12-Mar-2001 -- I left my home in
northern Vermont on 10 March 2001 at 1:30pm with the
aim of successfully visiting my first confluence: 37°S 144°E,
near Baringhup, Victoria, Australia, nearly 10,500 miles from my home.
I would travel directly to it, by car, plane and foot, and only be
satisfied when my goal had been attained.
Still smarting from my miserable failure in visiting
I determined to do fewer things from the evil list of
Tips for Confluencers, but alas not all of them. I was still
headed off to a foreign country where I was not familiar with the
laws, didn't have a magnetic compass, and probably could have done a
better job of letting people know where I was going and when to expect
me back, just in case I encountered some trouble. No worries, it all
worked out in the end.
My first flight segment took off from Burlington (Vermont)
International at 3pm on Friday, and after transfers in Cleveland and
Los Angeles, I touched down in Melbourne at 8:15am on Monday, the
twelfth of March. Wanting to be more prepared than I was for my
previous expedition, I shopped at the airport to pick up some
sunscreen, maps, spare batteries and water. I hadn't yet hired a car,
so I scanned the available rental counters and made way for Budget.
I was a little tired but decided I had the fortitude for the trip.
Half an hour and one free upgrade to an automatic transmission later
(my bum leg
makes it difficult for me to work a clutch), I was finally leaving the
airport ... to immediately stop at the nearest petrol station and pick
up some snacks for the journey. The cashiers were strangely
fascinated by my LL Bean VISA card from the USA.
This now being my second time that I drove in a country which
preferred the left side of the road, I figured I'd gotten the
mechanics of it all down. It was not to be so – I still frequently
put on my windshield wipers when all I wanted to do was signal a turn.
I fretted only a little over what the margins were for the RADAR speed
monitoring cameras that signs warned me were about; three months later
I'm still not entirely sure I am scot free.
I motored up highway 79 in intermittent rain (signalling turns as I
tried to clear the windshield, naturally). At Elphinstone I turned
off to highway B180 and as I entered Chewton I saw a sign for "Koala
Sanctuary". After I passed the road I thought, "When else am I going
to see koalas? So what if it is a little out of the way?" I made a
U-turn and headed on a secondary road back to 79 and the sanctuary
Along the road between 180 and 79 I got a closer look at a strange
sight I'd been catching glimpses of since leaving Melbourne,
groups of colored little boxes in seemingly insignificant
locations. They were milk cartons, in this area thousands of them,
set upon stakes in the ground to protect the seedling plants they
surrounded from being eaten by grazing wild animals; kangaroos, I suspect.
At the koala sanctuary high on a hill east of Faraday, I was
disappointed in that I didn't see a single koala, since they are
mainly active at night. I was rewarded, however, with many beautiful
birds and even a wallaby. My digital camera is completely unsuited to
wildlife photography, so regrettably I got no pictures. The birds I
saw included Australian magpies, red lowries (Crimson Rosella; sounds
like "red larries" to my American ear), and some little wren-like
thing sporting a rose crow and belly with light gray back and wings.
The park appeared a bit neglected; I did the main circuit trail of the
park, and even in late summer it looked like it had not been
maintained in quite a while. On the way out I caught up to a nice
older couple who were showing the park to their houseguest from Italy.
They said they've lived just 10 kilometers down the road for more than
20 years and had yet to see a koala themselves; that ameliorated my
Returning to my route to the confluence, I checked in with my wife
from a payphone in Chewton. International Collect Call. Five
minutes. Nearly thirty US dollars. Ouch!
From B180 I picked up C282 from Castlemaine to Maldon. Maldon is a
cute little artsy town that looks like a very nice place to spend the
afternoon, with carriage rides for the tourists and several
galleries to visit. Its slogan is "Australia's First Notable Town", a
designation that was given to it by the National Trust of Australia
for its unspoilt historic character. It was the main population
center for a gold rush that gripped this region, the Victorian
Goldfields, in the 1850s. The town once was home to 40,000 people but
now has little more than 1200. A charming place, to be sure, but I
didn't even slow down enough to snap a photo or two. I had a
confluence to attend to!
Turning off 282 to the road to Baringhup, I watched eagerly as the
distance to the confluence dropped under 10 kilometers. The left turn
for the road south to the Cairn Curran Reservoir was easy to find, and
this was as close as my maps could get me. Just before the pillars
that marked the entrance to the reservoir recreational area, a
dirt road headed east. It seemed like a good bet to get me closer to
the confluence than the road by the water, but I wanted to see the
water so I kept straight. The distance to the confluence continued to
drop until the road turned west to continue following the shoreline.
I was about two kilometers (1.6 miles) west of the confluence at this
point. To the east
a paddock rose to a steeper hill that looked a bit interesting,
so rather than driving back up the road by the reservoir area
entrance, I opted to pull the car in to what looked like the end of an
old ranch access road and start my hike from there. It was 1:40pm
when I arrived, with a stiff wind keeping things cool on the hot,
I hopped the fence into the paddock; since there were no signs or
houses around, I figured (perhaps incorrectly, I'll admit) that it
wasn't so much meant to keep people out as it was to control other
animals. Crossing the paddock and hopping the fence at the other
side, I stood at the base of a moderately steep hill. During my climb
up it I particularly liked
the cacti and boulders that covered the hillside.
At the summit of the hill I had wonderful views in all directions: the
reservoir to the west,
a ranch to the south,
the confluence area to the east, and the ridge of the hill to the
north. The wind was notably stronger on
the bald hilltop. There was also a surprising amount of scat
around; it looked an awful lot like deer scat to me. Perhaps it was
Making my way down the slightly more gentle eastern slope of the hill,
many bones of varied sizes, bleached by the sun. They were
quite well preserved.
At one kilometer from the target I encountered another paddock fence
near a large storage shed. With still no signs suggesting that my
presence was unwelcome, and having heard tell of how friendly
Australians were, I opted again to hop the fence. As I made my way
across the field I spotted some horseback riders beyond the road I
could see in the distance. I waved to get their attention but they
either didn't see me or didn't care, and so I made way for the
building they had gone to.
When I finally reached the fence outside the building, another large
storage shed that was doubling as a barn, it took a few minutes to
finally get their attention. When I explained what I was doing, they
seemed a bit mystified by the technology and surprised that I would
come all the way from America to bother taking a picture of the middle
of a paddock, but were otherwise happy to oblige. They told me they
didn't own the paddock the confluence was in, but that they were
sure the owner would not mind.
The road came within just 200m (650') of the confluence, and there I hopped
one last fence into the final paddock.
Two sheep watched me suspiciously as I made my way across the
field, through a dried up gully, and zeroed in on the spot with the
zeros. 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m, 10..7..5..2..0! Bingo! My first
successful confluence. The satellite signal was very strong and I had
no problem holding the zeros as I made several attempts to get a good
closeup of the GPS.
The confluence itself was about
six feet down a slope from the lip of
a watering hole to the east. After taking a picture of
a tree a little west of north, I ascended the slope to the side of
the watering hole and took my remaining confluence spot pictures from
Several birds were at the hole as I came up, but alas my Kodak
DC260 is just not up to the task of decent wildlife photography. I
really need a digital camera with swappable lenses.
I took a couple of pictures of the
hills to the east, one of the
silos and utility line to the south, and then another of the
trees to the northwest
the way I'd come into the paddock. I also noted
a large nest in the tree to the north, with a
pile of wool beneath it. Apparently the birds had been poaching
The Return Trip
After making sure my photos were usable, I headed back to the barn
where I'd talked to the folks who said I could go into the confluence
paddock and asked to take a snapshot of them. They politely agreed
and were all smiles for
All that was left to do was to trek back over the hill and drive into
Melbourne to my hotel. The walk back to the car was pretty much the
same as the walk to the confluence, except I went slightly more north
and found an interesting spot where
boulders were balanced precipitously on a long slab of rock.
I made it back to the car by 3:50pm.
I wanted a different route back to Melbourne, one that my maps indicated
was on scenic roads. First I drove down the washboarded dirt road
that passed immediately to the west of the confluence, coming out on
C283 just north of Welshmans Reef – "Reef" here being a term for
the gold-veined quartz that was mined after the alluvial gold of the
first rush was mostly recovered. My drive took me past many fields
of sheep and beef cattle (herefords and angus, mostly) through
Newstead, Daylesford, Trentham, Newbury and Blackwood and several
other small towns. Roadside advertisements indicated that this was
also a region of spas, but I didn't avail myself of any of their services.
When I hit M8 I turned east to Melbourne and made pretty good time
until I hit rush hour traffic near Deer Park. The clot of cars moved
tediously forward from traffic light to traffic light until finally I
reached M80 and could take the expressway the rest of the way to the
Centra Hotel downtown.
As enjoyable as my trek was, it was also a relief to finally be at the
hotel around 7pm. I'd been effectively traveling non-stop for nearly
40 hours with only a bit of unsatisfying sleep in a cramped coach
class seat across the Pacific. A full night in a real bed was
Two days later I was off to
38°S 146°E, east of Melbourne!
For those who might still be wondering, I did not go to Australia
solely to bag this confluence. While I can imagine doing something
like that someday far in the future when I have more disposable income
and free time than I really know what to do with, I was in Melbourne
on business, for
You get one guess as to what happened when I returned the USA, got in
my own car again, and tried to signal a lane change.