14-Jun-2006 -- Story continues from 28°N 109°E.
At 1:30 p.m., after changing our clothes and washing off some of the dirt, we set off from Pǔjué (普觉镇) on a bus bound for the county capital of Sōngtáo (松桃县) to the NW, arriving at 3 p.m. We took a taxi to another bus station, and bought tickets on the 4 p.m. bus south to the prefecture capital of Tóngrén (铜仁市).
The Tóngrén bus actually left ahead of schedule, and we arrived there at 6 p.m. Along the way we passed through several towns where some of the older women wore minority nationality costumes, the most notable feature being their large headgear.
In Tóngrén, we took a taxi across town to the south bus station, where we learned that there were no more buses further south to Yùpíng County (玉屏县) that day, so we walked a few blocks to the nice Dōngshān Hotel (东山宾馆) and checked in. When we got up to our room we found a freshly cut rose and two bars of chocolate laid out attractively on our bed - a nice touch.
First item on the agenda was clothes washing, then we went down for a delicious dinner in the hotel's very comfortable restaurant.
Wednesday 14 June 2006 (Day 15)
Figuring we wouldn't have time to make it to the confluence today, we got off to a relaxed start. The complimentary buffet breakfast was not spectacular. We invested some time with the hotel-provided hair dryer to finish drying some of the clothes we'd washed the night before. The sun was shining.
We checked out of the hotel at 9 a.m., and took a taxi to the south bus station. At the south bus station, following some initial confusion, we learned that we could get a bus leaving at 9:30 a.m. from the central bus station that would take us all the way south to Sānsuì County (三穗县), saving us having to change buses in Yùpíng. So we jumped back in the taxi, and made it to the central bus station in plenty of time.
The confusion had arisen over the name Sānsuì, which apparently only the residents of Sānsuì know how to pronounce correctly. This is because the character "suì" (穗) is an uncommon one, and when most people see it, they automatically assume it should be pronounced "huì" (like 惠). At the south bus station, we were met with blank stares when we enquired about buses to Sānsuì. Eventually I pulled out my map and pointed to it. "Oh, Sānhuì !" they all exclaimed in unison.
The 9:30 a.m. bus from the central bus station was actually heading for the neighbouring prefecture capital of Kǎilǐ (凯里市), but would pass by Sānsuì on its way. It did not depart until one wayward passenger finally showed up half an hour late, at 10 a.m.
The road to Sānsuì was very good - part of it a newly constructed freeway. We were dropped off on the outskirts of Sānsuì at 11:45 a.m., and took a taxi to the bus station, where we got tickets on the 12:10 p.m. bus east to Tiānzhù County (天柱县).This bus would go past the town of Kuǎnchǎng (款场乡), just short of the county border, and close to the confluence. We began to wonder if we would have time to visit the confluence today after all. On the downside however, it had become overcast and was threatening to rain.
We arrived in Kuǎnchǎng at 2 p.m., and asked the first people we saw, at a motorcycle repair shop, for directions to the village of Shàngguīlǜ (上圭绿). We ended up arranging with Tián Jǐngrùn (田景润), the guy whose motorcycle was being repaired, to take us to the village and back, and with the owner of the repair shop to look after our bags while we were away.
This is the first confluence on the legendary "Rainer Line". Back in October 2004, Rainer Mautz, on a bicycle, visited a series of six contiguous confluences along the 27th parallel, from the extreme east to the extreme west of Guìzhōu Province, starting with this one.
The confluence was eight kilometres NNW of Kuǎnchǎng. We left Kuǎnchǎng at 2:20 p.m., travelling along an attractive valley, passing by many old wooden houses, often sporting (as Rainer pointed out in his report) satellite dishes. There were several water wheels operating in the river that ran down the valley, serving to irrigate the rice paddies. Most of the inhabitants of the area were members of the Dòng minority nationality (侗族).
At 3 p.m. we reached what we believed to be the correct turnoff, judging by Rainer's account. The confluence was 500 metres west. We parked the bike, then all three of us set off on foot.
With the confluence 290 metres to the west, we had a good view of the general area, with the point located near the top end of a narrow, cultivated valley between tree-covered hills. The path leading up the right-hand side of the valley towards the confluence was clearly visible from here.
At 3:10 p.m., with the confluence 55 metres SE, we found a small walking trail leading off the main path down to the rice paddies. We had to cross between the rice paddies in order to reach the confluence, which was a dozen or so metres up into the forest on the other side of the valley. This final short climb required a modicum of bushwhacking, which Ah Feng and Tián Jǐngrùn, lacking suitable footwear, elected to forego.
After a short while I managed to find the spot, from where I took the north-south-east-west facing photos--for the most part obscured by foliage.
When we got back to the motorbike, a few drops of rain started to fall, but fortunately it didn't develop into anything untoward.
Story continues at 26°N 109°E.