20-Sep-2003 -- We set out from South Delhi around 8:30 in the morning. I chose the most direct route to National Highway 1, which turned out to be a mistake. If we had gone out of our way and taken the ring road, we might have cut an hour off our travels. But then, part of the fun of confluence hunting in India is the experience of driving down small, crowded roads. Once we connected with NH1 (also known as Grand Trunk Road, or G.T. Road) we picked up speed and headed almost due North.
The confluence is located in the village of Dabkheer, which is a small rural community just off the road connecting NH1 to Yamunanagar. The whole trip (Delhi to the confluence and back) was 369km. We were moving for 8 hours and stopped for 1.25 (most of that being in Delhi traffic). Our maximum speed was 90.9km /hr, with an average moving speed of 46.3 km/hr.
We approached the confluence and saw that it was off the road a short distance. Our usual tactic has been to stop when the GPS shows a line to the CP that runs perpendicular to the road we’re on. Well, after last time (28n 76e) we learned our lesson. We passed the perpendicular point, and found a road that turned left, then another one, and another. We spiraled around, always getting closer, drove through the village of Dabkheer, and then found a nice spot to park less than 1 km away from the CP. Perfect! A brief walk through some fields, and we were just meters away.
The fields were being harvested, so there were some farmers working them. No one paid us much attention, though. We said hello to the few farmers we passed, and they were all very friendly – just not too interested in us, I guess. One was collecting chaff and making a large, smoking burn pile. There were electrical lines running through the fields, and the CP was quite close to a large tower. Telephone or power, perhaps. We circled the field to find the entrance point that was closest to the actual spot, in an effort to minimize the amount of walking through crops that we’d have to do. As it turns out, the rice was green and supple enough to bend as we walked. The space between furrows was too narrow to walk in with both feet, but the crops were short enough that we could walk with one foot in each furrow, and straddle the middle row. We managed to get all the way in without damaging the crops, or even leaving a trail. In fact, on the way out it was hard to see where we had walked. After looking at the GPS track, I realized that we came out a slightly different path than we went in on. Luckily, there wasn’t anything dangerous living in the rice – at least nothing that we noticed.
A few minutes after we exited the field, Doug spotted a large black rat snake. Actually, the snake spotted us first, then took off quickly behind a haystack. I tried to find it to take a photo, but it was long gone. I did manage to take a photo of a brown bird we saw on a telephone wire within 500 meters of the confluence (a bit like a wagtail, but smaller and a different color than I’m used to) and a paddy-dwelling frog.
While walking through the fields, we had a chance to watch some farmers separate the rice from the chaff (at least that’s what I think they were doing.) They had the grain spread out on a large sheet which was stretched tight. About twenty workers beat the grain with bundles of sticks (or maybe they were beating the sheet with bundles of grain?) In any event, they made a rhythmic pounding that sounded like a tympani concert. I listened to the sound for a few minutes, and even tried to capture some using the video feature of my digital camera.
On the drive out, we stopped in Dabkheer to look at their Gurudwara. Gurudwaras are the holy buildings for people of the Sikh faith. (They’re sometimes called “Sikh Temples”). They are gorgeous buildings with onion-shaped domes and attractive carved designs. Some are popular tourist destinations for their historical value. A farmer in the village who saw us looking at the Gurudwara came up to tell us about it. It’s not old, he explained, but it’s the village’s main house of worship. He spoke excellent English, and showed us around the building. After a tour, we sat on a charpoy (a traditional combination bed, hammock and couch, with four wooden legs, a rectangular frame, and a surface made from woven jute.) Our guide’s name was Mr. Singh. His children brought us tea and biscuits, and his grandchildren played nearby while he told us about the village of Dabkheer. About 200 families live there, all of them Sikh. It was fascinating to see an entire village of Sikhs, as since they make up less than 2% of India’s population. The area of Haryana we were in was much closer to the Punjabi border than I’d traveled before. Most of the villagers came from the Punjab region. Mr. Singh’s family came to Haryana from Punjab before partition (the division of British India into India and Pakistan). Almost everyone in Dabkheer is a farmer, at least part time. Although rice is main crop at this time of year, the farmers will rotate the crops and grow other plants according to weather conditions.
The drive back was quicker, since we avoided Delhi traffic by taking the ring road around the city center. We got home around 6pm – a long day, but a great adventure.