29-Dec-2005 -- While researching destinations for my upcoming trip to India (from the U.S.), I stumbled across the confluence site. Right away, I knew that I HAD to find one to visit.
My wife was born in Gujarat, India, and moved to the U.S. at age 7. She still has family in Dahod, Gujarat. Using Google Earth, it appeared that one confluence was within about 5 miles of the town she grew up in: Jhalod, Gujarat. We planned to visit that town and I hoped to have a chance to do some exploring to find the confluence.
I shared my plans with coworkers and borrowed a GPS from one of them.
I arrived in India on 12/12/05 with my wife, two sons, and my mother-in-law. We visited relatives in Dahod, including Aneesh Shah, the husband of my wife's cousin. Aneesh seemed interested in helping get to the confluence. I had a partner in my adventure.
We visited Dahod and also the large city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. From there, we toured nearby Rajasthan including Jaipur, Nawalgarh, Fatehpur, Bikaner, Jodhpur, and Udaipur. My younger brother, Steve, is doing aid work in Afghanistan and was able to get vacation and join us in Jaipur and returned with us to Dahod.
On December 29th, we drove to Jhalod to see where my wife had grown up. Along the 40 minute drive North to Jhalod, we came within about 7 miles of the confluence and made note of some possible roads which might get us closer.
After some general visiting of distant relatives and friends in Jhalod, we dropped my wife, mother-in-law, and youngest son off at someone's house for some tea. Our adventure was about to begin. It was me, Aneesh, Steve, my oldest son Austin, and my wife's uncle Indravadan. We had a good team. Aneesh and Indravadan lived just 20 miles away, so I hoped we could navigate and communicate well enough to reach our goal.
We drove back South out of town and turned west down a road we'd seen earlier. We were able to get within about 4 miles of the point pretty quickly. The roads out here were small, but well-paved. It was pretty surprising given how remote we were. There were few people and homes - just rocky hills and some farms.
We ran into one road that was going in the right direction, but the pavement ended about 2 miles away from the confluence. We turned around and got to about 1.5 miles away on another road. We felt this was probably about as good as we were going to get.
We parked behind a small school in front of a hut. The owners agreed to let us park there.
At first, we were crossing farm land. The few people we did see seemed quite amazed at the sight of us walking along. We soon picked up a few trailing farmers. We were pretty spread out as a group. I was in the lead with the GPS with Indravadan pulling up the rear.
Soon the terrain turned more hilly and rocky. Farmland disappeared. We were within about .2 miles when we lost sight of the end of our group. I circled back and found Indravadan, Steve, and Austin sitting on a stone wall with the farmers. Steve told me the farmers were quite upset and wanted to know what was going on. I asked whether it was bad. Steve said "It's not good anyway". I got Aneesh to come back and join us. He spoke to the oldest farmer. Apparently, he thought we were from the government doing some survey.
Walkign and taling, it appeared that the farmer was willing to let us continue, but we needed to hurry. I snapped a few pics of them and showed them the picture on the back of the camera. This seemed to put them at a little more ease. I did a lot of smiling to try to convey that we were just there for the experience.
I'm not sure how Aneesh explained what we were up to. I am sure it would be hard to convey the real meaning. Had this farmer ever seen a westerner? A GPS? Doubtful.
Anyway, still quite uneasy, we basically sprinted the rest of the way and snapped a few photos. We were in such a rush that we didn't get all the directional shots that I wanted. It was made more difficult because right at the exact spot of the confluence, a grove of small trees (or big shrubs) started. We jogged back and met back with the farmers who had been walking more slowly, while still keeping us within their sight. We took some more photos of everyone and headed back.
The farmers escorted us all the way back to our car. We gave the oldest farmer 20 Rupees as a thanks. He initiatlly declined, but finally accepted.
We drove back to Jhalod very excited, but tired from our experience. It had taken 3 hours from the time we left Jhalod until we got back. That's a little more than the 1 hour we had hoped (and my mother-in-law expected).
Only later did I get the full story from Aneesh about the farmer's concerns. He said that there had been some bodies that had turned up in the area about 4 years ago (perhaps linked to the communal violence in that area?). The farmer thought we might be there to re-open the investigation. I'm glad I only found out the whole story later! (Why was this guy so nervous about an investigation?)
Anyway, we all now had seen a part of India that almost no westerners - or even Indians - will ever see. And, we had pictures and a great story to share. Thanks to the Confluence project for the great excuse to make it all happen!
Coordinator's Note: This visit is classified incomplete because it does not meet the photo requirements of the project.