12-May-2001 -- I believe that this completes the first non-polar antipodal pair. 37N5W was visited by Bent and Tove Gabrielsen on 3 Feb 2001 and although 37S175W is the closest confluence to New Zealand’s most populated city, Auckland, the best to date had been an attempt by Steven Perich and Elizabeth Given on 6 Jan 2001. With the Spanish confluence visited, the fact that the antipodal pair in New Zealand had not been visited was an irresistible challenge.
So after checking the Pending List to make sure Bob Jordan (with 5 to his credit) hadn’t mounted a surprise attack from Hamilton, we set out to find our closest confluence a mere 24km from home.
Steven and Elizabeth couldn’t raise an occupant, we were more fortunate. Trevor Simpson was at home and out in his yard when we drove up. He has rather a long driveway but we felt easy about driving up as they run the "Top of the Hill" Homestay giving an implicit welcome to total strangers to drive up.
He was intrigued by our request and walked some of the way across his farm with us, pointing out the easiest way to exit his property when it was clear that the confluence wasn’t going to be on his land. We had driven to within 550m of the confluence and the walk across the farm offered great views to the west and northeast. There were heaps of places that would provide wonderful photos for the Project had they been the "spot" but we pressed on.
It was clear that the confluence would be in a pine plantation. Pinus Radiata is an introduced softwood which has a very quick crop rotation time in the New Zealand climate, 20 to 25 years. It is harvested on a sustainable basis as a crop to provide lumber, pulp and fibre for paper. Much land found to be non-economic for agriculture is being converted to forestry. The largest forest in NZ was created because the land was cobalt deficient. Later sand dunes were planted but the most common reason for converting farmland to forest in recent years is that the terrain is unsuitable, usually too steep, so it was not very encouraging.
We crossed the fence and headed down a ridge. The GPS indicated 200m to our right, almost due south. It appeared that the confluence was across a valley in the forest. Being an intelligent male, I decided that there was a better way than slipping and sliding down the hill only to have to climb the other side. We doubled back to Trevor’s land and used his open pasture to sidle round the pines without losing altitude. When we were due west, we headed back into the pines.
This turned out to be the dumb-idea-of-the-day. We had to force our way through gorse and blackberry - two other introduced species which flourish in New Zealand and are very painful when encountered. We also had to contend with bracken, a native fern which had sprung up as an undergrowth under the pines and tutu a quite attractive but very poisonous berry-bearing native plant. We came upon an old farm road among the trees and followed that for a short while. My "quick" route had now become so circuitous that I thought it prudent to mark some waypoints in case we needed assistance on the return trip. After all, one pine tree in a forest looks like any other. Regardless, the goal was ahead so we pressed on, only to find the confluence at the bottom of the valley, not up the other side as I had predicted.
The photos were taken and we headed out. It seemed that due north up the valley seemed like a good exit and it was, proving absolutely that the "intelligent" decision earlier had been anything but as we exited the pines at the exact spot where I had decided on the change of plan earlier. My lovely wife never made a comment.