29-Jun-2014 -- Story continues from 41°N 125°E.
We travelled to the next confluence along relatively new expressways. It was past lunchtime, and we stopped at five consecutive service areas before we found one with a restaurant that was open. Apparently the newness of the expressways meant there was simply insufficient traffic to justify operating so many restaurants. There was, however, sufficient traffic to justify the installation of many many speed cameras! The rental company retains a 2,000 yuan deposit to cover any fines that might come in up to two months after returning the car. We wonder if it will be enough!
We parked approximately 450 metres east of the confluence, near some cornfields and patches of peanuts. My analysis of the recently updated Google Earth satellite images led me to believe there was a track leading up to the confluence from here. My analysis was wrong! It was nothing more than a heavily overgrown gully.
Instead, we walked through the cornfields and then a field of sesame, crossed a small log bridge, and followed a stream as far as we could in the direction of the confluence. Eventually it became too overgrown, so we scrambled up a steep hillside, with Andy riding on Peter's shoulders, and found another path on the crest. This path took us to another, quite decent track, from where it was only a short walk to the point.
We took turns carrying Andy, although in the end, this did not save him from accumulating a good number of scratches to his arms. I should have changed him into his long-sleeved shirt before we set off from the car, but it was such a hot day, and I hadn't anticipated how difficult it was going to be. He was not a happy confluencer! Every time he looked at his scratched up arms, he burst into tears. We assured him these were the battle scars of a successful confluencer, and that he should therefore wear them proudly, but such reasoning doesn't work too well on a three-year-old.
Peter snapped a nice photo of some pretty flowers near the confluence. Then it was time for the GPS shot, and the photos facing north, south, east and west. This was our second successful visit of the day to a previously unvisited confluence. Most people are lucky to score two virgins in a lifetime, let alone in one day!
We tried to find an easier way back to the car, but after two attempts resulted in as many dead-ends and trackbacks, not to mention an encounter with a fearsome spider's web, we ended up following the hillcrest back, which turned out to be the best route, although it meant a perilous scramble down a gorge at the end.
Back at the car, Peter threw in a couple of logs he found lying around, to place in a particularly deep hole in the road we knew we had to traverse on the way back. When we stopped to shore up the hole, Peter noticed something funny with the car. Popping the hood, he discovered the radiator had come loose from its moorings. We tied it up with some plastic twine I had with me.
Story continues at 42°N 124°E.