09-Jul-2008 -- Story continues from 34°N 116°E.
We continue walking NW three or four kilometres from the previous confluence until we reach Báimiào Village (白庙村) in the adjacent county of Xiàyì (夏邑县), from where we catch a bus north to Jìyáng Town (济阳镇), followed by another bus NW to the municipal capital Shāngqiū City (商丘市). Here we get a very cheap room at the four-star Tiānyǔ Grand Hotel (天宇大酒店).
Shāngqiū is supposed to be the birthplace of fire. Ten thousand years ago, so the legend goes, the ruler Suì Rénshì (燧人氏) discovered how to make fire here, thus ushering in a new epoch of human civilisation.
After checking into the hotel, we go to a camera/photo shop, and burn a CD containing all the photos from our first 14 confluences of this trip. My intention is to send the CD to Peter Cao in Chéngdū for safekeeping, in case anything should happen to our photos due to either technological failure, or an unpleasant encounter with the police. This idea was suggested to me by Peter's friend Rainer Mautz, who is presently on a cycling confluence trip of his own in northern China, and is keeping in email contact with both Peter and me.
But when we go to the post office to send the CD, they tell us that, because of the Běijīng Olympics, there is a new regulation in force until 1 October 2008: no CDs are allowed to be posted - not even to addresses within China, and not even by local Chinese.
So what we do is buy an empty EMS SpeedPost packet, and take it back to the hotel. In the privacy of our room, we put the CD, covered in stiff cardboard, into the SpeedPost packet, and write "photos" on the address form. The next morning, Ah Feng takes it into a different post office on her own, so as not to arouse suspicion, but they simply rip open the sealed packet and discover the CD. So much for that idea!
Ah Feng suggests trying a private courier company instead, so we call one, and they say yes, we can send the CD disguised as a book. They send a delivery man to come and pick it up, while I go out and buy a blank notebook for 5 yuan (US$ 0.73). The delivery man slips the CD inside the notebook, we fill in the form, pay him 15 yuan (US$ 2.18), and the CD is on its way.
Following this slight diversion, we make a fairly late getaway from Shāngqiū, catching the 10:50 a.m. bus NE to Chéngwǔ County (成武县) across the border in Shāndōng Province (山东省). From Chéngwǔ, a minivan ride takes us east, through Gǒucūnjí Town (苟村集镇), then over a bridge, to the start of a dirt road at 34°58'14.9"N 115°59'52.4"E, which is 3.24 km south of the confluence.
We leave our bags with a small hairdressing salon, then begin walking up the dirt road, which runs north alongside a canal towards the confluence. About two thirds of the way there, we cross a sluicegate over another canal. In the canal running alongside the road, we notice some long, segmented nets, although with practically no water in the canal, they can't be doing much good. A little further on, we pass through a village that has piles and piles of garlic stacked up all over the place. Our next encounter is with a goatherd, who has a great smile.
Eventually, we reach the village of Wánglóu (王楼村), turn left (west), cross the canal on a conveniently located bridge, and follow an equally conveniently located path 255 m through the cotton fields to the confluence, just 6 m north of the path. As well as the regulation GPS and north-south-east-west photos, we also take a close-up of an individual cotton plant, showing both white (just bloomed) and pink (pollinated) flowers.
Story continues at 35°N 115°E.