01-Sep-2001 -- North India's first confluence. 2km West of Sonipat, Haryana, India.
29 N 77 E is a place that hundreds of people visit everyday, completely unaware of its significance as a confluence point. It lies between two buildings of a court complex on the western edge of the Indian town of Sonipat under a covered walkway. It is definitely one of the confluences where the point is anticlimactic, yet the journey to get there is an adventure, though easily reached by automobile from New Delhi.
I had two challenges to find this confluence - choosing the confluence to go after, and finding someone crazy enough to take me. Of New Delhi's nearest confluences the one to the NW seemed like the best bet because MapBlast showed it next to a road and very close to a town. The others would require a walk in searing heat, and oppressive humidity and a possible swamp crossing so I decided to take the easiest one. Since I could not find anyone willing to go with me, I decided to rent a car. Fortunately, a rented car in India comes with a driver, so I did not have to worry about navigating through Delhi's crowded mazelike streets and horrendous traffic.
My driver picked me up at my hotel at 8:00. While I had asked for an English-speaking driver, this driver and I could barely communicate. I told the hotel desk clerk to tell the driver that I wanted to go to Sonipat and
then do some sightseeing. The hotel clerk looked at me strangely. Americans like to go the Taj Mahal, the Himalayas, or other tourist destinations, not dusty farm towns. I tried to explain the Degree Confluence Project, but finally just ending up saying that it was a game and I was trying to be the first person to visit and photograph this location. He sent us on our way.
The drive through New Delhi was fascinating. The city has many old tombs, forts and temples in various states of ruin and we passed many of them including the famous Red Fort in Old Delhi. We wound our way around the city and started heading north. Here I got to see what India's highway traffic is like. Instead of using rearview mirrors and turn signals, Indians use horns. All of the trucks and taxis a have the words "Horn Please" painted on the back of them telling drivers that it is their responsibility to notify driver ahead of them of their presence and intentions by honking. The crowded highway had every form of transportation known on it. Bicycles, trucks, carts pulled by water buffalo, you name it. At one point I saw a family of four out for a drive - on a motorcycle. Buses and trucks would pull up behind us and blow their horns wanting past. Other times we were the honkers. On numerous occasions, we had to come to a sudden stop to avoid a head on collision. Definitely not a trip for the faint hearted.
As we neared the turnoff of Sonipat, my driver started asking for the address in Sonipat where I wanted to go. I just pointed to the GPS and said, "Follow this arrow" Like most Indians he was fascinated by it. We then took the Sonipat turnoff and started towards town - about 7 km ahead.
Here we only had a two-lane road, occupied by more animal drawn vehicles, trucks, busses and the like. This required more passing, honking and praying.
The area around Sonipat is sugar cane farming country. Just before getting into town there is a very large sugar factory. The town itself is crowded and dusty and has the same level of traffic as the bigger city, but also has
many more animal-drawn carts. A large mosque and temple dominate the center of the town.
We still had about 2 km to go to the point. We crossed under that railroad tracks and kept following the GPS arrow. Choosing the roads were not hard, as it seemed that there was always an easy choice.
As we got less than a kilometer away, it was clear the confluence was to the south of the road that we were on. A side road, marked by a Hindu temple, was right where we needed to turn. We took it about a half a kilometer down
the road until we came to a large, but indistinct public building. This was our spot. The driver pulled over and I got out with my GPS and followed it over to the walkway where the confluences lied. I started taking pictures.
Several people tried to talk to me, but the language barrier kept us from communicating. Finally a gentleman came out and asked, in English if he could help me. I asked if he could tell me what this building was. He told me that it was the courthouse. I then tried to tell him how that it was in a very important location - where 29 degrees latitude North meets 77 degrees longitude East. He just looked at me strangely and said, "What country are you
from?". I said United States, and thanked him for his help.
The trip back was filled with many strange sights including a couple of camel caravans. I then let my driver take me to some of the sights of New Delhi.
The only regret that I had on this trip was the inability of my driver to communicate with me. He told me that his name was something like Patu (which does not sound very Indian to me), but even that I could not understand. I am sure that this trip was one of the strangest that he has
ever been on. We will both remember this trip for quite some time. Me for the adventure of getting India's first confluence (actually someone had already got 13N 80E -but I did not know that at the time), and he for the crazy American who took him to some strange spot for reasons that he still does not understand.