14-Jul-2005 -- Exploring the physical and cultural geography of New Zealand with a focus on GPS and GIS: This was getting pretty close to Geographer's Heaven. A confluence visit seemed like the perfect complement to this two-week adventure. We had just completed participation in a GIS institute in Queenstown, the day before. For this trek, two geography and science educators from the USA joined New Zealand colleagues Peter and Paul Arthur, Murray Ellis, and Sally Brodie. Peter and Paul, whom we dubbed the "Geo-Apostles," were the most excellent guides one could wish for, and readily assented to the trek. A few days before, we had visited 42 South 174 East with Peter and Paul, and in 2003 visited several North Island confluences with Peter and Murray. During the previous week, we had the pleasure to visit Sally's school in Auckland and talk with her students doing some impressive work with GPS and GIS.
We left Queenstown at 8am on a Thursday morning following a day of rain. We drove east on the main highway through the beautiful Gibbston Valley covered with vineyards, and drove beside the Kawarau River around the Waitiri Victoria Bridge rocky promontory. We parked at a narrow, gated road beside the river at 9am and at 280 m elevation.
We then hiked northwest up this road and up Gentle Annie Creek, crossing it a number of times and getting a bit wet in the process. We passed some wonderful geologic strata and an uninhabited hut before leaving the road and entering a sheep pasture. After the sheep pasture, our ascent began in earnest and was quite steep. A line of sheep was making its way up Mt Malcolm to the southwest and were making better progress than us, it seemed. Fortunately, a trail was available so we did not have to bushwack through the thorny matagouri. I learned later that Roger suffered a nasty gash to his shin while leaping over one of the numerous gates we encountered.
Soon, a sweeping vista was below us. We spotted several cyanide pouches that we speculated were left to combat the opossum population. The skies gradually cleared as we reached 1000 m elevation and 45 South, and then struck due west. We passed over some heraciaum, an invasive ground cover, saw briar roses and lupin flowers, and several spiky Spaniard plants. Murray told us that he once fell on one of the plants and suffered some painful head gashes. We kept above the confluence and then hiked down through the snow grass, or "tussock grass," to the spot. I marveled at the faster time that the previous visitors had ascended; we had rested no more than 10 minutes during our trek, which required 3 hours.
The confluence lies on fairly gentle (10 degree) land that slopes to the south, although to the north and south of the confluence, the terrain slopes at about 35 degrees. This Pisa Range is a rugged terrain of schist--metamorphosed graywacke, in alternating horst and graben fault-blocked uplifts and lower lands. Beautiful quartz pieces dot the ground. At noon, the temperature stood at 5 C (42 F); really quite mild for midwinter, and for this high elevation. We saw few birds and no other people. Truly, this was one of the most magnificent views from any confluence I had visited. I had been to 45 North before, but never to 45 South, halfway to the South Pole. I was wearing my 45 Latitude shirt for the occasion, given to me by the Rigoni family, with whom I had visited 46 North 88 West in Michigan USA.
We spent 20 minutes at the confluence, and then descended the way we had ascended. We passed a man driving a vehicle on the Gentle Annie Road who Murray said was probably checking on the telecommunications tower that we spotted to the east of the confluence. We needed to make haste, as Peter and Paul were flying out of Queenstown at 4:30pm. We made it back to the vehicle at 3:30 pm and to the Queenstown airport at 4, with 30 minutes to spare! We then said goodbye to Peter and Paul, our traveling companions for two weeks, and made promises for future geographic adventures.