02-Aug-2005 -- Story continues from 33°N 117°E.
Mon 1 Aug 2005 (Day 4, cont'd), 5:30 p.m. - Back at the main road after the lift in the rear of the tar truck, I wait patiently for a bus travelling east to Bengbu, the prefecture capital. But instead, a taxi, which already has one passenger, stops and offers to take me to Bengbu for the price of the bus fare, so I agree and hop in.
I ask the driver to drop me off at the Bengbu Bus Station, but once there soon discover that there are no more buses today to neighbouring Mingguang County, further to the east. So I walk back to the Bengbu Train Station, where I'm able to get a ticket on the 10:15 p.m. train to Mingguang.
6:45 p.m. - I'm sitting in the restaurant of a decent hotel near the train station, waiting for my dinner to be served. I've already had a good wash in the restaurant's clean bathroom, managing to get rid of at least some of the tar smell. The meal is delivered, and I savour a good variety of delicacies, including sea slug and guoba (crust of cooked rice), among others.
After dinner I go to an Internet bar to catch up on email and post "visited but not yet submitted" plans for the previous five confluences. I then make my way to the noisy, dirty, crowded waiting room of the train station. It's starting to spit with rain just as I arrive.
10:15 p.m. - The train leaves precisely on time, and arrives 45 minutes later in Mingguang. I take a modern version of the three-wheeler taxi (featuring a fully enclosed cabin, dashboard, etc.) to the Lantian Hotel, an adequate hotel near the bus station.
Tue 2 Aug 2005 (Day 5), 7:30 a.m. - I arrive at the Mingguang Bus Station, having just walked the short distance up the road from the hotel, from which I've checked out, leaving my big bag at reception for collection later. I buy a ticket on the 8 a.m. bus north to Gupei Township. It's a very scruffy old bus. Outside, it's still spitting with rain.
8:55 a.m. - I get off the bus in Gupei. The confluence is exactly one kilometre NNE. The rain is falling more heavily now, requiring the use of my umbrella for the first time on this trip.
I walk north along a muddy dirt road until the confluence is 390 metres due east, then turn right down an extremely muddy track. As I'm walking along this muddy track, the sky suddenly turns black and the wind picks up, giving my flimsy umbrella a real pummelling and threatening to tear it to shreds. And then the rain comes bucketing down!
When the confluence is still 170 metres away, I need to leave the track and make my way through the fields to find it. The conditions are atrocious, but I eventually locate it, about five metres into a corn field. Despite the torrential rain and howling gale, I still somehow manage to snap a photo of all the zeroes.
The corn plants are swirling all around me, making attempts to photograph the surroundings from within the corn field futile, so I return to the adjacent field of peanuts to take the north-south-east-west shots. Apologies for the rain droplet on the lens.
Just as I finish taking these shots and prepare to leave, I'm scared out of my wits by a tremendous bolt of lightning and simultaneous deafening clap of thunder--way too close for comfort. It suddenly dawns on me that, out here all alone in the fields, I'm probably the best electrical conductor there is for miles around. I make a point of getting back to the main road as quickly as possible.
Back in Gupei, the rain is starting to ease off. I wait for a bus, but none comes along. I ask a gentleman, who is busy fashioning brooms in a nearby shop, what the situation is regarding buses back to Mingguang. He informs me that they don't usually run when there's heavy rain, and suggests I walk a few hundred metres to the next intersection where I might find a minivan instead.
11:25 a.m. - I arrive back in Mingguang in a minivan. Walking back to the hotel to collect my bag, I pass by an attractive looking liquor shop.
At the bus station, I learn that there are no scheduled buses to the provincial capital Hefei until after 3 p.m., so I walk out of town to the main highway to see if I can catch a passing bus there instead.
Story continues at 31°N 117°E.