05-Aug-2003 -- This is the first Confluence visit for both of us and it is the first page of a series of 8 Confluence visits (4 complete, 4 incomplete). When we arrived back to Germany, the complete luggage was stolen in a train, including the GPS and the digital camera. But this is nothing compared to what was also lost: The diary. Loosing a diary is a new experience, it hurts a lot. Since all notes about the Confluences were lost, we did our best to reconstruct everything. Fortunately, we downloaded the pictures just the day before!
A half a year ago I got to know confluence.org from a friend of mine, Brad Hoehne. Since all Confluences in my home country Germany as well as in the USA (where I live as a visitor) have been visited already, I was not so attracted to confluence hunting there. But this August, during our bike tour between Hanoi and Phnom Penh, was a good opportunity to find unvisited confluences.
This Confluence is located 100 km south of Vietnam's capital Hanoi and it took us 3 days to get to there by bike. One could do the distance in one day, but the heat and humidity held us back, as well as beautiful scenery and excursions by small boats.
On the morning of touring-day number three, we started in the provincial capital Ninh Binh, about 35 km north of the confluence point. We started, as usual, at 5 o'clock in the morning in order to escape the heat later on. Since there is no direct road to the confluence point, we rode our bikes to the town called Phat Diem (former name Kim Son), 15 km from the Confluence. From there a small asphalt road lead us to the tiny town called Nga Son.
According to the map, the confluence point is located 3 km south of Nga Son. As soon as we entered the place we sat down in a cafe and turned the GPS on. But our instrument would not track any satellites. We waited and waited, getting more and more desperate. Meanwhile the owner of the cafe had offered his telephone to us about 5 times, concluding that we are having trouble with our cell phone. We were not able to explain to him what we were actually trying to do.
But finally, after waiting half an hour and being already in a hopeless mood, the first satellite was tracked by our slow GPS receiver. Our instrument made us wait for another 50 minutes until it was able to calculate our position and to tell us that we should go 3.2 km south. My guess is that problem was caused by entering wrong initial coordinates, e.g. 106 W instead of 105 E in the GPS receiver.
A perfect, small asphalt road pointed in the same direction as the GPS did. On that road we got to a distance 1 km from the Confluence very quickly, when suddenly our smooth travel was interrupted by a big river without any bridges. It looked like we had to swim across with GPS receiver and camera!
Some local kids cooling off in the muddy river let us know that there was a bridge that could be reached by following the river to the East. Indeed, we managed to find the bridge and after crossing it, we were in a suburb of Nga Son again. Another paved road lead us to within 300 m of the confluence point! From there, following a little footpath between rice paddies and farm houses we got to the point quite easily. After orbiting a farm house, we knew the confluence point was in their backyard. We even managed to bring our bikes to the site. The GPS receiver displayed an accuracy of 3 m at the point.
The area is totally flat, generally densely populated. People grow rice, bananas, and palm trees between their farm houses. Between the fields is a labyrinth of little trails and moats.
The farmer's family, named Quyet, welcomed us heartily, inviting us to their house, which is located less then 30 m from the confluence point. After drinking green tea and talking about family using gesture and body language, the family father indicated, that we are surveyors - which is actually true, because my profession is geodesy.
Very happy, but a little dehydrated (tea cups tend to be tiny in Vietnam) we left the site and rode our bikes to the provincial town Thanh Hoa that day.
This story is continued at 18N 105E.