01-Apr-2002 -- This story continues from 25°N 113°E (visit #2).
SUNDAY 31 MARCH 2002. At the Pingshi train station, I bought a ticket on the 7:10 p.m. train to Chenzhou, in Hunan province. This left me just sufficient time to dash across the street and collect my bag from the hotel before the train arrived.
Once on board the train, I was confronted with a scene of absolute bedlam and chaos in the incredibly overcrowded hard seat section. But the carriage captain insisted on giving me a seat, even though my ticket was officially a "standing room only" ticket, and even though this meant he had to force someone else to vacate theirs. I protested that I was getting off at the next stop, a journey of no more than an hour, and that I would happily stand, but the carriage captain would hear none of it, and I was compelled to occupy what was rightfully some other poor passenger's seat. Quite embarrassing, really.
Upon arrival in Chenzhou, I hopped in a taxi and asked the driver to take me to the best hotel in town. He took me to a very sumptuous establishment, where the service was full on. After confirming that they had satellite TV, so that I could watch the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix, I checked in. I was astonished, and very pleasantly surprised, at how inexpensive it turned out to be.
The hotel seemed to excel in everything except English spelling, which was definitely not their strong point! The laundry list had items of clothing grouped under two headings: "Gent lemen" and "Lacies." I submitted several articles of the gent lemen flavour.
Then I went downstairs and had a nice dinner, a hair wash and a foot massage, all in the hotel. I finally returned to my room in time to watch the race, which started at 1 a.m. It was yet another Michael Schumacher benefit, and I found it very difficult to stay awake, after all the mountain climbing and walking I'd done that day.
MONDAY 1 APRIL 2002. Now I have a confession to make. After having spent all day in the rain on Friday, my running shoes had acquired a rather unpleasant odour, and that odour had been getting progressively worse with each passing day. In fact, it had become so bad that I could no longer bear to be in the same room as my own running shoes! So the previous night, in desperation, I had sealed the offending footwear in my room's airtight mini-fridge! This was very effective in isolating me from the smell. But what I didn't realise was that it was also very effective in detoxifying the rotten-smelling running shoes. They came out smelling fresh as a daisy! (I wouldn't recommend trying this at home though...unless you happen to live alone.)
After getting dressed and donning my now inoffensive running shoes, I headed downstairs to enjoy "comp limertary breakfast" in the "coffec restaurant on 2rd floor."
This was the first time I'd been to Hunan province, and although I'd brought with me a provincial atlas that I'd bought in Hong Kong, it was rather lacking inasmuch as it didn't have the lines of longitude and latitude marked on the detailed maps. So, after breakfast, I went out in search of a bookshop. I soon found a large bookshop, and in the bookshop, I found a much better atlas, which not only had the lines of longitude and latitude marked, but was also annotated with all the road distances -- a real bonus!
Chenzhou is about 20 kilometres south of the confluence, and, according to my new atlas, the confluence lay right on the main highway, 1.5 kilometres north of Qifengdu. So at 10:10 a.m., I was on a bus to Qifengdu. I arrived there at 10:45 a.m.
After getting off the bus, I continued walking north along the highway. Because I'd consumed a bit too much comp limertary Chinese tea along with breakfast, I desperately needed to find a toilet, so I was keeping an eye out for one as I walked along. Eventually I saw a petrol station up the road on the right (picture #2), and behind it, in a small pine forest, was the toilet (picture #3). So was the confluence (picture #4)! Elevation: 161 metres.
I caught a passing bus back to Chenzhou, and after a relaxing stroll through a city park, got back to the hotel at 12:30 p.m. My gent lemen items were supposed to be ready for collection, but were nowhere to be found. Three girls from the front desk scrambled in an all-out effort to locate the lost laundry, washed or not. Eventually they were found. Outcome: not washed.
This story continues at 27°N 113°E.