14-Jul-2006 -- 40N – 1114E Hebei (河北), China
Line Hunting Date: July 14, 2006
The 10th confluence point of the Heart-of-China Expedition
This is also the last hunt we did as part of our 5,000 km expedition to the area near the geographic center of China in Southern Gansu and Eastern Qinghai. It was suppose to be an easy hunt but it got complicated such Florence was so stressed and threatened never to hunt again (sure hope this is not the case).
The day started after a pleasant overnight at Hohhot (呼尔浩特), we started our final stretch of the trip and heading home to Beijing. The most direct drive would have taken about 5 hours. Instead, we took a significant detour through northern Shanxi province to hunt for this point. The detour suppose to add 120 km to our drive and an estimated of 2 extra hours not including the hunt.
In a way, this could be regarded as the third attempt for this confluence point. We had passed near this confluence point twice in the past year and half. Once it was already dark, and once we got stuck in a long line of coal trucks because of road construction and the delay made it too late for the hunt again. This time we plan to reach the point before noon, such darkness will not be an issue. Even though we were not affected by darkness, but wetness was the issue.
This confluence point located about 5 km south of the expressway connecting Datong (大同) city of Shanxi to Beijing, very near the border of Shanxi and Hebei. The drive to the nearest expressway exit was uncomplicated and took about 3 hours. But the nearest exit ramp, about 7.5 km GPS distance from the point, was closed so we had to go to the next exit. This put us almost 20 km away from the confluence point. A minor set back only added 30 minutes to our trip.
The backtracking toward the confluence point was an easy drive on an old national highway parallel the expressway for the first 15 km. But it became rather complicated for the final few kilometers when we left the highway and started on a dirt road and headed toward confluence point.
Apparently, there were several days of heavy rainy days before our arrival. This resulted in a very muddy and slippery condition for the small roads connecting the villages. The driving was difficult even though we were in the four-wheel drive mode. Just about 1.8 km from the conference point, as we were driving on a mud path parallel a large canal, our Land Cruiser skidded off the path and ended up on the soft muddy bank of the canal, about half a meter below the roadway. The soft mud kept the car from sliding into the canal, which would be unthinkable. But the soft mud also kept us from getting the car back on the road way.
We spend about 40 minutes trying to get the wayward car back on the roadway. First we tried different angel of attacks and got nowhere. As we realized that the mud made the tires with virtually no traction, we started collecting corn stalks and rocks to stuff under the wheels. This operation required us to be on our hands and knees in the mud. Eventually we manage to extricate the car. Before we had a chance to celebrate the minor victory, Florence demanded that we abandoned the hunt immediately. “This is ridiculous, you put our life in danger to hunt for some stupid point! I will not do another line hunting anymore”, she fumed in the mud.
We carefully edged the car to the next village, and found the remaining roadway leading toward the confluence point was paved and not slippery. By now, we have invested over 3 and half hours for this hunt, and it would be too hard for Ray, the addicted Confluence Hunter not to complete the last few hundred meters. With some begging and some arm twisting, the hunting party continued toward the point, even though one of the principle member of the group was rather reluctant.
With 180 meters left before the point, the side road turned muddy again. At which point, only Ray took off on foot to complete the mission while Florence took Oreo to the nearby irrigation ditch to wash off all the mud from her shoes and arms.
This confluence point located in the middle of a field overgrown with corn and pea vines. The short hike added several kilogram of wet mud to the Ray’s hiking boots. After a hasty clean up by walking in the irrigation ditch, we departed for home.
We made back to Beijing by 5 pm and concluded our 2-weeks expedition to the very heart of China. This is has been a wonderful and fun trip with a number of discoveries and lead for potential trips in the future. The 10 confluence hunts plus the visit to the monuments of the geographic center of China added a new dimension to this type of road trip. Even though this last hunt got a bit hairy or muddy, all in all adding line-hunting while exploring new territories is a sure way to make more out of a trip. We recommend it.
Rating of this hunt :
Degree of Challenge:
4 – We had the luck to pick a super muddy and slippery road and almost drove the car into the river and spend a great deal effort to rescue ourselves from the situation. It could be an easy drive had we picked a better route (1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
2 – Middle of a farm land with green plants everywhere (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
2 – typical northern China farming community (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)