19-Feb-2012 -- I thought it was about time I went on my first Confluence Point hunt in Pakistan, where I've been working for the British High Commission in Islāmābād since July 2011. Confluence hunting is not an easy affair for foreigners in Pakistan, especially for diplomats, due to the great sensitivities about where we go and what we do.
In fact, since Usama bin Laden was killed in Abbottābād in May 2011, all diplomats have to get permission (termed a 'No Objection Certificate', or NOC) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs even if we're just leaving the capital to go to a tourist site. It makes spontaneous travel very difficult, and the ISI are never far away once we get there. Therefore, I was rather nervous about wandering around in strange areas with a GPS and camera, as I had no wish to be made persona non grata (getting PNG'd, in diplomat speak) in Pakistan..!
So I made scrupulous arrangements to get the correct NOC for all the little villages that surround 33N 73E, and to make sure it tallied with my vehicle, time of departure, etc., etc. I took copies in triplicate of my paperwork, as well as photocopies of my passport and diplomatic ID card. It's a bureaucratic minefield here at the moment...
The drive from Islāmābād to Chakwāl is mostly on the rather good M2 motorway connecting Islāmābād to Lahore, so I made good time. At Chakwāl it is then necessary to take the minor road towards Rāwalpindi, and follow it for around 9 - 10 km. After that it is very easy to get lost in the maze of tracks in the countryside, so here are some instructions and coordinates for future visitors:
1. Turn right off the 'Pindi road at 33 00' 12.7" N, 72 55' 26.6E. Take the left branch (i.e. the smaller road passing to the left of the shops) and continue on this narrow, but vaguely asphalted track.
2.At 33 00' 14.7N, 72 57' 07.4E you have a choice of either driving through a small town (the name of which I never found out) or by-passing it by a longer route. If you drive through the town, be prepared for very narrow lanes and to get lost. Whichever route you take, you need to end up on the road starting at 32 59' 50.9N, 72 57' 45.7E.
3. Follow this road (it's called the Chak Narank Road, and goes towards the town of Bhin) and then turn left at 32 59' 23.6N, 73 00' 49.5E towards the village of Dhoke Chach.
4. You can then pretty much follow your nose until you get to about 350 m from the CP, where you'll need to park and then walk into the field.
I walked around the edges of the fields to get to 33N 73E, and got as close as 18 m away. I took the photos from there, as I didn't want to crush the green shoots of the crop that was growing there. The views in each direction are of fields: some are fallow, some have green crops growing well. To the North (or more precisely towards NNE) lies the small track on which I parked my vehicle. Towards NNW is a small collection of houses, which can't really be described as a village. The area in general is very typical of a small agricultural Punjabi community. I then walked back the same way to the trusty old Landy, which I've now used for Confluence hunting in eight different countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. It just keeps on going... what a machine!
A number of villagers looked on bemusedly throughout the whole escapade, but non approached me. I can't imagine what they thought this strange foreigner was doing in their field. I decided not to hang around, as a number of the guys on motorbikes had a decidedly 'ISI-ish' air about them, and I set off quickly back towards the 'Pindi road and then home in Islāmābād.