20-Jan-2007 -- While spending a month in India for work, I decided to give a local confluence a try.
I recruited a local coworker to the cause (Faraz) and we picked 73N 20E for an attempt.
We got up early and started driving to the spot. We got a little lost in Mumbai, but a little wandering and a little help from folks on the side of the road got us back on track.
We drove north from Mumbai to the town of Kasa Khurd, and then started working our way down tiny back roads to get close to the spot.
We had a laptop running Google Earth with us, and the satellite imagery is very good for this area. This allowed us to drive to a spot 1.8KM from the confluence while only making two brief wrong turns.
We parked the car near a house, and asked permission to leave it there while we did our hike.
The Initial plan was to follow a series of valleys from the parking spot to the confluence, but when we arrived the valleys were less inviting that we expected, and the hills were less intimidating. We headed out in a straight line.
This ended up being a quite exhausting hike, crossing over three quite steep and rocky hills, we quickly arrived at the confluence.
The immediate area around the confluence was somewhat surreal. It was a large flat rocky plateau with the ground dropping away in every direction. There were hundreds of what appeared to be freshly dug graves scattered across the plateau. The confluence it self was located on the dirt pile next to one of these “graves”.
After finding the point, we spent some time taking pictures, and then headed back down the hill using a very convenient goat trail. We made it quite a bit down the hill before I remembered I had left my GPS at the confluence! We quickly ran back up the hill and grabbed it.
The goat trail we had found seemed really great. It appeared to head in the direction of the car, but by winding around the worst of the hills. After a few minutes, it widened in to a tractor trail. We were so confident that the trail was leading in the right direction that I left my GPS off and in my backpack for the entire walk.
After about 2KM, we came to a village, but it didn’t quite seem like the village we had parked the car in. I got out the GPS and laptop to check, and found that we’d come down the hillside heading about 160 degrees the wrong direction, and were now about 3KM from the car. By this point it was almost completely dark.
The folks in the village tried to give us directions and invited us to stay the night, but we were worried about leaving the car unattended overnight, and about getting back to work on time. I bought flashlight from a guy in the Village for Rs500 (about 10 times what he had paid for it) and we headed out in a straight line towards the car.
The walk to the car was challenging. It was completely dark, and the terrain was varied and difficult. We had to cross several high ridges and work our way through some thick undergrowth. We walked something like 4KM because of detours around impassible brush and hills to steep to climb. In between the hills, we crossed a great many dry (dormant) rice patties. These were nice for walking across, but always ended in a climb up a stone retaining wall.
About half way through this hike, I lead us down a very steep hillside covered in very loose rock and soil. I lost my footing and fell partway down the hill. I was OK, but I cracked my GPS in two. Luckily, I had decided to bring a spare GPS.
We put batteries in the extra GPS, waited the 15 minutes for it to realize it was in India, and continued on our way.
After a couple hours of walking, we finally arrived back at the car. To our surprise, it was surrounded by 20-30 people. They told us that they had decided that we were doing something bad, that the police had been called, and that they weren't going to let us leave.
We hung out for about 90 minutes until the police came.
Neither of our phones worked there, but Faraz managed to rent a phone and call a friend at work to explain the situation.
The time waiting for the police was strange. Several people were very friendly, sitting down next to me, bringing me water, and trying talk with me. Other people in the Group wanted to beat us before the police came. The friendly members of the group explained that the “graves” up on the plateau were part of some sort of water capture scheme.
When the police arrived, the they asked what we were doing, yelled at us, slapped us around a little, and threw us in a police car.
At the police station, they went through all our stuff and asked us a bunch of questions about being Muslim terrorists. They asked me about my religious background, and were not happy with my "Atheist" as an answer. Throughout the entire experience, no one ever explained to us what we had done wrong, or what we should have done different.
After about 45 minutes of this, the phone rang, and the police chief talked for a few minutes. When he hung up, everything was different. He explained that he needed to verify my visa, but that other than that there was no problem.
The guy Faraz had called had been successful in tracking down a friend of a friend who was very influential in the area, and had called in a big favor.
I had left my passport with the hotel and didn't have a copy with me (very stupid). We tried to get the hotel to fax a copy to the police station, but the police could not make their fax machine work.
The police told us they could not release us until my visa was verified, but that they wouldn't make us sleep in a cell. They kept all our things, and took us to a truck stop alongside the highway. The truck stop gave us a room and fed us dinner for free, apparently as part of some deal they had with the police.
Rural Indian truck stops are not entirely up to the standards of the American lodging industry.
In the morning, we walked from stall to stall in the roadside market until we found a sort of electronics / payphone business. They had and ancient fax machine under the counter. They took it out, cleaned it up, put in a fresh role of thermal paper, and connected it to a phone line.
We called the hotel again, and they faxed my passport and visa.
We went back to the police station, and presented the fax.
After about an hour of filling out paperwork they let us go, and we drove back to Pune.