the Degree Confluence Project

China : Guǎngxī Zhuàngzú Zìzhìqū

10.1 km (6.3 miles) SE of Pingdeng, Guǎngxī, China
Approx. altitude: 1404 m (4606 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreetMap ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 26°S 70°W

Accuracy: 5 m (16 ft)
Quality: good

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: Mr. Pu carrying his roots for bonsai creations and Peter #3: Grangpa Meng with a massive headache and the Spring Festival freshly slaughtered goat #4: Dinner with the Meng family at Spring Festival #5: Villages of Shangpingqi and Mudongshan with Targ and Young Meng #6: Victory Celebration Fireworks and Young Meng at his door with the good luck couplets #7: GPS - Topo and aerials with tracks #8: View from the Confluence to the South #9: View from the Confluence to the East #10: View from the Confluence to the West

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  26°N 110°E  

#1: View from the Confluence to the North

(visited by Peter Cao and Targ Parsons)

24-Jan-2004 -- This is a continuation from 26N 111E of a four-point Confluence hunt in Guangxi Province during Chinese New Year with Targ Parsons, the King of China Confluence Hunters.

The short story: we went and we found it. The details are what follows:

A new day, a new adventure. Unlike yesterday's hunt, which was a bit on the dull side, today's promised to be full of adventure. Located in the hills of northeast Guangxi province in Longsheng county which is renown for the Dragonback Terraces. The area is densely populated and the mountainous landscape has been reshaped by man for thousands of years resulting in a dramatic terraces covering entire mountains. This area is also heavily visited by tourists, both foreign and Chinese. However, our destination was near a very remote village with the nearest bus access 10 km away.

Dragon names are everywhere in this area. The resemblance of dragons was not lost on the Chinese who have a predilection to finding animals in almost all natural objects. Dragon this and dragon that dominates the place names here: Dragon Victory, Dragon Water, Dragon Bank, Dragon Head, etc.

Targ was planning our confluence trip before and he wrote, "Now that we're starting off up in

Guilin, I'm seriously considering doing the other nearby confluence northwest of Guilin, at 26N 110E. I suspect it will be a challenging one because it's in a fairly mountainous area north of Longsheng (which you've probably been to or heard of before). The DCP lists the approximate altitude

as 1,295 metres.? I knew the area fairly well having lead several Bike China http://www.bikechina.com/ tours through this popular destination.

Targ continued, "I'm not sure where your level of fitness is right now, vis a vis football injuries and the like, but let me know if you're willing to tackle this one, and I'll probably include it in the itinerary. I'm going to go to the Hong Kong Public Library this week, where they have an excellent A4 hardcover atlas of topographical maps of Hunan Province, because it's highly likely this confluence will just make it onto one or two of those maps, seeing how close it is to the border with Hunan Province. From the topographical map, I'll be able to better judge the degree of difficulty. Including this one in the itinerary might reduce our chances of having time for any bonus confluences, but we'll play it by ear..."

When I expressed my guilt in not doing any of the planning, Targ said, ?You just leave the planning to me, and don't you fret! I'd hate for you to feel under 'quite a bit of pressure even before we start.'"

Then he sent me his cue notes:

FYI, here is my detailed plan for 26N 110E:

- Take bus NNW from Guilin to Longsheng. CP is 22.5 km N.
- Take bus W then N towards Pingdeng.
- Get out at a river junction at Guangnan, when CP is 9.35 km ESE.
- Turn right and follow S bank of river to CP.
- Pass two villages (on N bank): Jiahe 6 km from CP, and Mahuang 5.8 km from CP.
- There is a major river confluence when CP is 3.8 km SE. Continue along S bank of S fork, even though this involves some backtracking.
- When CP is 1.4 km due S, continue E along S bank of river, which eventually turns S.
- When CP is 500 m due W, start climbing towards CP, about 100 m vertically.
- The village of Shangpingxi is somewhere in the general vicinity of the CP (perhaps up to 1 km away).
- Approx. altitude: 1,295 m.

With a partner like this, who needs to fret?

We woke up in Guilin in the pitch dark at the ungodly hour of 6 AM, quickly dressed and headed out to get some breakfast to start what promised to be a very long day. On the way, I spotted a commotion going on in from of the hotel; a man was running around doing exercises yelling, "Yi, er, san, yi, er, san..." (Chinese for one, two three). This in and of itself is not so unusual, but the fact that he was butt-naked from the waist down in near freezing weather, was. I joined the crowd to watch as he jumped out into the street in front of a taxi, which screeched to a stop barely avoiding making him into dead meat. Then he jumped into the taxi, but the driver refused to go and ordered him out of his car.

A minute later, three cops arrived, and one had a long stick. They told him to put his clothes on, and when he didn't jump right to it, the one with a stick smacked him in the butt. When he started talking instead of putting on his clothes, he received several more smacks on his butt and bare legs until he finally got the message. I was going to take a photo, but thought it might result in my camera being confiscated, so I didn't want to risk it.

I met Targ in his favorite restaurant at the bus station where he was finishing up yet another bowl of zhou - a rice porridge with pi dan (1,000 year old preserved eggs) and pork. He said that this restaurant was the only place he found in a long time that made it right. This place had a unique ceiling treatment - they used baby blue egg crates to cover the ceiling.

Targ, having become a true connoisseur of bus stations by virtue of the fact that he has been to many on his soon to be 100+ confluence hunts, noted that the Guilin bus station is one of the few that got it right with people accessing through the front and the buses through the back.

Back in the room I found Targ glued to the TV watching "Kitty Aerobics" with eight pretty Chinese girls doing aerobic dancing in brief v-neck halter tops. Said Targ with a grin, "I was channel surfing and somehow it just stopped here."

On the bus there was a karoke video with the lead woman singer using a miniature microphone attached to her pinky, which Targ labeled it a "pinky mic."

Arriving in Longsheng at 9 AM, we transferred to a decidedly lower grade bus. It was very drafty and when an old lady sat down beside him, he commented, "Hey this is nice, this ladies leg is warm, just like my cat."

Later, a Chinese Jay Leno got on the bus with that distinctive triangular pudgy face.

Targ had spent a lot of time in researching this confluence by comparing aerial photos to topographic political maps and worked out a series of waypoints that we needed to reach to get to the confluence. Our plan was to try to reach the CP in one day, but it meant that all our transport options would fall perfectly into place and that there would be roads and trails leading to the point.

We alighted from the bus in Guangnan at noon, about 200 meters before reaching Targ's first waypoint when a likely looking road heading in the direction of the confluence appeared.

Our next destination was Jiahe, was 5 km away and the confluence was just under 10 km. Walking through Guangnan, we asked a local guy if this was the right way. As we were talking to him, a tricycle motorcycle taxi came by and we flagged him down. He is on personal run with two of his relatives, but gets talked into taking us. The engine is a 125 cc motor, severely undersized for this use. Along the way, we all have to jump out and push it up the hill when it can't make it on its own. The road was a muddy mess from the heavy snow that fell the day before making the clay road very slick.

Once in Jiahe, we were six kilometers from the confluence and we had no road maps of the area. The maps Targ has shows several villages in the vicinity of the confluence, but he doesn't know how to get there. So we started asking folks we meet along the way which way to Shangpingqi. Every time we do, the reaction is always a look of shock and the question, "Shangpingqi??"  I begin to wonder if the place is infamous holdout of cannibals.

The road is newly-built, completed just months before as we could see from the dates on the bridges and drainage structures as we walked past. The way was up, up, up and the road is slick, slick, slick. The only vehicles using it are a few brave or foolish motorcyclists. One in particular is comical in his journey. Riding an obviously new 125 water-cooled motorcycle, he passed us early on our walk, but quickly got bogged down in the mud. His street tires were nearly useless on this road and he had several large heavy bags on the back making it hard for him to balance. While he was trying to get up the hill, we saw him fall over at least a half dozen times. I helped him up three times and when he went down again, Targ said we better let him do it himself or we will be here all day. Once after he got going again he started up the hill and his front wheel started down the very steep bank, he almost went with it. Targ and I pulled him and the bike back to safety and we thanked our lucky stars we weren't his passengers.

This being the second day of Chinese New Year, there were a lot of families out on the road visiting friends and relatives and carrying gifts. Everyone was in great mood and we called out "Happy New Year" to the folks we meet.

The road continued to climb at a rather steep grade (10-20%) much of the way and Targ lamented the fact his bag was so heavy (about 12 kg). Mine was half that, and I regretted bringing my Chinese dictionary.

The folks we met said that we would have to get off the road and take a trail to go to Shangpingqi. The area was very mountainous with steep deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, and rushing streams. Targ located several of the rivers he had seen on the aerial and said we had to cross this river to get into another river valley.

As the time ticked on I became a bit apprehensive about where we would stay. It was becoming very clear that this would be a two-day confluence hunt, and we would have to impose ourselves on some family to put us up for the night and feed us.

Along the way, we met a nice guy by the name of Pu heading the opposite direction and inquired about the name of the village up ahead of us. He said it was Liuli village. This was a bit of a surprise as we hadn't passed Xiapingqi yet. We asked him about that and he said that was where he was going and we could just follow him.

But first Mr. Pu said he needed to make a couple of quick stops. With that he disappeared into the bush along the road and we heard some hacking sounds followed by a crash and thud as a tree root was thrown into the road. I asked him what it was for and he said he made bonsai landscapes with the roots chosen based on particular Chinese characters he saw in them to sell in Guilin. He rounded up one fairly large road and couple of smaller ones and hoisted them on his shoulder. I offered to carry his pick and bag, as his load seemed rather formidable.

We backtracked about half a kilometer and he turned off on a path that I had joked about taking when we passed it the first time as it seemed to head toward the confluence.

Mr. Pu is of the Yao minority and lives in Xiapingqi, a seven-building village about a thirty-minute walk from the road. At pagoda rest spot along the path at the top of a hill overlooking his village, he pointed out his house and said if we needed food or a place to stay, we were welcome to his house.

Targ and I continued on our way up the valley climbing higher and higher. Snow appeared on the roofs of houses. The people we met continued to show astonishment at our intended destination and even more after they asked who we were looking for and we said we didn't know anyone there.

As we neared Shangpingqi, ice appeared on the water of the rice paddies, and icicles along the stream. The village seemed to have only two houses, until we got closer and saw it was considerably bigger than Mr. Pu's.

At 5 PM, we had about an hour of daylight. I suggested that we walk up to the village to hang out and wait to be discovered. It didn't take long, and soon we were being ushered into a huge two-level farmhouse. Like most farmhouses in this area the lower level was devoted to livestock and the toilet, while the upper level was the living quarters. We passed three men cleaning the innards of some recent butchering in the icy stream water. Fortunately, it appeared to be not human.

One man directed us to a house that was obviously not his and told us to go on in. Targ shyly knocked on the door and called out, but no one answered. The man told us to just go on in. We entered a dark smoky room where the kitchen and eating area was located. The whole situation had the surreal feeling as if we stepped into a Star Wars movie. We were told to sit on some tiny stools that were about six inches high four wide and eight long.

There were three men sitting on the stools around the open chimneyless fire and an older woman busying herself with food preparation. We were taken aback by the sight of an older man sitting there with a bottle sticking out of his forehead as if, as Targ said, it was the most natural thing in the world. Not far away was the fresh carcass of the recent butchering of the goat whose innards were being cleaned outside. No wonder the people we passed on the road expressed shock when we told them our destination.

Within five minutes we were handed a delicious steaming bowl of roasted barley soup. Soon many people started arriving and the dozens of stools lined up against the wall were pulled out. We made polite conversation with the young folks who could speak Mandarin. The older people only knew their local dialect and we just smiled at each other.

We discovered that their village, Shangpingqi, has a population of 131 and is of the Miao minority while Mr. Pu's village, Xiapingqi, is a Yao minority village. Several of the people we met work in Guilin and were home just for the holidays. It was a joyous and auspicious time for us to arrive. Everyone was in a great mood, and they seemed to giggle at almost everything. We were invited to join them for a meal of the freshly slaughtered goat. I am vegetarian, but have decided it is best to put aside my values when in this kind of situation because it makes everyone uncomfortable. Besides, there was very little else to eat, so to declining the meat would put a serious damper on the meal for our host family. So, reluctantly, I ate meat.

Soon there was a crowd around the fire with everyone tucking into the food. Next came smaller bowls which I suspected would be used for alcohol. My suspicions were correct, and the small teapot warming beside the fire was poured in the bowls. Targ at first refused, but later agreed to sip a bit. I was afraid it was baijiu, a wickedly strong 116 proof grain alcohol that smells and tastes like gasoline. Fortunately, however, it was qingjiu, a relatively strong wine and much more palatable than it stronger cousin.

I said I would only have one bowl of qingjiu, but then Targ passed his over to mine, and suddenly I was drinking for both of us. The toasts followed fast and heavy, until the food was finished. Everything was put away for a while until more and more people started showing up.

It turned out that what I thought was dinner was in reality just an appetizer. They started making a big dinner with two fires: the men around one and the women and babies around the other. Different folks were assisting in all parts of the preparation with the whole thing coming together smoothly and without undue hardship on any one person.

People were coming and going often setting off fireworks in the hall outside the dinning room. These fireworks were typically a roll of firecrackers punctuated with several bombs and ending with a huge ear-slitting house-shaking bomb at the end.

During the second dinner, Targ got a bowl of rice right off the bat preempting any attempt to get him to drink the qingjiu, since it is a universal axiom throughout China that drinking alcohol and eating rice and drinking alcohol are mutually exclusive activities. Targ's refusal left the duty to me to hold down the foreign contingent.

Toasts and drinks were flowing hot and heavy and then they interdicted a new twist of trading drinks with another person as a show of friendship. This nullified my attempt to reduce the amount of alcohol in my cup when they poured filled the cup. At the beginning the taste was a bit bitter, but later became tasteless and flowing like water. Curiously the TV, which is generally on at full blast in many houses was switched off and a congenial round of jokes and discussions ensued. I was next to a young man of 23, called Meng, who was working in Guilin like several of the others. They all declined to say exactly what they did, referring to it as simply hourly workers. Nearly everyone was a relative of one sort or another with four generations represented that night.

As the eating and drinking continued some of the men got up and joined the women's table when they had enough to drink. I was encouraged to stay put, however. Finally I decided that the only way I was going to get out of this situation was fall over. Fortunately the extreme lowness of the stool and numbness of the alcohol made it an easy and painless operation. Painless, that is, until the next day when I had an inexplicable pain in my shoulder.

At that point I was excused from the table and escorted to the room where I was to sleep. There were two beds there and Targ had long since hit the hay. They asked me if I would be sleeping with Targ, or in the other bed, which seemed rather open-minded of them.

I choose the empty bed and started to get ready, when they suggested that I might wish to take a leak before getting in bed. I thought that was a capital idea since my earlier adventure at finding the toilet was puzzling.

When I asked about the toilet earlier in the day, our host ambiguously indicated that the toilet was down below with the livestock. However, when I went down to look for it there was no obvious location. There were two pigpens one with bevy of piglets suckling a huge hog, a gaggle of geese and ducks, several goats, a hen house full of egg layers, a cow and a rather large area about the same size as three double beds of mulch. Everything was there it seemed except a toilet. I tried to sniff it out to no effect. I could only conclude that it was located on the mulch pile, but the lack of privacy made it a highly unusual arrangement. After I wandered around for a while I finally gave up and went to another house and asked about the toilet. I was shown the same arrangement, and concluded it must be the compost pile. But I had no idea how to properly use it, so I just let loose along the edge.

This time I was being escorted and my host brought me to the edge of the balcony at the entrance to the house and he put me up against the railing said I could go there right off the front steps onto the sidewalk two meters below. I was in no condition to argue, so I did.

I was then escorted back to bed and only removed my shoes before collapsing on the bed leaving everything else on, including camera on my belt, GPS and cell phone in my pocket. Targ said he remembers being checked in on a few times during the night. The next morning, I saw my frozen urine on the steps and hoped no one would fall and hurt themselves.

In the morning, we woke up around daylight about 8:30 AM. I still felt a bit woozy and was shown a steaming hot bowl of hot water to freshen up. Breakfast of sticky rice chunks in a sweet water was offered which we quickly snarfed down. The night before several people expressed interest in going on our confluence hunt, but this morning only young Meng, who sat beside me the night before, was there. I spotted a large red food cover that looked like the earth's latitude and longitude lines, so I tried to explain the confluence project and what we were trying to locate.

About 9:30 AM we started off with young Meng leading the way. From the house we were 1.38 kilometers from the confluence. Even though we were at 950 meters elevation, we still had 450 meters of climbing to go. From the topo and aerial photo Targ figured the best way to get there was to follow the main stream around the mountain to the other side.

It was a beautiful crisp morning, though still overcast. Unencumbered with backpacks, we moved quickly along the terraced fields further up the valley. I commented to Targ that single track trails would be ideal for mountain biking.

Soon we came to a steep climb and took several breaks. Targ figured that we would some be coming to a relatively flat area and sure enough it appeared as a welcome break to the hard climb.

When we got within 350 meters of the CP we happened on anther village that we didn't know existed called Mudongshan, another Yao minority village. Targ said that had we known that, we could have spent the night there instead. The confluence appeared to be on top of the hill behind the village, but there was no direct trail there so we walked around the back and found a trail leading in the right direction. This area appeared to used primarily for grazing cattle. The low bushes and multiple trails made it relatively easy to locate the CP. It was near the top of a hill overlooking the surrounding valleys.

After doing the confluence dance for a few minutes, Targ and I found our own sweet spots where we got our perfect readings at about 11 AM. Photos recorded, I unrolled set of fireworks, draping them on the trees. Lighting them was a satisfying end to a successful hunt.

Just before leaving for this trip, Targ noticed that someone by the name of "carobao" had posted plans to visit this confluence during this same period. We wondered if "carobao" made there first, or if that person would happen upon the fireworks remains later and realize that others had been there before.

Meng told us there was a shortcut back to his house which we greeted with eagerness. However it mean another climb on our now sore legs and then a steep drop down the other side. From the top of the hill, the elevation difference and the horizontal distance were about the same making it a steep and slippery 50% grade.

We were back at the house at noon, Targ wanted pack and leave immediately, but I was feeling hungry and was easily persuaded to have some lunch. This time it was at a neighbor's house, but the usual group of people were present. Most everyone had already eaten, and when I sat down I was immediately handed a bowl of qingjiu. This was the last thing I needed and begged off, but was coerced into one bowl.

After I finished the qingjiu I immediately asked for a bowl of rice pre-empting any more demands for drinking. We had a long walk ahead of us if we wanted to try and get to Rongshui that evening. Leaving Shangpingqi at 12:30 PM would be rather tight. As we left, I forced our host to accept a payment for putting us up by stuffing the money into his pocket. He only made a couple of protestations so I figured it was welcomed.

Unlike yesterday, the walk down was quiet; few people were on the road and there were no vehicles. Three and a half hours later we arrived in Guangnan, completely tuckered out and grateful for an opportunity to sit down on a proper chair and we waited for the bus going toward our next objective.

After returning to Chengdu, Targ commented, "I want to tell you, it was so great doing 26N 110E with you. That was one of the most memorable confluence visits I have ever done.? For a guy who has almost 100 confluences to his name, that was quite a statement. I responded, "Same here. Those farmhouse visits have a way of leaving an indelible impression."

Targ continued, "I've showed Tony some of the photos, and he was really envious. (Especially the one with you drinking like there was no tomorrow!) He admitted though that the getting there would not have been his cup of tea. (His way of saying he never would have made it.)"

Frankly, I would have preferred to have Tony doing the drinking for both of us. But I know how much collateral and bonding is placed on participating. I have refused in the past, and it always left a taste worse than any aftereffects the drinking results in.

This is christened the "Qingjiu Confluence" and dedicated to the wonderfully warm and friendly Miao minority of Shangpingqi for their hospitality.

This story continues at 25N 109E.

The Confluence Visit Details:

Accuracy: 5 m
Elevation 1404 m
Time: 10:47 AM

 All pictures
#1: View from the Confluence to the North
#2: Mr. Pu carrying his roots for bonsai creations and Peter
#3: Grangpa Meng with a massive headache and the Spring Festival freshly slaughtered goat
#4: Dinner with the Meng family at Spring Festival
#5: Villages of Shangpingqi and Mudongshan with Targ and Young Meng
#6: Victory Celebration Fireworks and Young Meng at his door with the good luck couplets
#7: GPS - Topo and aerials with tracks
#8: View from the Confluence to the South
#9: View from the Confluence to the East
#10: View from the Confluence to the West
ALL: All pictures on one page