30-Mar-2005 -- Continued from 30°N 122°E.
We arrived safely back in Ningbo with no evidence of any military police in hot pursuit. A no. 501 commuter bus took us across town to the south bus station, where we caught the 3:20 p.m. bus to Shangyu County in neighbouring Shaoxing Prefecture, where our next confluence objective was located, just 12 kilometres east of the county capital. When we arrived, some locals recommended we stay at the Shangyu Hotel, so we set off on foot in the direction they indicated.
It turned out to be a longer walk than anticipated, and when we finally reached the Shangyu Hotel, we discovered it was a four-star affair well out of our price range at 480 yuan (US$60) per night. We decided to leave and go back to another less salubrious hotel we'd passed along the way, however the staff at the Shangyu Hotel were unwilling to let two foreign guests slip away so easily, and eventually offered us the room for just 150 yuan (US$19), complete with late check-out and complimentary breakfast. How could we say no!
The next morning we left the hotel at 6 a.m., forgoing our complimentary breakfast in favour of an early start on the confluence. We walked to the main street, and after a short wait caught a passing bus headed towards Xieqiao. It was just before 7 a.m. when we disembarked in Xieqiao, the confluence now 3.4 kilometres north. The morning air was brisk, and it was quite misty/foggy. Plenty of people were already up and about. We found a dumpling stand doing a lively business, and purchased our breakfast there.
Setting off on foot towards the confluence, we took the first turnoff to the left, which led us off the busy main road and through peaceful villages and fields instead. We were able to follow relatively recently laid cement paths in the direction we needed to go. Along the way we saw close-up how the method of rice planting has evolved to use modern techniques. Thin plastic sheets with hundreds of small dimples are laid on the smooth mud surface of the field, with individual rice grains placed in each dimple. At the bottom of each dimple is a tiny hole for the root to grow through. When the seedlings reach the appropriate size, thanks to the dimples they are the perfect shape for replanting using the standing up, throwing technique, rather than the old backbreaking bending over method where each seedling needed to be laboriously hand-planted.
Shortly over an hour after leaving Xieqiao we arrived at the confluence, nestled in a bamboo grove behind a village at the edge of the large plain over which we'd walked. A couple of dozen metres to the east of the confluence was a shelter constructed from bamboo that belonged to a house owned by a couple surnamed Wang, who had moved to the area from Chongqing four years before. We noticed that the sacks of fertiliser stacked up in front of their house were imported from Romania. Looking southwest from the front of their house, one had a perfect view of the general confluence area--the confluence right next to the dirt track running through the bamboo grove--as well as the hills behind, upon which a large high-voltage electricity transmission tower was quite prominent.
After eating a celebratory round of Tim's wife's brownies, we left the confluence and walked to a road 660 metres ENE of the confluence, passing the brickworks mentioned by the previous visitors on the way. There was a duck farmer tending his flock nearby. It had turned into a perfect sunny spring day.
We ascertained that there was no public transport available on this road, so we walked along it several kilometres, passing by a picturesque tea plantation, until we came to a large village from where we were able to catch a no. 17 commuter bus back to Shangyu.
Story continues at 31°N 120°E.