01-Sep-2017 -- As I was in Australia conducting a series of university presentations, professional development training events for primary and secondary teachers, and keynoting a major geography conference about the value of spatial thinking and the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in education, and as Stephen and Judy's association (Geography Teachers of Victoria GTAV) was the association that hosted this conference, a confluence visit seemed like the appropriate way to end this trip that took in 5 cities and states. And so my last full day in Australia began as follows: I walked to the train station in Melbourne and took it to a location in the east part of the city, where Stephen met me. We drove to a meeting point where Judy joined us, and were soon leaving the metropolitan area, past wonderfully named places such as Nar Nar Goon, on the M1.
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 takes 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, leaving the M1 near Drouin West and traveling through some stands of amazingly tall and colorful trees. Besides the trees, I enjoyed the directional names that many communities here have, such as Neerim South. Once we were climbing northeast on Fraser Spur Road, our anticipation mounted. The GPS gave us an erroneous route for a bit of time, no doubt because we were now driving under some mighty trees, but we stuck to our original plan, rounding the bend and parking uphill from the marshy area down below that would have presented some major hiking challenges.
We exited the vehicle and into the forest we continued on foot. I had serious doubts that we would be able to zero out the GPS unit, given the heavy and tall vegetation. I kept asking my companions about the plant and tree types here, and being Australian geographers, they answered all my questions cheerfully and accurately. Thus they were about the best companions that one could want on a trek like this. The GPS led us south, but still not far from the roadway, and downhill from it. My earlier concerns were renewed when we started hearing dogs barking, at first from the north, and then it seemed from two different directions. We were poised to scramble back to the road if necessary and I had visions of Dickens' "The Hound of the Baskervilles" but we stuck it out, and were able to document our visit without any seeing anything bounding into view. And as icing on the cake, we were able to zero out the GPS receiver, closer to the road than I had expected, and very near the southwest corner of the particular parcel we were in.
The confluence point slopes about 15 degrees to the west, and is covered with shrubs, twigs, and trunks of some magnificent trees. We saw no animals or birds and the sounds of the dogs had receded. The temperature stood at about 63 F (17 C) under sunny skies. Despite the need to watch our steps and not twist an ankle, we all marveled that the point was not in even more difficult terrain, such as a cliffside or in the marsh down below. This was my second confluence in Victoria and my fourth in Australia and I was thankful to be here with such kind, fun, and adventurous friends and geography colleagues. We departed the site and got back on the road, and upon walking to and reuniting with the vehicle, drove up the hill so we could take in some unobstructed views of the countryside, one of which I have posted here. The top-of-hill view is quite lovely, but from the confluence point itself, the view in all directions is quite short due to the vegetation cover. I could not determine if the stand of trees there had ever been cut or if it was 'old growth' original. It seemed likely that it was not the original forest cover given the crops and grazing predominant around here, but I could be wrong.
We left the confluence area, but our adventures were not over yet, because we had some wonderful tea and scones in Neerim South, and then had a nice hike at Mount Dandenong. It was about as perfect a day as one could dream of. I knew I would definitely be missing the great country of Australia in the days ahead.