11-Jan-2004 -- We successfully visited 14°N 78°E and then drove back towards Gorantla to head towards 14N77E. This is the CP we had attempted on our very first confluence trip and did not make it as it had become dark and we were about 600 meters away. We stopped in Gorantla for a cup of coffee and then continued towards the intersection which we had come through on our way to 14N78E. This time, we continued west through the intersection and made our way across National Highway #7 (NH7) towards Hindupur. The GPS indicated that 14N77E was 105 kilometers west of 14N78E.
We drove through Hindupur towards Madaksira. According to our maps, the CP was between Madaksira and Amarapuram. About 15 kilometers after Madaksira, we found a road on the left that looked like it was going in the direction of the CP. We were off tarred roads now and were on muddy village roads. The landscape turned barren and was dotted with occasional thorny bushes. About 2.5 kilometers out, we had to turn into a muddy track between barren fields in order to keep getting closer to the CP. Thorny bushes were being used to mark borders of farms and as the track was very narrow, we heard our Jeep getting scratched by those vicious thorns. We even had to drive over patches of these bushes and that was a mistake. At about 1.24 kilometers from the CP, we reached the bank of a dry streambed and realized we could not drive any further. At this point, we also realized that we had a flat left rear tyre!
We got all the equipment out, locked the Jeep and started walking towards the point. Now, crossing over farm boundaries with prickly bushes was not a pleasant thing to do, but we managed to find gaps and squeeze through. Finally, we reached 14N77E in the middle of a dry, ploughed field at about 1420 hrs. This confluence made us work for it. But there was a lot more in store for us! We took the mandatory photographs and recorded an altitude of 625 meters at the CP. The point was about half a kilometer from the village of Thambalapalle.
We made our way back to the Jeep and decided to change the tyre before we broke off for lunch. After the tyre change, we drove a little distance and parked under some trees where we had lunch. One of the farmers we met told us that they have no water and had to depend on the monsoons. The few who could afford it, dug bore wells. Amazingly, he told us that they needed to go down 600 feet to hit water! There was a sunflower farm just next to where we had parked which was testimony to the fact that only a few farmers in that region had the means to grow crops.
After lunch, we had to use the track-back function on the GPS to guide us back to the nearest tarred road. We had to do another stint of cross country driving to reach the road. We must have been an unusual sight for the local folks while we drove across barren land to get to a road.
We asked for directions to Sira, which was on NH4 that we would use to get back to Bangalore. Traffic on the NH4 from Sira moved slowly due to long stretches of the highway being widened. As we neared Tumkur, we felt a wobble and found that we had another flat tyre....this time it was the right rear tyre. It was fortunate that Jagan thought it wise to carry two spare tyres, so we rolled up our sleeves and changed the tyre and continued on our way to Bangalore. We had to take a call on whether we wanted to get at least one flat tyre fixed on the way, but then exhaustion made us decide to get back to Bangalore as fast as possible. That turned out to be a wrong call! We reached Peenya, which is a suburb of Bangalore and has stopped in traffic when a car driver next to us told us that our front left tyre looked pretty low. It seemed like we were going to have yet another flat! So, we turned into the nearest gas station and filled air into the suspect tyre. Jagan decided that we should head to his company's workshop (he works for India Garage, who deal with Mahindra Jeeps) which was about a kilometer away and either change the tyre or pick up a spare from there. We reached the workshop without incident and we found that the tyre was holding out. So, we picked up a spare tyre and drove back home. Thankfully, we did not have to stop to change a tyre fo the third time in the day!
It was a long, tiring day as we had to walk a few kilometers in midday sun and also change two tyres! But it was worth it as we managed to reach both confluences as we had planned. We have now begun preparing for the long drive we intend to do to try and locate 6 confluences spread across the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the weekend of Jan. 24th, 2004.