15-Jul-2005 -- We were preparing to leave New Zealand on the following day, and a confluence visit was the perfect capstone to our two-week geographic adventure. It truly does not get much better than this: Exploring the physical and cultural geography of New Zealand using GPS and GIS, with the best colleagues one could wish for. A Pan-Pacific group of mathematicians, geography and science educators, GIS professionals, and computer scientists from the USA and New Zealand converged on 45 South 171 East one fine winter afternoon. We had just completed participation in a GIS institute in Queenstown, and earlier that day, we had all visited 45 South 170 East in Central Otago. As we stopped the rental van in the beautiful community of Oamaru for lunch, a glance at my GPS told me that we were not a dozen kilometers from the confluence. I mentioned this fact to our friend and navigator Murray, who replied with a twinkle in his eye that he had been planning to make a dash for the confluence all along! That is one reason why I say these are the best colleagues in the world, surprising each other with confluence visits!
We congregated back in the van at 3 pm, drove north along the coast to Pukeuri Junction along Highway 1, and then struck out northwest on Highway 83. After 5 km, we drove due north along Gray Road for 1 km to the landowners home. Murray, our Confluence Diplomat, disappeared to make inquiries, and I anxiously studied his face when he reappeared from the landowners home. He has a good way of keeping things a secret, but once in the van, he indicated that he had once again paved the way for us to visit. We drove back south 100 meters and parked beside a lane marked Skinner Road that led due east. We walked down this lane for a bit, and then southeast through the field of grass. It was amazing--many of us had spent two weeks together, and we were just as chatty as we were when we first met in Auckland. Therefore, it took quite awhile for all of us to arrive at the site, and once we were there, we did not want to leave.
The confluence lies on flat ground, about 500 meters north of a line of hills that bound the coastal lowland on the south and west. This was the farming country of the Waitaki River plain. Many of the "towns" indicated on maps of this area such as Hilderthorpe and Papakaio are really clusters of a few farmhouses. The confluence field appeared to be grass grown for hay for cattle, although no evidence of grazing on this field was present. This being early winter, last season's wheat was dry and brittle in this field, but surprisingly, new grass was already appearing. The temperature stood at 18 C at 330pm local time under a fine winter afternoon sky; elevation 50 meters. Gnats, or midges, were fairly numerous here. I had never been to 171 East, although this was my third time to stand on 45 South, halfway to the South Pole. This was our fourth confluence in New Zealand since our arrival, and my 7th New Zealand confluence overall. Next time, we will have to visit 5 confluences to keep up our present rate of visits!
After reluctantly leaving our last New Zealand confluence of the trip, we walked back to the van. We then drove northeast to Christchurch, arriving there about 645pm for our last evening in this wonderful country.