01-Aug-2008 -- This is the 20th out of 23 confluences that I visited on my bicycle trip to the North-East of China. The story starts from 40°N 117°E. The previous confluence was 52°N 125°E.
After staying the night in Dàwūsū (大乌苏镇), I continued my bike trip further south. As always I started with the first daylight. After riding along a mountainous road for a couple hours I reached the turnoff from the main road to a place called Dàyángqì (大扬气镇). Dàyángqì is a small township located 12 km west of this confluence point.
I traveled through the town without any stop, because I wanted to avoid curious questions concerning the purpose of my arrival in this non-touristy place before I had successfully visited the confluence. Half a kilometre after leaving the town on a little track, I reached a barrier. This was the third time in a row that I was confronted with a guarded barrier. At the last two confluence visits, I had been able to successfully cross these barriers. The main reason for setting up the barriers is to prevent forest fires by letting only a controlled amount of people into the deep forest. When I reached the post, two ladies on duty came out of their hut. I honestly explained the reason for my petition to cross over and became quite confident that they would let me through. To my surprise, they simply said “bù kě yǐ (不可以)” which means “you can’t”. I told them that I had come from far and that it would be a big disappointment if I could not fulfill my mission. Finally, they did at least some action: they called the town’s mayor and explained the situation to him on the phone. Again I was surprised to get a simple “no, not possible” as an answer. Now it was over – I didn’t see any chance to visit this confluence anymore. I had exhausted the ladies’ patience already. And since I got the official rejection, I couldn’t try to make a deal with the ladies anymore. I also could not try to secretly hike through the forests – if they would catch me, I would face real trouble after being officially aware of my misbehavior. Anyway, the forests were dense and steep and not easy to get through. Being saddened, I turned around and rode back into town.
Now I realized that this would be my first failure. Why not asking the mayor myself for permission? I didn’t have much hope that this could work out. I hesitated to approach the mayor with my request, because I expected lengthy questioning, waiting and discussions. I could simply forget about this confluence and continue riding my bike through the beautiful Xìngānlǐng (兴安岭) Mountains.
The governmental office was easy to find: the biggest building in town right next to the police station. I entered the building and was directed into the mayor’s office. He was in a meeting with ca. 7 other public servants when I entered his office. I was welcomed and instantly got the opportunity to state my request. At this point the reader should know that I well might be the first foreigner to enter this office – if not even this town. So I got all the attention. The atmosphere was good, curiosity was as I expected high, but we made jokes, had fun and they really seemed to get the idea of confluence hunting. The big boss behind the huge desk got out a set of maps out of his drawer. As I could glimpse, it was a set of 1:50,000 or 1:100,000 scale maps. Such maps exists (1:50,000 is almost completed for whole China), but unfortunately not for leisure use. The mayor found the point I wanted to visit on his map and decided that I could be given permission to visit the point. However, he said that a visit by bicycle would not possible. He ordered his van with driver and a police officer to get ready to take me to the point. I agreed – being very happy – in particular because I never would have expected to get permission within only 10 minutes. Another 5 minutes later, the three of us were on the road in a huge and comfortable jeep.
When we reached the barrier the lady at the gate devotedly lifted the bar for letting us through. The policeman was complaining at her, asking where her colleague was. They should always both be present, he grumbled. To be honest, I felt a little schadenfreude. We continued with our trip at a speed up to 80 km/h over sandy tracks. I assumed that the driver was aware of what he was doing. Clearly, he knew the area well but still I would have preferred a more reasonable speed. We figured a point of 810 m distance to be as close as we could get to the point by car.
Now the hiking part started. The police officer, Mr Wang, decided to accompany me on the hike, while the driver was waiting in his vehicle. I reminded Mr Wang that 800 m beeline though mountainous forests can be quite a lot, but he seemed to have no problem with that. I gave him the GPS receiver in order to let him share the fun of finding the valued point. The ground was actually not as difficult to pull through as I had suspected. Therefore the mosquitoes ate on us. In particular when we reached the confluence and stood still for documentation of the point. Mr Wang was tougher than me; he said that he had been in the army before, where they had to stay in forests for a long time. The confluence itself was in a birch forest on the top of a little hill.
We hiked back to the jeep and headed back to town. On the way we stopped for picking blueberries. Back in Dàyángqì I was invited to have an official lunch with the government crew. It is nice to have an uncountable number of dishes on the table – since I am traveling alone I am used to have only one or two dishes. After the lunch, at about 1 pm, I said good bye to everyone and continued happily my trip.
Having good tail winds, I reached the next bigger town Jiāgédáqí (加格达奇) 80 km further south from this confluence at 16:40 pm. Unfortunately it was a cloudy and rainy evening so that I missed the solar eclipse that occurred in the evening hours.
CP Visit Details:
- Distance to an asphalt road: 13 km
- Distance to a road: 810 m
- Distance to a track: 810 m
- Distance of parking the bike: 13 km
- Distance to houses: 6 km
- Time for hiking: 50 minutes
- Time at the CP: 11:06 a.m.
- Riding time (distance): 9:12 hours (112 km)
- Measured height: 568 m
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 12 m
- Position accuracy at the CP: 6 m
- Topography: rolling hills, location on top of a hill. Also some steep mountains in the vicinity.
- Vegetation: Birch and larch tree forest, bushes, grass, bell flowers.
- Weather: changeable, 20° C (felt temperature)
- Description of the CP: In the north-eastern part of Inner Mongolia, in the Orochon (鄂伦春) District, in the influence of Duobukur River Valley. In the Xìngānlǐng Mountain range deep in the forest on a hilltop.
- Given Name: The Special Permission Confluence
Story continues at 50°N 125°E.