03-Jun-2003 -- On the last full day of a nearly 5-day visit to Kashmir, we decided to try and find this confluence point. Before we left Delhi, I had printed up some pages from Mapquest and found the CP on my Lonely Planet road atlas, so we were pretty well equipped to find it. It seemed close – just 18 km away from Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir.
We were staying on a houseboat on Nageen lake in Srinagar, and had already been on some great excursions from there: the hills of Gulmarg, trekking across glaciers in the Himalayan foothills of Sonamarg, and shopping for pashmina shawls and paper mache in Srinagar. Although the Lonely Planet guide strongly discourages tourists from visiting Kashmir, we had a safe and pleasant stay.
To reach this CP, we all piled into a Tata Sumo (a jeep-like vehicle) driven expertly by Ayub. A word of advice to confluence hunters in India – roads are typically named by the cities at either end. So it’s very easy to say “we want to take the Srinagar-Pampore highway in the direction of Pampore.” If all you have is a Mapquest map that shows a road turning off somewhere, you really can’t get away with saying “we want to pass the city of Pampore and then about 2 km afterwards we’ll turn left onto a road that looks fairly straight and head down it for 5 km.” Even with a GPS, it’s hard to tell the little windy little village roads from the main roads that show up on Mapquest. I really should have zoomed out and around to find out which city we were headed towards.
That said, we did manage to find the site. Between Walter’s knowledge of Urdu and Hindi, Ayub’s driving skills, and Mr. Madhi’s translations, we got there. We passed the city of Pampore, found a road that looked like the one on Mapquest, and wound for a while through the village of Khrew. Ayub kept asking how far away we were, and since the road was windy, the distance kept changing: 4.5km changed to 5.5, then to 6 – then started going back down. We were in the Himalayan foothills, so we had no idea what elevation the CP would be at – we might have needed to cross mountains or drive on switchbacks to get there. Driving through the picturesque village of Khrew was great, but the dirt paths were narrow enough that we had to stop frequently to allow a horsecart or herd of goats to pass. At each stop, villagers came out to offer help or ask where we were going. Ayub didn’t have a good answer for that one – he knew that I knew where the spot was, but as there wasn’t a good name for the spot, the best he could do was say were were headed 5 km away down a road in this direction. Usually that worked – people were happy to tell us which roads would go on for that kind of distance.
Finally we came to a paved road that went straight – exactly in the direction of the CP. It seemed perfect, but Ayub mentioned that it was an “Army road,” built for the use of the Indian Border Force. There was plenty of non-military traffic on it, but if we were stopped, we weren’t supposed to show the GPS or mention what we were doing. Instead, we were to say that we were tourists looking at almond trees and saffron fields. As it turns out, the CP is in the midst of what a local sign called the source of “the world’s finest saffron.” One of the highlights of confluence hunting in India is that you really get to see untouristed places, especially rural agricultural land. I’m fascinated by the techniques used by farmers in India, so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that we really were interested in saffron fields and almond orchards.
The paved road went directly to the CP. Ayub was delighted to hear the distance dropping consistently. And then we were there – the CP was less than 20 feet off the road, in a farmer’s field. We parked and got out. I pointed at the farmer’s house, which was just about the location of the point. Mr. Madhi told us “if it is in the field, no problem. But if it is inside his house, we should ask permission first.” Luckily, it was in the field. I led the way, walking and turning, trying to walk on the mounds of dirt between crops so as not to crush any plants. We got as close as possible before the accuracy of the GPS made it difficult to pinpoint the spot any closer. I took a series of photos for a panorama and Walter took a group shot of all of us on the spot. Mr. Mohamad Amin Shah, the owner of the farm, came out and chatted with us. Walter, Mr. Madhi, and Ayub explained to him what we were doing. He seemed excited about the project and eager to help.
After a round of photos and handshakes, we left – this time taking the Army road back west until it intersected National Highway 1A a few miles north of Pampore. This is the route I would suggest to anyone interested in visiting this confluence again.