29-Sep-2007 -- As we had just completed teaching about GIS and GPS technologies at the 2007 Social Science conference and conducted an additional GIS workshop at a school in Auckland, a confluence visit seemed like a fitting capstone to these events. We had taught together several times in New Zealand and in the USA, and usually finished up these events with practicing what we preach--getting out on the landscape. The day before, we successfully visited 38 South, 175 East, ending the day with a very pleasant stay at Wellsford. Today was my last day here, and it would prove to be a wonderful end to my week in New Zealand.
We departed Wellsford a bit after 6:00am, traveling north on Highway 1 to Brynderwyn, and then west on Highway 12. As we traversed the beautiful hills, the sky darkened and it began to rain. We had some suitable rain gear, but it's always more pleasant to make a confluence trek in dry weather, especially one that would likely be on a farm. Fortunately the rain let up as we dropped onto the Ruawai Plains. These are peaty plains, where cabbage trees, flax, and the beautiful kauri tree grow, and cattle and sheep ranches abound. We passed signs and stands for kumura and pumpkins, and then at Raupo, turned north along the wide estuary of the North Wairoa. At Mititai, we turned east on Mititai Road, entering the hills and a few outstanding old volcanic remnants towering above the rest such as Maungaraho Rock. We missed the turnoff for Keer Road and Hoyle Road, where I had intended to bring us in from the north. But Anne's wisdom prevailed as it always does, and she had all along intended to bring us in from Neck Road, from the south. It turns out that Neck Road does not go all the way through. Like we tell students, just because a feature is on a map, doesn't necessarily mean that it is on the ground!
We parked at the end of Neck Road and knocked on the door of the northernmost house, closest to the confluence, but no furniture appeared to be inside, and we weren't surprised when nobody answered. We walked to the house to the south, which looked like a pretty cool hangout with a pool table. Nobody was home here either. We walked further north along Neck Road and came to the dairy farm itself. Here we encountered lots of activity. We spoke with a man and two women involved with a large operation of 600 dairy cows on 1,000 acres. It would have been fascinating to discuss their work with them, but the milk truck was being loaded and we could see that they were all quite busy. They were familiar with the "spatial" nature of their plot of land and we were relieved to hear permission was granted for us to trek. We then walked back to the vehicle to change shoes.
Resuming our hike with GPS, camera, and sign, we walked through the dairy operation again and onto a hill with a beautiful vista to the north. It appeared as though the confluence might be north of the meandering stream and marshy area. If that turned out to be true, we would do well to cross the stream at the trail bridge, and then strike west through the marsh. Fortunately, we did not do this, or we would have become soaked, and missed the confluence, besides. We headed west and then north, having to make junction decisions often, but choosing wisely thus far. We came to the top of another hill and down a narrow lane. Near the bottom of the hill, and fortunately before the marsh, we came to 36 South. We struck to the west, where our feet became soaked, but had only about 40 meters to walk to the confluence.
The confluence lies in a grassy field about 3 meters from a dead tree at a slope of about 5 degrees to the north. A row of willows lies just to the south of the confluence. Although the confluence lies near the lowest spot in the area, the views are still quite extensive, especially to the east and to the west. To the west we could see a small quarry that Anne said is used for rock material and for fertilizing the soil. Some cabbage trees were growing to the northeast, and we saw toara, flax, willows, macracapa, hawks, and swallows. The temperature was about 18 degrees C--quite a nice day. This was my 9th confluence in New Zealand and, like the other 8 confluences, quite scenic indeed. We hiked out the way we came in, saying goodbye to the landowners on the way out. We arrived at the vehicle after a total hike time of approximately 90 minutes.
On our way out of the region, we stopped briefly at the Wairoa River to have a look at the water. Tramping through the mud prompted Anne to tell me about the immigrants who got plenty muddy as a matter of routine. They came to this part of New Zealand a century before to hunt for gum resin from the kauri tree. It therefore seemed appropriate for us to make a trip to Church Road in Matakohe, The Kauri Museum. We thought a perfect followup as geographers would be to see some of these trees growing in the wild, so Anne took us to a local preserve just a few minutes to the east. Here, we took a short but peaceful walk among one of the most magnificent trees in the world. We then drove south on another new road for me, though Helensville, into Auckland. We visited our GIS education colleague and then Anne dropped me off at the airport, me with my muddy shoes and pants. A wonderful way to spend the last few hours in New Zealand!