30-Dec-2008 -- There had only been one visit made to a confluence point in Afghanistan prior to December 2008. The main reason for this has been the political instability which has led to social unrest and almost continual war since the 1970s. As well as the security risks posed by terrorist activities and unexploded mines and other devices, access to much of the country is made difficult by poor communications infrastructure and the absence of a reliable public transport system.
As a consultant working in the northern provinces of the country since July 2008, I had the means to overcome some of the obstacles presented to travelers merely passing through the area. I had the time, means of transport, and local knowledge, so I was in a good position to make the second confluence visit in this forbidding but spectacular country.
On Tuesday 30th December 2008, I traveled from Feyzābād which is the capital of Badakhshān Province, to Rostāq which is a district centre approximately 6 hours to the north west of Feyzābād. I had made this trip a number of times before I realized that the road passed quite close to 37N 70E, and so I resolved to make the effort and visit the point at the next opportunity. I was traveling to Rostāq to consult with a number of colleagues working on the same irrigation canal rehabilitation and social water management project. The prospect of celebrating the imminent New Years Eve with them had also not escaped my notice!
From Feyzābād the first four hours is on the road to Kishem township. This road is undergoing a major reconstruction, so apart from the need to stop at various points to enable machinery to carry out their tasks, the road is quite passable. At a point near the village of Teshkn there is an intersection where a minor road turns off to the north. This road crosses the Kolcha river via a bridge known locally as the Begum Bridge, at a point where it is said that Alexander the Great crossed on his way to India in the 4th century BC.
From the river crossing onwards the road deteriorates markedly but it was always passable. Large portions of it are actually in the stream which is a tributary of the Kolcha River, while other sections wind their way through villages comprising a few mud houses and not much else. In several places the road is a narrow track with a vertical drop of more than 100 m to the river. After an hour or so of spectacular scenery, the CP was within just over 1 km and so it was time to get out of the vehicles and walk. The point where we left the vehicles and started walking was located in the village of Aab-e-Asiabha.
My companion on this trip was Najibullah Azizi who is a colleague working on the same project as myself. Najib and I set off across ploughed fields being prepared for sowing rain fed winter wheat. After a walk of some 45 minutes we arrived at the location and were able to locate the CP with no difficulty. The hardest part was getting photos of the GPS which showed the magic "all zeroes", but after making many attempts we eventually got the shot we wanted.
Back at the cars we took a photo of a school in the village where we had started our walk and then departed quickly in order to arrive at Rostāq before sunset.