10-Apr-2005 -- It had been a while since we ventured out to reach a confluence. Interestingly, the confluence closest to our city of Bangalore was just about 40 kilometers away and we hadn’t been there! This one, 13N78E, had been reached in late 2001 by another team. So, we decided to give it a shot.
We read the narrative of the team that had been there before and decided to attempt this one from another direction. We were to pick up Nath at his home in Whitefield, a suburb south-east of Bangalore and we found that we could navigate on the country roads from there to reach 13N78E.
I started off to my uncle Jagan’s place and then after Mohan joined us, we headed out to Nath’s home. From his home, the GPS indicated that the confluence was about 23 kilometers away. From Whitefield, we asked for directions to Malur, which seemed to be the closest town to the confluence. We turned down a narrow, pot-holed road towards Chanarayapatna. From Chanarayapatna, the road deteriorated to a bone-rattling assortment of loose stones, mud and occasional tarmac. The going was slow even though we were in my SUV, but the distance to the confluence steadily came down to about 5 kilometers. As we drove, we realized that the road was moving away from the confluence and at one point, the GPS indicated that the confluence was right behind us! We were too shaken up by the road we had come by that we decided that we would continue further and get to Malur.
Sure enough, the road slowly turned towards the confluence and our distance to the point dropped to around 4 kilometers. At this pint, the road became smoother and we joined a pretty nice road that seemed to lead in the direction we wanted to go. On enquiry, we were told that we were on the road to Malur. We also found that the GPS was counting down rapidly till be came to a point on the road that was just 400 meters from the confluence. I guess we’d reached the point that the previous team had found on their visit. We could see the railway track high on an embankment just as described by the other team. However, we decided that we will scout around for a road that crossed over the railway line as the confluence appeared to be on the other side.
A bit further down the road, a passerby informed us that there was a level crossing and gave us directions to it. Level crossings are pretty common in the Indian countryside and we were pretty certain that we would find our way to the confluence after we crossed over. We drove up to the gates of the level crossing and parked under a tree as the gates were closed. A few of the village folk came and asked us where we had come from. The gateman was also curious and was observing us from a distance. After waiting for twenty minutes, it dawned on us that something was amiss. No train had gone by and it did not look like the gateman was going to open the gates. We got out of the car and Nath approached the gateman and asked him when he would open the gate. His answer surprised us; this level crossing gates were never opened! We insisted that we needed to drive to the other side and he told us that there was nothing on the other side. He told us that he would have to take permission to open the gates after the next train went past. He duly did so, and after observing his safety procedures of planting red flags on both the railway lines, opened the gates for us. We thanked him and drove through. We were about 1 kilometer from the confluence. But another surprise awaited us. After crossing the railway line, the road petered out after a few hundred meters! We then realized what the gateman meant when he said the road did not go anywhere! After fruitlessly trying to drive down a cart track, we backtracked to the level crossing and requested the gateman to open the gates for us again! He had that “I-told-you-so” smirk on his face. We tipped him and headed back to the main road. The plan was to reach the nearest point on the road and then try to drive down as close to the confluence as possible.
At about 500 meters from the confluence we found a cart track leading towards the railway line. As we went closer, we were thrilled to find that it lead right under a bridge to the other side. The bridge seemed to be over a dry irrigation tank. After this, it we drove up to about 150 meters from the confluence, parked in the shade and walked up. On the walk, we encountered a rather startled buffalo that stood and stared at us threateningly.
We took the mandatory photographs and were hurriedly packing up as it looked like a thunderstorm was heading our way. We met Gopal, who lived close to the confluence who chatted with us and walked us back to our car.
The next thing to do was to find a place to get some lunch (it was 3.00 pm) and then head home. We found a good roadside restaurant where we gorged on some succulent kababs and fried rice.
It was a nice feeling to be out confluence hunting again. We took the scenic route to this one unknowingly. But the major lesson we learnt was that contrary to popular belief, there were some railway level crossings that did not lead anywhere!