06-Jul-2003 -- I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer from Colorado USA, Anne Olsen, geography teacher from Wellington, New Zealand, and John Olsen, telecommunications engineer from Auckland, New Zealand, visited 37°S 175°E in the hills of the North Island, New Zealand, one fine winter day. As Anne and I were meeting with hundreds of other geography educators for GPS and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) training at the New Zealand Geographical Society Conference, we could not think of a more fitting way to begin our work together than to bring together real geography field work and a confluence visit.
Like all confluence visits, this would prove to be unique and adventurous, and we drove south from Auckland toward Brookby. At approximately 11 am local time, we found the Top of the Hill Home Stay (Bed and Breakfast) but the farmhouse and grounds appeared closer to our goal. After finding no one at the farmhouse, we walked over to the Bed and Breakfast and met Pat Simpson, one of the proprietors. She cordially greeted us and remembered the previous confluence seekers. She then did the first of three things that was to make our trek much more pleasant--she loaned us three pairs of waterproof gum boots. The second thing was to turn the electricity to the off position in the fences that we were to jump over. Pat walked through the sheep pasture at the farmhouse with us as we greeted the three sheep present. Pat then departed, leaving us to face the unknown.
175°E passes through the parking lot of the Bed and Breakfast, but we hiked in a southwesterly direction to follow the grassy fields along the ridgetop as long as possible, as we could see that the slope to the south was covered in thick shrubs and forest. The weather was pleasant for early winter, about 16°C, with sunny skies, a view of the ocean off to the east, and pleasant companions with the same goal. Upon arriving at a junction of two fencelines, according to our GPS readings, we could not justify hiking on the ridge any longer. After leaping the fence and breathing a thanksgiving prayer to Pat for turning off the electricity, we plunged into the forest below.
The forest seemed like another world from the sunny fields above--cool, dark, and mysterious. We quickly found an old logging road, and hiked down it toward the southwest for approximately 10 minutes. Then began the third part of our journey--down a steep slope to the southeast. Pine needles on mud make for slippery travels, but we kept our sense of humor, if not our sense of balance, to the bottom of the muddy ravine. After climbing over one last fence, we turned toward the east and unexpectedly found ourselves in a small clearing, approximately 20 meters long by 6 meters wide.
The confluence lies on the downslope side of this clearing. We ambled back and forth through the clearing, stepping in about 10 cm of mud in an attempt to zero out the GPS coordinates. Due to the dense vegetation cover, this was difficult to do. We reached the confluence at approximately noon local time. Vegetation in this area includes gorse, a prickly, invasive plant, pinus radiata (pine) trees that have been planted for logging, whitey wood, punga (ferns), flax, kanuka trees, manuka trees, and blackberries. After passing the sheep, we did not see any animals, but noticed some beautiful fantail birds.
We emerged from the forest and hiked back the way we had come under beautiful skies. We hosed off the gumboots at the homestay. The third kind thing that Pat Simpson did upon our arrival was to make some tea and muffins for us. We stood admiring their northeast view of the ocean out of their magnificent picture windows for awhile, met Trevor Simpson, another of the proprietors, and then bade them both farewell. The homestay would make a wonderful vacation spot. What a magnificent feeling to tag my first southern hemisphere confluence less than six hours after my first trans-Pacific flight, see some New Zealand terrain, and meet such nice folks in the process. I feel we had started the work at the New Zealand Geographical Society conference in a particularly appropriate way.