05-Dec-2005 -- Dongfang (Basuo), Donghezhen - December 5, 2005
After yesterday's failed attempt at 19N 110E, I decided to try for what I thought was Hainan Island's only other land-based confluence. The DCP attributes six confluences with Hainan, four of which are water confluences as much as 40 km from land. I have no interest in seeking these types of confluences as the likelihood of seeing any more than a dark smudge on the horizon, especially in these parts where low-level fog is normal. Why the confluence gods think this is significant is beyond me. At 40 km from land, just how much change you can see is beyond me. Anyway, let those with money for expensive boat trips to the middle of the ocean (or like Captain Peter with his own boat) go for it. I'm a confirmed landlubber.
The start of this trip began after a sumptuous buffet breakfast at the Sanya Longya Bay Holiday Inn, located 110 km from the CP (and 92.4 km from 19N 110 E). Looking at the map, it appeared the best option for me, who was on a 12-hour leave from my lovely wife, Xiaorong while she attended her business meetings, was to take an express bus to a place called Dongfang (East Place) on the map (but to everyone else it is known as Basou (Eight Places) and then transfer to a bus to Donghe (East River).
It sounds so straightforward on paper, and in my idealist and optimistic mind I ought to be able to get there in about three hours. However, by now I should realize that any estimates I make I should automatically double or triple the time and I will be somewhat closer to reality.
Jumping on a five-yuan mini bus from Longya Bay to Sanya (which cost me 60 yuan the night before in a taxi) I arrived at the correct (for once) bus station in Sanya and had a choice between a standard bus leaving in ten minutes, or a deluxe bus leaving in an hour. I chose the standard bus, which I later regretted. Once again I was able to snag the shotgun seat and had a noisy and bumpy ride to Dongfang. About a half hour before arriving in Dongfang the deluxe bus whizzes by leaving us in a cloud of dust. I quickly transfer to a local bus to Donghe (East River).
Arriving in Donghe (East River) the driver negotiates a motorcycle sidecar taxi for me to go to Daguangba (Big Wide Dam) about four km away. The confluence is 3.5 km straight-line distance away and as we go I watch the distance on the GPS countdown with growing excitement. From the three maps I conferred with I know without a doubt that the confluence is either on land or in the water. The maps have more errors than Microsoft Windows, and I can't tell for sure what is what until I get there.
Approaching the dam, I think, "Damn, that is one big dam."? And it is! Stretching between two low-rise mountain ranges the Big Wide Dam has earned its name. It is about seven km across and about 100 meters high used for both power generation and water supply. My driver takes me up on top where an expansive reservoir greets the eye with tree-covered hills on either side. The GPS arrow is pointing to the far side of the dam and as we approach, the distance to the CP drops to just over one kilometer. I have to go a bit further south so when we get to the end of the road my driver asks me which way. I tell him turn right, not knowing whether or not there is a road, but as luck would have it, there is! The distance to go drops below one kilometer and I feel the anticipation growing inside me. The arrow keeps pointing to an area that appears to be near the shoreline.
At about 500 meters, the road suddenly turns right and ends at a ferry ramp. At this point I am still unsure as to the exact location of the CP since the GPS arrow is changing from place to place. I tell the driver to wait for me here; I'll be back in about half an hour. As I start walking the exact location becomes painfully apparent. One of the maps was right! The point is in the water!
I walk down the ferry ramp and there is quite a bit of commotion. There is a barge trying to get shored up to unload a load of timber onto a large orange cargo truck. There is also a ferry about ready to leave with the captain working on the engine a woman dressed in minority clothes (either Zhuang, Miao, or Li I don't know which) down inside the bulkhead mopping up water with a sponge into a bucket and then tossing it overboard when the bucket is full. I think this is one heck of a job for a woman, and I pity her predicament.
I watch the captain of the boat work on the engine with interest; he appears to be cleaning out the fuel filters. He sees me but pays no attention, working feverishly to finish the job. When he is done, I ask him if he is crossing the reservoir thinking that perhaps I could ride across and get him to pilot the boat over the CP. But he says he is going up the east bank of the reservoir, which makes sense, because there is a road across the dam. I tell him I want to go out to a point 500 meters and then come back. I have no doubt he thinks I am nuts and expect a flat-out rejection, but to my surprise after confirming with me three times what exactly it is I want him to do, he agrees. I am so elated that I don't even ask for the price in advance, something I always do. I don't want to pass up this opportunity just because the cost will be outrageous. I have already invested a flight here and a full day of travel, plus bus and taxi fares.
The ferry is rather small, about three meters wide and 10 meters long. There are several motorcycles and some boxes of goods on the deck along with two engines. The captain fires up one of the engines and climbs up onto an elevated platform where he controls the ferry with long extensions down to the engines. There are about 15 people onboard and nearly everyone climbs up to be with the captain and me.
I put the GPS on the bench between the captain and me so he can see the arrow and the distance remaining. The engine is barely chugging along and looking at the water is appears we are barely moving but the GPS steadily counts down the distance to the CP. We get within 19 meters and I take a few photos of the GPS and then the required NSEW photos from the CP. I tell the captain that is it and to go back. A woman passenger asks me why I am doing this, and I tell her this point has very special fengshui to which she nods her head in understanding.
The return is swift and the moment of truth is upon me. I ask the captain the price. I know he has me and if he wants to take advantage of me he can and there is nothing I can do about it. He tells me to go down and ask the boat owner. There is a man at the front of the boat and the woman who was down below deck mopping up the water. I ask the man how much for the trip and he gives a nod with his head to the woman. I am surprised, but then when I ask her, she turns the question around and asks me how much do I want to give her. I always hate this sort of bargaining as if I say too low, I insult her and if I say to high, I pay too much. I tell her I want her to name her price, but I also add that I would like her to be fair about it. She considers it for a moment and then tells me 20 yuan. This is about what I was figuring it should cost and agree without further discussion. I don't have change so I give her a 100 and she pulls out a wad of bills with nothing smaller than a 50. She has to hunt around with various passengers to come up with the change.
I disembark and another motorcycle climbs on board. I return to my motorcycle taxi almost exactly 30 minutes after I left, much to my surprise. I usually miss the mark on timing by a very wide margin (just ask my wife). I was thinking that he showed considerable faith in me for he saw me board the ferry. For all he knew, I would go with them and never come back!
I tell him to return to Donghe and we stop a few places on the way to take some photos. Back in Donghe, he tries to play games with the price saying that it was 6 yuan per kilometer, not per trip plus he had to wait for me. I give him 20 yuan and tell him to forget it and he whimpers a bit before accepting it. There is a bus waiting to return to Basou and I am thinking how lucky I have been on this trip; there has always been a bus waiting or about ready to go at each step of the way. Nevertheless, it has taken me from 8:30 AM to 4 PM to get this far a mere 110 km from where I started. The bus driver tells me we should arrive in Basou at about 5:30 PM and I am planning on jumping off early at the expressway and walk up the ramp to wait for a bus headed to Sanya, like I did on the other side of the island the day before.
The bus is slower than expected and covers the 35 km in about two hours. I arrive at the expressway around 6 PM, just before dark, and tell the driver I want to get off. He says there are no buses to Sanya here, but I don't believe him and tell him to let me out anyway. Reluctantly he does so and I walk up the expressway. Contrary to the expressway on east side, this segment is dead! I wait for 15 minutes without a single vehicle passing by, never mind a bus. I think to myself that perhaps the road is closed and all the traffic is diverted to the secondary road. So I go back to where the bus dropped me off and wait for another to come by. But there is nothing but trucks and motorcycles carrying people back to town. Finally as darkness sets in a limping motorcycle sidecar pulls up and says he will take me to the edge of town. I think this will be a good spot to catch a bus to Sanya since this is the road the local road that the bus I arrived on used.
So I wait, and I wait and I wait. By now it is almost 7:30 PM and my wife is expecting me back in 30 minutes. Under the best of circumstances it would take three hours and I am thinking that once again I have let her down. I get very frustrated with myself and start throwing a minor temper tantrum on the corner. A bus to a nearby town comes by and I spot it to ask about buses to Sanya. The ticket seller tells me there are no more buses today to Sanya here so I hire another tricycle to take me to the bus station where I want to get a bus to Sanya. But my driver speaks only the local dialect, not Mandarin, so she doesn't understand me and takes me to another place. I grow more impatient and tell her I want a bus to Sanya. She still doesn't understand so she asks another tricycle driver. He tells her to take me to the bus station.
At the bus station, I spot a big long distance bus getting ready to depart and hope it is going to Sanya, but no, it is headed for Haikou. The ticket seller in the bus station tells me I'll either have to wait until tomorrow, or get a taxi. I think a taxi will cost a lot, but the grief I will get if I don't get back will be even more! So I resign myself to getting a taxi and go out front to try and find one.
The problem is that this city is literally bumper-to-bumper with tricycles, but I never see any taxis! At long last, the tricycle taxi that told my other driver where to take me comes up and says that he can take me to a taxi to just two yuan. At this point I will do just about anything, so I agree. He takes me about a kilometer up the road to a big intersection and there low and behold are five or six taxis just sitting there. I ask the first driver how much to Sanya and he tells me 280 yuan. I ask him to lower his price but he holds firm that 280 is the best he can do, it is set by the regulations. It is expensive, exactly 10 times more than the bus, but I don't have any choice so I agree. We jump in the car and I see he has no fuel. So we stop for fuel. When we get to the highway, I think this will soon be over.
When the taxi gets up to speed, the car starts vibrating violently. The driver tries a few things with and without the car in gear for about 10 kilometers but then decides he dares not risk it and stops to call his friend to take me. He tells me that he will meet us back at the entrance ramp. I ask him how is he going to get back to the entrance ramp on the expressway when the next exit is another seven kilometers. My driver just shoots me a big grin of stained-teeth and pulls a U-turn in the middle of the expressway and heads back to the ramp going the wrong way on the shoulder at night! I have seen some crazy and wild driving, but this, this takes the cake!
I am sitting shotgun about to lose it as oncoming traffic sees our headlights coming and starts flashing their lights and honking their horns. I am thinking I am not going to live to talk about this one. We come up behind some people walking on the shoulder against NORMAL traffic and they jump in fright when my taxi driver honks at them from behind. I see my life flash before my eyes every time a vehicle comes toward us thinking this is it, this is it. My driver is unfazed and continues like it happens everyday.
Several lifetimes later we arrive at the entrance ramp without incident and wait another ten minutes for my replacement driver. When he finally arrives he puts up a bit of a fight on the price saying that to Longya should be another 40 yuan. I tell him I will give him 300 yuan and he reluctantly agrees. He is an amiable young fellow and we have a bit of a chat on the way back about all sorts of things. We arrive around 11 PM arrive to find my wife contentedly surfing the web.
This confluence hunt marks the first successful confluence I have had in eight months and marks the first confluence found in Hainan. For a while, I thought I was jinxed.