04-Dec-2005 -- 19 N – 110 E Hainan (海南), China,
Line Hunting Date: December 4, 2005
After a rather fun combination of ferry-ride and swimming to our first confluence point in Hainan (19N 109E), we stayed overnight at the southern end of Hainan island, by the beautiful beach at Ya-Long Wan (亚龙湾) near Sanya (三亚).
We expected this second hunt to be complicated since it was located in the central mountain area and it was not close to any communities according to our map. From Ya-Long Wan, the GPS distance was 97 km to the confluence point and we budgeted 3 hours to get near this point. This turned out to be a pretty good estimation.
We pushed off at 8 am and headed north on the central cross-island highway – winding but in very good condition. We reached the county capital of Qiong Zhong before 10 am and picked up Dr. Lin Shuhai, who is a friend of Xiao Wei and Head of the area Disease Control Station. As it turned out, Shuhai had met both Ray and Button before. In fact, he reminded Ray that the Ling Tao Township where we were heading, was the area Ray visited a school about 5 years ago to check on goiters (swollen neck due to iodine deficiency) among school children – a very different objective than hunting for lines. Because of the nature of his job, he knows almost very village in the county – a good reason to enlist him for the hunt.
From Qiong Zhong City we headed west for 10 km on a dirt road and reached the Ling Tao Township. We stopped at a small plantation where Shuhai borrowed two machetes from a friend in anticipation that we might need them to fight out way to the confluence point. We were now about 12 km east of the confluence point and the sky started to turn dark.
We continued west and passed many fields of young rubber trees, and it started to drizzle. This dirt road was winding and very steep at times and would be very difficult to drive when the dirt turns into mud. We were grateful that Xiao Wei had the foresight in arranging a Land Cruiser for this trip. Even in perfect dry condition, an ordinary car would have a difficult time with this road.
After about 10 km of slow driving we reached a little village where the road forked and we were about 4 km GPS distance from the confluence point. Based on the general direction, Shuhai indicated there was only one other village within 10 km named Chong Liu Shui(长流水 - means water always running）further down the road on the right side of the fork, and that would be our best bet to get closer to the point.
Even though Chong Liu Shui is one of the most remote villages in central Hainan, it turned out that both Xiao Wei, Chen Ming and Shuhai had been there together about 3 years previously for a documentary film on iodine deficiency. A small world indeed.
After about 6 more km of very slow driving we found ourselves in front of the Chong Liu Shui village at 11.30 am. We were far closer to the confluence point than we could ever hope for – only 620 meters on the other side of the village. As we started on our hike toward the point, the drizzle started to turn into real rain.
Even though this little village was located in the middle of nowhere and had about 60 households the houses were densely packed together. We had to negotiate our way carefully through the front or back yards of households and try not to step on pigs or chicken. At the back side of the village we found rice fields and a small mountain partially planted with rubber trees. The confluence point appeared to be on the other side of this small mountain.
We reached the bottom of the hill with 250 more meters to go but encountered a rather dense jungle of bamboos. Instead of slashing our way through it with the machetes, we picked our way around through dense bushes and young rubber trees toward the confluence point. The rain was getting stronger, but nothing was going to stop us now, except something unexpected – flying leeches.
With the confluence point almost in sight, Ray felt an intense inch on the right ankle, and upon inspection, there was a big blood spot on the sock, with a little black leech in the middle. Soon everybody started doing leech check, and in no time we heard a scream from Sierra who had found two on her right ankle also. Fortunately, Shuhai knew how to deal with the attack – a swift whack first than the entire sucker can be pulled out intact.
After the leech induced interuption, we reached the confluence point in 10 minutes right around noon as the rain started to pour. This point was located on the hill side cleared for rubber tree but with dense grass. We did not dwell much at the confluence point due to rain and constant threat of leeches. Hasty retreat after a few hurried photos.
When we reached the creek side by the village, another major check for leeches. Sierra found two more – “Gross!”. Everybody had a few except Button who somehow escaped the blood donation session.
By the time we reached the front of village, the rain had almost subsided. A nice chat with the village elderly told us this was a Miao minority village with a total of 300 people and their main livelihood was collecting rubber sap. Some villagers remembered the filming team of Xiao Wei. During that filming exercise, the team had come within 600 meters of the only true land-based confluence point of Hainan without knowing it (the other one in the big reservoir we count as a water-based point, together with 4 others located on the ocean).
Had this particular point been located even 2-3 km away from a village, it would have been very hard to reach because of the dense woods and terrain. The fact it was located near this lone village, we were able to benefit from much the clearing for agriculture purpose to reach the point easily in spite of the abundance of leeches.
Shuhai told us that the local name for the leech is Ma Huan. These leeches have heat sensing ability and are able to jump to any warm-blooded animals when passing near them. In a way, they are flying leeches, but do not cause any disease – very reasssuring.
We returned the unused machetes on the way back, and reached Qiong Zhong by 2.00 pm. Shuhai insisted on hosting a late lunch and we had a great local fair and few healthy rounds of cold beer to celebrate the rather lucky hunt and survived the relentless attack of the Ma Huan leech.
Half way down the central island highway, on our way back to Sanya, the sun came out again. We reached Ya Long Wan just before dark. The plan was to enjoy the nice beach the next day.
Upon cleaning up after returning to our hotel, Ray discovered another Ma Huan leech which had been well fed on his left ankle!
A suitable name for this confluence point is: The flying leech (Ma Huan) point.
Rating of this hunt:
Degree of Challenge: 3 – final 5 km requires high clearance vehicle and four wheel drive when wet and flying leech made this track a bit more challenging (Scale: 1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
Scenery: 3 – Green hills and an isolated minority village (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
Culture-social factors: 3 – Area populated by the Miao minority and primary income from collecting and processing latex from rubber trees (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)