09-Mar-2008 -- This is the 14th point in a journey by motorbike in India to visit 16 confluence points. The story starts at 22N 86E and this visit follows on from 21N 83E. The next point in the series is 21N 85E.
This point is 19km from the hotel. The visit took us 70 kilometres and 4 1/2 hours.
Sonapur is at the confluence (real one) of two rivers – the Mahanadi river and the Tel river. We had to cross the Mahanadi and head north to the point. We rode into the centre of the small town looking for the road that led to the bridge but found nothing. We decided to go down to the river and find out where the bridge was. We found ourselves at a ferry point and by gesticulations were told that the ferry would come for us. This was not welcome news and the only boats in site were very small and would not have taken the bikes.
Then John looked into the distance and saw the bridge about 5 km upriver. We jumped back on the bikes and easily found the road to the bridge. The bridge itself was 2 km long – crossing the largely dry river bed. Once onto the north side we had to decide how to attack the point. The choice was a road leading north – but several km too far west of the point or traveling SE away from the point to try to reach a road leading up through a series of villages ending near the point. After half a kilometre going SE we made an executive decision (that phrase usually meant that it was wrong – in this case we are not sure if was right or not – anyway it was a slightly educated guess). After a few kms north we came to a major track to the east and the village names on the old maps drew positive nods and gestures so we tried it. The land here is irrigated near the river but then rises up and there is a band of scrub before it drops down to another smaller river and a canal system near the point. After a couple of kms we came to a village and tried to decide whether to go north or west – of course the point lay slap in the middle. We went north and followed a good asphalt road that got to within 5 kms of the point but then seemed to bend around gradually so that the point remained the same distance away for a long time. There were few side turnings on the right and there was also a canal in the way. Eventually the road turned away and we took a track east by a big signpost in the shape of an arrow – was it giving us a signal? This eventually came to the canal and after crossing this we followed the canal for a while before taking a small track that seemed to lead the last 1.5 km. 700 metres from the point and a walk through scrub land and then past flooded paddy fields led to our goal. It was now getting late – and we wanted to try to get back to “civilization” before dark. We did not succeed as another executive decision took us south through several villages on a mixture of dirt and asphalt roads until we eventually reached the road we nearly took from the bridge. Another 15 km and we reached the bridge and back to the hotel by 7.30. Another 2 point day - but a very long one. The journey back was fascinating – all along the way we were passing men and women returning from the fields and herding their animals back to the villages for the night. The production of rice here is entirely manual – from land preparation with oxen through planting, weeding, harvesting and threshing.
The land was a mixture of intensively cropped paddy fields and rough grazing land with trees for firewood. In the cool evening when we passed the paddy fields we got a blast of warm humid air and then as soon as we moved away from them the cool air returned. It was fully dark long before we arrived back in Sonapur but the journey went without further incident.
Degree of Challenge:
3 – A long way from main roads and tricky to find the best route. (1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
4 – A nice mixture of scrub land and intensive agriculture. Low hills surrounding the point and interest also from villages and the canal (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
3 – Village life as it has been lived for centuries apparently almost untouched by the modern era. (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)
The story continues at 21N 85E.