20-Jul-2003 -- I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer from Colorado USA, Anne Olsen, geography teacher from Lower Hutt, New Zealand, Murray Ellis, mathematician from Lower Hutt, and Peter Arthur, geography teacher from James Cook High School, Auckland New Zealand, visited 41°S 175°E in the Kapiti District near the south end of the North Island, New Zealand, one fine winter day. As Anne, Peter, and I had just finished teaching a three-day GPS and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) institute for New Zealand teachers, a confluence visit seemed like an appropriate way to bring closure to this successful event. Furthermore, Anne and I had visited a confluence (37° South 175° East) during my first day in New Zealand, and as I would be departing New Zealand for the USA in a few hours, visiting a confluence made the perfect symmetrical way to begin and end my trip to New Zealand.
We left Lower Hutt at approximately 9.20am local time and drove up the Paekakariki Road to Highway 1. We turned north to stop at the side of the road south of McKays Crossing at 10am. Our aerial photograph and topographic map investigation had indicated that the farmhouse we were about to inquire of would be the most likely landowner of the area we sought to traverse. Once again, as I had encountered during the confluence visit of two weeks previous, New Zealand hospitality was plainly evident when the owner, Will, invited the four of us into his living room. He showed us an aerial photograph and described the route in detail, even creating a customized map for us, and loaning us the key to the road gates. This type of behavior causes me great faith in the future of our societies and the good nature of people.
Because Will had granted us permission to drive on his mountain roads to the confluence, we departed immediately up a twisting gravel road. As I reflected on my past confluence visits, I quickly came to the conclusion that the one I was currently on provided the most spectacular view. As Murray ably guided his Subaru further and further up into the steep hills, we were treated to magnificent vistas of Paekakariki, the Tasman Sea, and even the South Island of New Zealand. After opening and shutting a few gates, we drove to the south of the confluence and took the left fork in the road indicated by Will. When the GPS indicated that we were about 600 meters east of the confluence, we exited the vehicle and found ourselves in the midst of a planted pinus radiata forest. Once again, Murray loaned me his gumboots, for which I was thankful. Thus far, everything was going better than we had hoped--permission for entry and beautiful weather.
A faint trail led from the road directly west, toward our desired destination, and in five minutes, we were underneath the easternmost of the three major powerlines that cross this valley. After a quick scramble down the embankment to the west of the clearing for the transmission line, we found ourselves at the confluence! However, due to the dense timber cover, the ensuing confluence dance took quite a while before we were able to zero out the GPS unit. This allowed me to hurridly snap one blurred shot of the receiver, although I have plenty of clear ones with locations that were close, but not exactly on, the confluence. We had arrived at the confluence at approximately 11:10 am local time; my GPS satellite indicates the date and time in Colorado. The weather was exceptional--10°C with light winds.
The confluence lies on a westward-facing slope of about 35 degrees, covered with a deep, soft blanket of pine needles. The area of Will's land is planted in pinus radiata, although a few native species are also growing. We had passed through some planted forests that were only 2 meters high, but the pines on the confluence were over 12 meters tall. Coprosma, bracken fern, and lancewood (horoeka) also were growing here. The vegetation is growing on top of a graywacke stone, which in this region is shattered, largely due to past and present tectonic activity. This part of the north island is between the part of New Zealand where the Pacific Plate is subducting under the Australian plate (north of here) and where the Australian Plate is subducting under the Pacific Plate (south of here). Indeed, the valley where the power transmission lines are running is on top of the Oharia Fault. Because of its gentler terrain as compared to the extremely rugged hills on both sides, the valley has been proposed the site of a section of Highway 1, to link Wellington to the south with points north, replacing a narrow and dangerous portion of the coastal route. I pondered whether future visitors will find 41°S 175°E beside a freeway in the future and rather shuddered at the thought.
After spending about 25 minutes at the site, we climbed out to the transmission line and through the trail back to the road. We passed through different gates as Will had directed, making a long loop back to his home. We turned in the keys and met Will's spouse, Honey, leaving them our maps and indicating to Will and Honey where we had gone. Once aboard the vehicle, we departed for Wellington for a brief visit to Te Papa, the New Zealand National Museum, and for the airport, where I caught my airplane for the USA. As my flight was delayed out of Auckland for three hours, I had ample time to write this narrative and view the photographs. Once aboard, I reflected upon the diverse and wonderful landscapes I had seen during my three New Zealand confluence treks, but most of all, the friendly people I had met and the excellence of my geographical and mathematical traveling companions.