12-Aug-2005 -- We needed two attempts to visit this confluence. First we tried to approach from Vandäm, a nearby village sprawling along the road to
Qäbälä. We left the Road near a river and followed the riverbed for a few kilometers. After a While it dawned to us, that the confluence point would actually lie in the adjacent valley, but we were determined to continue and cross the small mountains north of Vandäm to get there if necessary. Fortunately one of the local farmers ran after us when we left the road two kilometers from Vandäm, and called us back. He explained using some basic English, Russian, and lots of hand waving that we should return because we could get in a lot of trouble if we would continue.
We wondered why this should be the case, but complied. We went back to his house and got and enjoyed the excellent azeri style dinner he had invited us to. Before we tried the second time to reach the CP we invested some time in studying the scans of the USSR military maps the university of Berkeley provides. The best route was, as it turned out starting from Kaladschuk, a little village north of Istisu. We took a taxi from Qäbälä, but short after Istisu the taxi driver refused to continue because the road had degraded to a gravel track that sometimes resembled a riverbed.
But soon a Villager gave us a ride in his ancient monstrous Russian truck. 6 Kilometers from the CP he told us in a casual tone, that we had better get out our passports, because soon we would reach the boarder post to Dagestan. This was a little disturbing for us, because the CP is in at least 20km distance from the
boarder according to the map, apart from the small detail that we had no visa for Russia. Indeed in 4,5 km distance from the confluence ( You could see the valley the confluence is situated from there) were two boys in uniform equipped with machine guns and radio were guarding the way. We had to get out of the truck, and explain what we were up to.
After a little discussion we were told to go to the local military commander. The Villager who took us up from Istisu drove us to the military post. The major commanding the small post was very polite and spoke fairly good English. He told us that the whole area up to 30km from the boarder is very sensitive and egularly patrolled by azeri forces, to control traffic through the mountain passes. We explained that we would not go farther than 6km and return on the same day. He
said that he would have to contact his superior officer, and wrote down painstakingly the information provided in our passports.
It took two hours before we got permission to go at 3 PM. In the meantime we were served some tea and cookies. Before we went, we were told that our bags had to be searched, and that we mustn't take pictures of military installations or personell or of the area we wanted to visit. After a little discussion we agreed to leave our bags with the military post and take only the things necessary for the hike.
We managed to take our camera and gps receiver along unnoticed. We could pass the guard and ventured into the valley northwest of Kaladschuk. We followed a small road for a few kilometers, and a riverbed after that. The landscape reminded us strongly of the Austrian alpes, with its stunning peaks, waterfalls and green lush forests. The last kilometer was the really hard part. We had to climb a gorge end endless steep slopes after that to gain a few hundred meters elevation.
We celebrated took the necessary pictures and returned. We were back in Kaladschuk at 8pm, where a villager took us in for one night.