23-Apr-2002 -- On a public bus enroute from the city of Tengchong to Baoshan in China's southwestern Yunnan province, I held my GPS out the bus window, aware that there was a confluence point nearby. But I had lots of work to get done and didn't have much time to go confluence hunting. I had been doing research for an adventure travel company called, 'The Imaginative Traveller' in which I was assigned to investigate the area to decide if it was good enough for running a tour.
It was obvious it was too late in the day to do any confluence hunting, anyway. Darkness started to fall. But so did the distances indicated on my GPS...6km, 5, 4... That was just about as low as I could expect to get. We drove around another bend and the GPS read 2.5 km! And there was a little town coming up just a kilometer away. That was just too close and too easy. In Mandarin I asked the bus driver if there were any hotels in the town - he said no and there probably wouldn't be any more buses. I had 1 or 2 minutes to decide, and as the adrenaline built I seized the moment and jumped off the bus.
Although it was dark from an absence of lighting, I discovered that I had ended up in a dusty, trash-laden, carbon monoxide truck-stop of a town. The locals, who were suprised at my arrival, escorted me toward the beaming fluourescent lights of a hotel with which turned out to be very clean but dirt cheap. The hotel/restaurant was famous for dried beef and right away they served me up a bowl of starchy beef noodle soup. They told me I had arrived in a town called Pu Piao, which was apparently famous for the discovery of Stone Age artifacts.
The next morning was beautiful, bright and sunny, transforming the town into a much less hostile of a place. I hired a rickety motorized tricycle, pointing out the direction I wanted to head. We were only able to come to 2.0 km from the point before the road became too rutted and bumpy for the driver's liking. I started my walk through village outskirts and up into rolling hills of farming plots which were partly terraced.
Finally I walked beyond the limits of the farmland and trails into an area of long, dry grass and sparse small pines. I was now less than 1 km away, but in front of me was a big gully. This turned out to be a big problem. One problem was that I was pretty sure there were cobras and other poisonous snakes here, and here I was walking in dry grass. I usually stick to animal trails but there weren't any more of them here. I continued on walking heavily to scare any unaware snakes.
The slope of the gully became dangerously steep but I clung onto the hillside. It was slow moving - it took me almost 2 hours to traverse the short distance of the gully. At the stream that bisects the gully I saw bright red centipedes. And as if I wasn't already nervous about creepy animals, at one point a snake and at another a lizard jumped out at me probably surprised by my sudden presence.
The snake was a thin one, about a foot long, and the lizard was bright green with a red head. I thought it might have been a chameleon but it scurried away too quickly for me to get a good look.
Finally on the other side of the gully, there were some trails and the walking became easy. There was a man chopping down trees, men leading cattle and a woman carrying away large bundles of grass.
The final approach involved climbing a hillock with more of these sparse pines which had been well rigged by spiderwebs as I unfortunately found out. There were also small spiders which appeared to be dropping on me.
The confluence site would have nice views over the valley which contains Pu Piao, if it weren't for the pines blocking the view. Noticeable things at the point were a large agave plant (20 meters away), an eroded mud-brick house (70 m) and a strange lone leafy green tree (100 m). The interesting sounds heard at the site were cuckoo birds, cow bells and farmers talking.
I found a much easier way down (all by trail) and investigated the old town of Pu Piao. Most Chinese towns have a beautiful, rustic old town where nobody wants to live and a junky, new town where everyone wants to live. The new town was the place where I had arrived. That afternoon I got on a bus and finished my trip to Baoshan.