22-Sep-2002 -- “The confluence is only a couple of hundred metres from the road; it should be a piece of cake to get to.”
While we were all undoubtedly thinking this, Lynette was the only one smart enough to put in a word of caution. The idea of spending a Sunday afternoon chasing after a confluence sounded like a great idea on Friday night. But perhaps our enthusiasm was partially fuelled by the wine we had with dinner.
The confluence in question was 41°S, 173°E and had been attempted once but never successfully visited. Lynette and I had visitors from Wellington for the weekend (Geoff Oram & Colleen Christiansen) and the post-dinner conversation turned to confluences while Lynette and I were discussing our recent trip to Alaska where we had also “bagged” a confluence (63°N, 147°W). I said that it would be fun to get both a northern hemisphere and southern hemisphere confluence. In fact, I speculated that we may be able to claim the largest latitudinal separation for the project (104° of latitude difference).
Colleen & Geoff were very keen so on Sunday we headed out armed with a digital camera, topo map, and GPS. We knew the site was located behind a motel in Marahau because we had read the previous attempt. On our arrival, we encountered dozens of pukekos (swamp hens) but no humans to ask permission to go onto the property. Then we noticed someone feeding out some horses in the farm adjacent to the motel. When we enquired, we learned that the farmer was the father of the motel owners and he very kindly said that it would be no problem to visit the spot.
From the edge of the field, it was only 70 metres to the confluence and we were all feeling very confident. The problem was that the remaining 70 metres was uphill through a thick tangle of gorse, blackberry and bracken. After about 20 minutes of bushwhacking and zigzagging through the less dense patches, the confluence was still 50 metres away and our enthusiasm was waning with each extra scratch and thorn we acquired. After another 10 minutes; however, we made it into a small stand of manuka/kanuka, the gorse was less dense and the going a bit easier. Five minutes later we were on our site which we named “Orbar Chrisnic” after ourselves.
The confluence has a beautiful view over Tasman Bay and the entrance to Abel Tasman National Park. The photos do not do it justice. We got very good GPS reception and were able to pinpoint the spot fairly easily. The trek out was much faster but no less scratchy.
While this spot represents one of the more accessible confluences in NZ, it was by no means as easy as any of us thought it would be. In comparison with the Alaskan confluence, though, it was a walk in the park. For example, pukekos are much, much, much less intimidating than grizzly bears and there was a complete lack of the blood crazed mosquitoes that made the Alaskan confluence unbearable. A completely unscientific comparison of the two sites leads me to the conclusion that southern hemisphere confluences are much easier to acquire than their northern hemisphere counterparts. This conclusion will likely change when we attempt 41°S, 174°E which is situated on the top of an island in the middle of the Marlborough sounds.