A few years back when the confluence project was young (2000-2003), I had the lucky fortune to be the first person to document the only confluence in Shanghai, another in Hubei and the first one in the country of Cambodia as well. Today, most of the world has now been documented but there are still some spots left to find. Best of all, these confluence hunts, serve to document the many changes and developments all over the world. I may have been the first, but I am not the last to visit those sites and its interesting to see how they change in time and seasons. Confluence hunting also brings you to places you normally would not go and to meet people you would normally never meet. China still has many confluence left to discover (316 visited, 965 total).  Compare this to the US where almost everything has been visited at least once (867 visited, 1098 total), You can still try your luck with North Korea where you still have 3 incomplete, 0 visited, 18 total.

 http://www.confluence.org/

The goal of the project is to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location. The pictures, and stories about the visits, will then be posted here.


The project is an organized sampling of the world. There is a confluence within 49 miles (79 km) of you if you're on the surface of Earth. We've discounted confluences in the oceans and some near the poles, but there are still 11,276 to be found.



 

 Shanghai Confluence visit #1 (editors note - GPS may not be illegal although my friend did get his confiscated when he wandered next to a military base (which are all over the place))

We began our journey from Shanghais bus terminal and took a tour bus to a lake close to confluence popular with Shanghai residents for the summer. This being December, there were few tourists visiting the lake at this chilly time of year. The comfortable and modern Korean bus was an expensive 10 yuan or USD 1.30 for an hour long drive. We took the bus until the town of Qingpu where we transferred to a localvery localbus for 2 yuan for another 30 minutes. The local bus was not only rusty and freezing, but the conductor was a grumpy chap who would yell at the other passengers if they werent clear where they wanted to get off. (Here in China, each conveyance has their own ticket collectorno need for fare machines when humans are still cheaper.) We disembarked in the town of Zhengdian just as the confluence site described the nearest village. The day was freezing and windy but we bundled for the worst expecting to be at the confluence a mere 2 miles away in a matter of minutes. The first .8 mile was a brisk jaunt through the small town and then the road stopped.

The rest of the way took us through frozen rice paddies and cold marshy land away from town. A big rain the night before made the fields one big muddy brown glob of freezing goop that stuck like cement to our clothing. As we trudged through the fields and sunk into the mud, we realized that few people were in the field or even walking around during cold weather like this. We skirted zig zag along paths on top of paddy dikes and across the rows of rice and cabbage. One slip would mean a fall into a muddy mass of cold freezing paddy water.

We would occasionally pass farmhouses along the route and have curious onlookers gaping at us. The homes in the farmlands were very primitive and very poor with pigs, geese and dogs roaming at will. Since our route took us into the fields of many of these farms I suggested that we ask permission before trudging through their fields. My pragmatic friend, the one who spoke Mandarin, got around the touchy subject of asking for permission by simply screaming out. "zai nail lu" or "where's the road". The baffled peasants would point towards the path and onwards we trudged through farm and property. At about the mile mark we came to a screeching halt as we encountered one of the many canals that we would face in this journey.

The first and widest was roughly 300 yards wide. Not a single bridge or ford was in sight. Right there and then I was ready to call it a day since this obstacle seemed insurmountable without approaching from a completely different direction. We also learned that there were other narrower but still uncrossable canals crisscrossed through the farmlands. I took pictures of the obstacle and was ready to call it a day as an attempted confluence when my friend had the idea to ask some of the passing farmers to ferry us across. The first person we asked refused so we asked a second person who ordered the first person to get the boat ready. We were ready to pay up to a 100 yuan just to get across. The farmer said he would do it and then take us back for 10 yuan or about USD 1.25. We jumped at the bargain and were quite excited until we saw the boat. Within the small sampan, water flooded the central part and there was a big hole in the bow. Since there was nowhere to sit due to the flooding, they brought a tiny bench for us to sit on perched precariously at the bow of the craft. It took about 15 minutes to actually get the engine started as they banged the ancient motor, stared at it and twisted some nuts tighter. One tip of the boat and down the canal we fall. Hypothermia and the loss of all our electronics seemed inevitable given the unsteady nature of the boat.

Since we were packing so much electronics and using the illegal GPS, I instructed my friend to tell anyone who asked that were on a school project, The cover seemed to work as a plausible explanation since what other fools would trudge around cold freezing muddy fields in December.

After reaching the other end of the canal we told the ferry guy to just drop us off and not wait for us to return. The walk at that point was so muddy and difficult that we couldnt imagine going the way we came so we just trudged ahead towards the confluence and hoped that this wasnt an island. (According to my GPS map the confluence was in the middle of the water but its been wrong before.). We had to cross a few more smaller canals that hand made bridges made of loose planks, ropes and some nails. With careful steps a desire to get this thing over with we trudged on. Of course I would later slip and fall into a muddy ditch but it was a dry canal. It did, however, smash the LCD of my mobile phone. We then encountered another large canal that was as wide as the first. Fortunately, there was a bridge half a kilometer away that crossed this canal so we headed for the only way out. Although I thought the bridge was a slight diversion, I was quite surprised to see that the road lined up perfectly with the confluence. We were able to complete the next few hundred meters on a nice path that tool us through a small village. As we cleared the village we realized that the confluence was somewhere in a nearby field but then saw another canal in the distance. This canal was too small for boats but too wide to jump across or find a handmade bridge for. However, based on the GPS, the confluence was just 30 feet before the canal to our relief.

We found the confluence in the field located along a walkway of a paddy. We snapped our picture, took our readings and walked the road based on our GPS map for another hour until we found a main road where busses ran. We were caked in mud, cold and hungry by then but it was great to know that we had found Shanghais one and only confluence. By my reckoning, this may be one of the easiest confluences to find but difficult to walk due to all the canals. I enjoyed finding this confluence but it took us a whole day and nearly 10 miles of walking around in mud to get there. China with its lack of Topo maps, legal restrictions on GPS and the language barrier is not a casual walk-through. Maybe next year well tackle Tibet.

 

Loads of fun....everyone should try it...don't get arrested.

 

-Frank Yu