07-Mar-2014 -- A good rule of thumb is that if you're hiking through hills to reach a Degree Confluence Point, and see goats on the sides of the hills, then you're in for a tough hike. Such was the case for this visit to 39S 175E, in very rugged farmland in the remote "King Country" region of New Zealand's North Island. This ended up being one of the most strenuous confluence hikes that I've ever made.
This confluence point had been visited only once before, by Andrew McGlone and Bob Jordan - more than 13 years ago. They approached the confluence point from the southeast, from Tokirima Road, by crossing a bridge over the Ohura River and then following farm roads. My first plan was to approach the point the same way, but when I got to the bridge across the Ohura River, I saw "No Trespassing" signs posted. So instead I switched to 'Plan B': An approach from the northwest. McGlone and Jordan had considered the same approach, but they correctly realized that it would involve hiking up and over a steep ridge. So they ended up approaching from the southeast instead. (Perhaps the "No Trespassing" signs weren't there 13 years ago?)
Being a law-abiding masochist, however, I chose to approach from the northwest. Continuing along the "Forgotten World Highway" west of Taumaranui, I turned left onto Heao Road at 38.954539°S 174.945412°E, and took this (gravel) road to its end at 38.973639°S 174.974688°E, where it intersects a railway line (that runs roughly north-south). At this point - 3.66 km from the confluence point 'as the crow flies' - I passed through a farm gate (with an abandoned VW Beetle alongside), and continued hiking eastward along what was now a farm road. This farm road began by running along the floor of a valley, but then climbed steeply up to the top of a ridge.
At the farm road's high point - 38.97637°S 174.99283°E - I turned right and continued hiking along the fenced ridgeline, southwards towards the confluence point. This was hard work, as in this rugged terrain, even the ridgelines are rugged. In several places I had to grab onto the fence to pull myself up steep sections.
Eventually, when I came close to 39 degrees south, I turned left (eastward) onto a secondary ridgeline, and followed it down towards a valley. As I got within 100 metres of the confluence point, I found myself on top of a cliff face, just above the point, and thought I might have trouble continuing any farther. (If you look at the confluence point on Google Earth, you'll notice that it lies on a steep, heavily shaded cliff face.) But eventually I found a way to get down to the actual confluence point, which lies on a steep grassy hillside. There was no sign of McGlone and Jordan's visit 13 years earlier.
Now it was time to return. Watched by goats, I climbed slowly back up the secondary ridgeline, then up onto the pretty, forested ridgeline that forms the western edge of the valley where the confluence point lay. Rather than continuing back the way I had come (i.e., northward, back along the ridgeline), I instead dropped down into the steep valley directly to the west. (It took me a long time to figure out how to get down to the valley floor.) But once I had made it down, I continued westward on farm roads until I reached the railroad tracks, and then continued northward along the railroad tracks for more than 2 km until I finally reached my car. At this point, I had hiked more than 16 km, with lots of climbing and descending.
Exhausted, with very sore legs, I drove back through Taumaranui, Te Kuiti, Te Awamutu, and Hamilton, getting back to Auckland around midnight.