01-Jul-2011 -- Continued from 41N 108E. This is Part Three of my eight-point confluence trip.
According to Targ’s plan, there wasn’t supposed to be third point on the schedule for July 1. We were to drive to Dengkou and have a nice leisurely meal, check-in to nice hotel and get a good night’s sleep.
But when we arrived at the end of the off-ramp at 5 PM, the sun was still high in the sky, and this point was a tantalizing 20+ km away. So instead of turning right into town, we were inexplicably drawn to the point and made a left. Immediately, the good roads ended in a potholed strewn lousy excuse for a road that was left to rot as nearly all the traffic was on the expressway, except for the mega-sized quarry trucks destroying what precious little pavement was left. This was an ominous foreboding of things to come.
Targ was out of his comfort zone, having not done the detailed research he usually does; he had only a vague idea of the approach to this point. Meanwhile Rainer and I were feeling excited by the lure of the unknown. From the main road, there were several valleys that headed in the direction of the confluence, but we did not have any specific points to go by as we did with the first two. We cruised the road looking for likely options. We turned off the road and went under the railroad tracks through what appeared to be a desert road with some tracks. However the road was just a dry riverbed of sand. The jeep was struggling through the sand after 300 meters, so we stopped by a sand dune to engage the four-wheel drive. This is when I discovered the front wheel lockouts were fake, and we only had a two-wheel drive jeep. Bummer! So we eased out of the sandy quagmire back to the sure-footed main road and looked for another option.
The next best route was a wide river valley with huge dump trucks plying the sanding bed in free –for-all trying to find the least bumpy tracks. Rainer was in the back and was being thrown around like a ping pong ball as we tried to get up the valley as quick as we could given that dark would soon be falling and we had a long way to go.
At 5 km from the confluence the road ended in a quarry and we went to the far side to see if there was an exit. There was not. Rainer said he would just run to the confluence from there, but it was close to 7 PM and running in hilly terrian for 10-12 km could take a very long time. Targ suggested we come back to do it tomorrow when we have more time and less pressure. But the thought of driving two hours back to the town, then driving the same bad road three more times for a total six more hours was very unappealing.
On the way out of the quarry we stopped when we saw some workers. They came over and we discussed how we could get to a town near the confluence. One guy said there was no road, but another said there was. They argued about this between themselves for some time and then agreed there maybe a small track. We had to go back and then turn upstream at the river valley.
We thanked them for their help and proceeded as quickly as we could with Rainer bouncing all over the place in the back. We passed a smaller second quarry with a huge hammer and cycle with the Chinese characters 永远忠于毛主席 (Forever Loyal to Chairman Mao) etched in stone on the hill above it like the Hollywood sign in LA. The river valley continued to the left as the needle pointing to the confluence drifted to the right. We spotted a faint track heading up the river bank in the right direction and decided to give it a shot. We had to do a bit of cross country driving to get to the track, which pushed the jeep and Rainer to their limits. The track climbed the river bank and then followed the ridge before heading down the other side into the adjacent river valley.
At 7:30 PM, we drove to a point 3.6 km from the confluence with at most an hour of light remaining. The desert days are hot, but the nights are crisp and the temperature was dropping. We put on our warm clothes and Targ put on his hiking shoes. We started hiking up a small footpath. We knew it was going to be tight and we all were in a rush to cover ground as quickly as we could. About 300 meters from the jeep, the front of the sole of one of Targ’s boots flapped loose. I used my pants draw string to tie it in place. This lasted about 300 meters when the string came loose and I had to retie it. It was aggravating as this was using up precious light. Rainer steamed ahead and we followed in fits and starts.
The terrain was desert hills and we climbed hills and dropped into multiple river valleys. At about 8:15 PM and 500 meters away, Targ and I were reach the crest of yet another hill when we met Rainer coming the other way. At first we thought he must have already visited the site and was on his way back. However, he said he reached a dangerous cliff and didn’t want to risk going down alone. We all pushed ahead to see what we could see. The valley was steep, and at the cliff Rainer went down to try it again. Targ went up the left bank and I went up the right to try and find a way around it. I found an easy alternative and called to Targ to go this way. Meanwhile, Rainer got down the cliff and was racing to the confluence which was now 300 meters away. I lost track of both Rainer an Targ, and headed as quickly as I could to the confluence. After the cliff, the remaining distance was up and over another hill. I arrived to find Rainer doing his cardinal direction photos. I quickly located my GPS’s confluence and Targ arrived a few minutes later hobbling with the soles of both shoes flapping wildly. Targ had big blisters on the heels of both feet and was one hurting puppy.
We left just as dark was enveloping us and we used one small flashlight and Rainer’s GPS lighted screen to find our way back to the jeep. When we arrived, it was 10:30 PM, and Targ could barely walk.
We bounced out the way we came and arrived in the town at midnight walking up the hotel owners for a room. They notified the police of our presence, as they are required, and three cops showed up about 20 minutes later snapping lots of photos of us and the passports and asked Rainer a bunch of questions. They had no interest in Targ or I.
At 1:30 AM we finally got to sleep.
Dubbed: The Flapping Soles and Quarry Confluence
Rainer’s Recorded Details:
1.7.2011 CP 40-107 parking 3.2km, 20:30 at CP, distance from main road: 18km, from first dead end: 5.6 km, start hike:19:30, back to car 22:00. 23:30 in Balagong.
Targ’s Meticulous Notes: None! This was a bonus confluence!