12-Sep-2011 -- Rod Maher here back in Kurdistan, northern Iraq after a few years working in Algeria. While in Algeria I visited confluence point 31N 1E and the last time I was here in Kurdistan I managed to visit confluence point 36N 44E near Arbīl. I’m still working in Oil Exploration which is why I have another opportunity to visit a confluence point that not many people will have a chance to go to. Although I have to say that at first I thought that going to this confluence point would be impossible for me, too.
I arrived in Kurdistan in April 2011, working near a town called al-Sulaymāniyya in the South East of Kurdistan. I noticed the confluence point 50 km or so away and immediately started looking into how to get there.
The confluence point is on a waterway that joins Lake Dūkān with a smaller lake formed by a dam in Dūkān town itself and is almost completely surrounded by large rocky outcrops. The confluence is quite close to the southern shore of the waterway where the outcrops enter the water but with the water levels being unusually low this year I was not sure whether the point would be on land or in the water. My research didn’t help either as information on this area was sketchy.
As my research progressed it started to become clear that I was not going to get to the confluence point by any land route. There are no tracks going near to it and I am not a mountaineer by any stretch of the imagination, so the point was only accessible by water. But I didn’t have a boat and without one I wasn’t going to get there. Sadly I finally resigned myself to the fact that this point was out of my reach.
Despite being a beautiful country with a very friendly population, Kurdistan is not renowned for being a tourist destination. The scars left by years of conflict and persecution are still visible and while Kurdistan is now relatively safe, security is still an issue. Because of this I didn’t think there would be any boats on the lakes other than small fishing dinghies.
Then at the end of August the Islamic holiday ‘`Īd al-Fiṭr’ meant that the crew had the day off and I went to Dūkān with a few colleagues for a spot of lunch and a look around. We drove to the top of one of the nearby mountains where there were stunning views of the lakes, and I looked longingly in the direction of the confluence point, less than 6 km away in a direct line but hidden behind a ridge of mountains.
As we drove down the mountain and closer to the small lake, I could see several small boats out on the water. By the time we got down to the shores of the lake, it was apparent that pleasure boating on the lake was a popular holiday pastime for the Kurds and there were dozens of boats for hire. We enquired about the possibility of going into the waterway that links the large and small lakes and were told that we could go all the way through to the big lake if we wished... “Past the confluence point”, I thought with no small amount of excitement. It was too late to go at that time but I was determined to come back the first chance I got.
It turned out that we were extremely busy at work when the holiday was over and once again I thought I was not going to get to this confluence point. Then with just one day left before I was due to leave Kurdistan for the last time, I had a chance. My relief had flown back into the country and had taken over the bulk of the work. This gave me a morning free where I could get to the confluence point.
On 12 September we set off early for Dūkān. There were a few of us on the trip: Feng Yaj (Mr Feng), the Party Chief of the Chinese seismic crew, Erfan, Mr Feng’s Kurdish assistant who speaks good English and me. We also had an armed security presence. I am no hero by any means and if I thought there was even the slightest chance of being kidnapped or worse, I would not have done this trip, but it doesn't hurt to take precautions.
We bought life jackets on route in case the boat didn’t have any and arrived at the small lake before 9 a.m. We had no problem hiring a boat that looked to be in good condition and with an old sailor at the helm who looked like he wasn’t going to try to impress us by bouncing us around at 40 knots for a few hours. For this reason we had already turned down a teenage boat pilot in favour of this more experienced looking sea dog.
And off we went past the dam heading for the entrance to the waterway. The 40 minute or so trip through the water way was uneventful but the scenery was stunning. There were incredible rock formations with twisted and tortured layers dropping steeply into the clear deep blue green water. Birds skimmed along while the fish darted down to safety, dotting the surface with concentric ripples as their tails slapped the water.
We rounded the final bend before the confluence point and headed slowly towards it. On reaching the point it was almost impossible to hold the boat in a fixed position. There was a slight current flowing and while I did get all zeroes on the integers at one point I never managed to get the decimal fractions to zero. However, when I went back through my track log later I found a couple of precise zero points so we were definitely on the point at times and the point is most definitely in the water.
I took the required photos North, East, South and West. For the South and West cardinal point view photos, I moved a short distance north of the point to get a better picture as we were quite close to the southern bank and the picture from the point would have been just the rock on the shore.
After collecting the information for the DCP we headed down a small river to the South just for a look around and were treated to more stunning views and rock formations. We then went back to the point and carried on through the waterway to the big lake. The scenery throughout the waterway and tributaries is beyond my descriptive skills and at the times when the boat motor was turned off, the silence was total (apart from the occasional slap of a fish tail that is!). There were also some beautiful spots to stop for a picnic and if I ever go back to that area a picnic on the lake will be on my list of must do’s.
We headed back through the waterway to Dūkān past the confluence point again where I had another attempt at getting decimal fraction zeroes, but failed again! We took the same route back to the small lake of course as it is the only route, but the sheer magnificence of the scenery had not diminished despite being on the way out and having seen it once before on the way in. My previous two confluence point visits had their own high points, but they were not particularly notable for their outstanding beauty. Now at last, I had found a confluence point with picturesque mountains and more besides. This was a most wonderful way to have spent a morning.
If you want to see more pics of this trip have a look on my website...