01-Aug-2005 -- Story continues from 33°N 116°E.
Sun 31 Jul 2005 (Day 3, cont'd), 4:45 p.m. - After our ride on the back of the truck to Chahua, we get a bus back to Fuyang. We get off at the turnoff to the train station in Fuyang, then take a taxi to the train station, where I buy a ticket on the 11:53 p.m. train NE to Huaibei.
Jim, Nur and Xiao Xu need to return to the provincial capital of Hefei in order to attend a meeting tomorrow, however the first train to Hefei does not leave until after 10 p.m., so they decide to try for a bus instead. I go with them in a taxi to the South Bus Station, but mid-journey I see a Huaibei bus coming in the opposite direction. I immediately alert the taxi driver, and following some frantic waving by both of us, we manage to flag it down.
I bid some very hasty farewells to Jim, Nur and Xiao Xu, who have been my partners on the past three confluence visits, then I'm on the bus and on my way to Huaibei. I have no opportunity to return my train ticket, but the cost is inconsequential, and well worth the convenience of getting to Huaibei at a respectable hour.
Just after I board the bus it starts raining, ending the fine spell of weather I've enjoyed on this trip up until now.
I am one of only four passengers on the bus, and when one of our number gets off after only a short distance, it leaves just three of us, plus the driver and ticket seller, to complete the journey to Huaibei.
At shortly after 8 p.m., the bus driver drops me off at the four-star Xiangshan Hotel in Huaibei. The room rates are a bit steep, so I contemplate looking elsewhere for more affordable accommodation, but then the reception staff offer me a very reasonable rate (164 yuan = US$20), so I decide to stay.
After putting my stuff in my room, and ascertaining that the Hungarian Formula One Grand Prix is not being telecast live for some unknown reason, I go out for dinner--one of my favourite Chinese dishes: Lanzhou lamian (Lanzhou pulled noodles)--then treat myself to a hair-wash and blow-dry at an upmarket hairdressing establishment.
When I get back to my room a couple of hours later, a delayed telecast of the race is already in progress. I watch it for a short while, but am so tired I fall asleep before the conclusion!
Mon 1 Aug 2005 (Day 4), 7 a.m. - I make the most of the complimentary four-star buffet breakfast before checking out and walking the few blocks to the bus station that the bus driver the previous evening had assured me was where I would find a bus to Zhuangli Township in neighbouring Xiao County. It's an overcast morning, but the rain is thankfully holding off. The confluence is 19 kilometres to the east.
Sure enough, when I reach the bus station, there is a Zhuangli bus parked there, scheduled to depart at 8:30 a.m. I get on and secure my favourite seat at the front, next to the driver. As I await our departure, I keep myself occupied by watching a man making pancakes in the corner of the bus station parking lot.
9:45 a.m. - I get off the bus at Chengyang Village, shortly before we reach Zhuangli, with the confluence 830 metres WSW. I walk along a good sealed road in a south-westerly direction. At its closest point, the confluence is just 390 metres NW of this road. I backtrack a little bit, and leave the road close to an old stone bridge.
As soon as I leave the road, I'm confronted by an old man who asks me if I'd like something to eat. I decline his kind invitation, anxious to reach the point.
I follow a very muddy track that takes me to within just 14 metres of the confluence. Along the way I pass another happy old codger, busy tending to his vegetables. I can hear the constant drone of trucks on the freeway, which is near the bottom of a hillside roughly 500 metres to the west.
I make my way the last few metres through some corn plants and pomegranate trees to reach the confluence, which is located right next to a mound on which pumpkins are being grown. I take photos from the spot facing north, south, east and west, then head back to the road.
Story continues at 33°N 117°E.