Chengdu except for two:
30N 103E and 32N 103E. Bike China required meeting a
client at the airport in the afternoon, so that eliminated the 32N 103E as it would take
at least 12 hours to get there and back.
That left 30N 103E which is located in the center of Ya’an, a city of about 1
million to the southwest of Chengdu about 150 km. Actually, I had been there once before
looking for this confluence, but was unsuccessful. One of my guides, Danny Chen, had also
been there sometime ago and said he was able to get within 100 meters, but didn’t
submit a report.
We left my house at about 8:30 AM and caught a bus to the Shiyang bus station at the
southwest edge of the city. Departures for Ya’an were on 20-minute headways so the
average wait time would be 10 minutes, which it turned out to be for us. The bus terminal
was fairly new and efficiently run. The bus was a newer air-con model so there was no
smoking, thank God. And surprisingly the video sound track was left at a low enough level
that allowed normal conversation.
Rainer and I had a lot of catching up to do. Ever since our exciting bike tour of China
together in 1990, we have both being bitten by the "Oriental Bug," as Sydney
Gamble calls it, "a bite from which one seldom recovers." The effect of that
bite took us both back to China many times and also resulted in both of us taking a
The bus dropped us off near the center of Ya’an, and the GPS indicated that we had
less than one km to go. Spurning the ever present pleas from taxi drivers, motorcycle taxi
riders and cycle-rickshaw riders we decided to go on foot. From my previous visit, I knew
that the point was inside what is called an automobile factory complex, but in reality is
probably something more sensitive. When I was there the last time I was really pressed for
time so I hired a motorcycle rider. When I saw the GPS arrow pointing into the middle of
the factory I asked my driver to go inside. But we were stopped immediately at the gate
and told we had to leave.
Danny told me he also went looking for the confluence point and told me he got within
100 meters on the outside of the factory complex so we had hopes of being able to reach
that critical point in order to call it a successful visit. This time Rainer and I had
time to do a more thorough investigation. Arriving on the main road in front of the
factory we started to look for a way to get as close to the CP as possible.
The area is entirely built-up and the factory is surrounded by a street market,
residential housing, a school, a vehicle repair facility and other smaller factories. It
is a labyrinth of crowded streets, winding alleys, slippery walkways and muddy paths. I spotted a toilet and was immediately reminded I am a out in the boonies. Of course, our presence there was of great interest. Why would foreigners, who rarely visit Ya’an in
the first place be wandering around this backwater area? So we had plenty of
"helpful" people asking who we were looking for and trying to show us the way.
After about two hours of searching for that elusive sweet spot, combing the residential
blocks, walking into a school grounds, even trying the front gate where we were laughed at
for trying to enter, we had to admit defeat. The best we could do was 240 meters from the
Despite the "incompleteness," Rainer and I had an enjoyable trip together. It
appears that one will have to special connections to into the factory compound to bag this
Coordinator's Note: This confluence is part of Rainer's 29 confluence trek. He got here from 27N 104E and continued to 40N 116E. The trek starts at 42N 26E.