12-Sep-2019 -- As Skye and I had just concluded a series of professional development training events at an annual conference for primary and secondary geography teachers about the value of spatial thinking and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and how to use them in education, and as Stephen and Judy's association (Geography Teachers of Victoria, or GTAV) was the association that hosted this conference, a confluence visit seemed like the appropriate way to end this week's events that touched the lives of 400 educators. And so Skye and I took an Uber to a meeting point where Stephen joined us, and were then joined by Judy, and were soon leaving the Melbourne metropolitan area, passing wonderfully named places such as Yea, Yarck, and Maindample.
I was looking forward to the confluence visit and enjoying our chat about all things geography education. At the same time, I was a little concerned because I very seldom take friends or colleagues along these visits, as one doesn't ever know quite what to expect along these treks; and I still wanted these dear people as friends after our little adventure. But they seemed willing and they were geographers, after all, loving a chance to get out into the field. So, onward we traveled, traveling through some stands of amazingly tall and colorful trees, hills, a major drainage divide, and a wetlands education center; plus we followed a magnificent rail-to-trail route that I need to cycle on someday. An added bonus of this confluence point is that it allowed us to visit sites made even more famous from the 1997 Australian film, The Castle. This movie touches on themes of community, family, space, and place--geography. Once we visited Bonnie Doon's House of Serenity alongside the lake there, sang songs from the movie, and quoted its many memorable lines, we were feeling "The Vibe" and set our sights on 37 South 146 East. Two years prior, three of us visited the point one degree south of here, in a patch of trees. Today's point promised a much grander vista.
We decided to approach the point from the east. This would allow us a walk in the country. On the B320 highway, we turned north on Olivers Road, a straight north-south road that moved through wonderful fields of yellow canola and grasses, interspersed by large eucalyptus trees, many of which seemed ancient, dotting the landscape almost like the African savanna (though a much different ecosystem and land use, here). At 37 South, we exited the vehicle, but not finding a convenient and low-impact way of entering the field to walk west, we drove to the next east-west fenceline, along which was a walking path of sorts. We gathered supplies and set out on foot. I had little doubt once we set off that we would be able to zero out the GPS unit, given open skies and only a few trees.
But would we make it without being stopped? We took care to leave no trace. The landowner had set out small piles of brush and wood to be burned, and we passed one not far from the road. As we walked, my Australian geography colleagues answered all my questions about the land use and history of the area with ease and grace. Thus they were about the best companions that one could want on a trek like this. The GPS led us, as expected toward the west-southwest, but we stuck to the fenceline until the next break, and encountering an open gate, took it south, past a small pond, and then diagonally southwest down a small depression. We found the confluence midway up the rise beyond it. We were able to document our visit without anything bounding into view, human or animal. And as icing on the cake, we were able to zero out the GPS receiver without issue. The view and the site were one of the most beautiful in my over 400 confluence visits spanning nearly 20 years.
The confluence point slopes about 5 degrees from southwest to northeast, and is covered with planted grasses that were about 25 cm high. We saw no animals but a few birds in the distance. Again in keeping with The Castle movie, a large powerline crosses the field to the south of the confluence. The temperature stood at about 64 degrees F (18 C) under sunny skies, a beautiful late winter afternoon, under light winds and a magnificent high white cloud bank off to the south. We all marveled that the point was not in even more difficult terrain, such as on the wooded hillslopes visible to the south, or in a ravine, or in a marsh. This was my third confluence in Victoria and my fifth in Australia; I was thankful to be here with such kind, fun, and adventurous friends and geography colleagues.
We departed the site and walked east to the road, and upon reuniting with the vehicle, drove south and stopped again so we could take in some views of canola fields, all in yellow. I wondered what the land cover was like here before agriculture--was it all wooded, or only partly so? After a stop at the wonderful country bakehouse in Yarck, we drove back to Melbourne, discussing all things geography, history, science, education, and geotechnology along the way. It was about as perfect a day as one could dream of. I knew I would be missing the great country of Australia in the days ahead, but I look forward to returning.