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Great Barrier Island – Monika Coles

30 May 2018 11:52 AM | Deleted user

What better way to spend an Easter weekend than in a beautiful place, among friends, doing what you love. That is exactly what happened for me while tramping on Great Barrier Island. Great company and a magical place.
    We all arrived early to our meeting spot at Westhaven Marina on Easter Friday morning. It was a bit rainy, but we didn’t mind. We hopped on our two charter boats, chucked our bags in a cavity at the front of the boat to balance the weight and made ourselves comfortable for the ride.
     Our boat needed to get some gas so we left a bit earlier to stop at a marine petrol station. Well, that was a new experience. A petrol station for boats—awesome!
    Once on the open water, the other boat came into view and started to look like it was entering a race. That might also be part of the reason why they got us to Great Barrier Island in such a speedy time, beating travelling by ferry by an hour.
    Perhaps also due to the speed, the boat ride was so much fun, although a bit wet, especially for the people at the back, when crashing waves made their way into the inside of the boat.
    Later, as the waves got bigger, we even got a downpour from the roof as parts of the waves came over the top of the boat and down onto our heads. Luckily we all had raincoats so the water didn’t get behind our necks and down our backs.
    When we arrived in Tryphena, Great Barrier, the sun was shining and it was lovely and warm. We all had a bit of free time while we waited for our two hire vans to arrive.
    What an experience the local transport was. The roof coverings inside the van were coming off and there was plenty of rust, but and all credit to the drivers. They both managed to get these vehicles up onto the winding narrow roads in manual, which I don’t think the vans even knew they had or knew how to behave when using them. Wow, what a ride!
    Once we got to the start of our track, we all found a spot right there, by the main road, and decided that it was as good as any to have some lunch. Why, I don’t know. We could have crossed the road and found a spot on the track, but I think we were just happy to have the transport adventure behind us, and needed to refuel before walking to our first destination, the Green Campsite.   
     The track was really nice right from the start. Gorgeous views of Te Ahumata (398m) did not let us wait for very long. At that point we didn’t know that some of our group would decide to take a detour a bit later on and summit this beautiful peak with white cliffs.
    Te Ahumata summit is not a traditional summit. The top is a large, pretty much flat, overgrown area, and there’s quite a distance from one side to the other for views.
    At the top there’s also a building structure, which is full of radio equipment of some sort, and on the door there’s a dedication to Bruce Comfort in recognition and appreciation of his work in establishing the land mobile radio network.
    On the way down it started to drizzle a bit, but it didn’t last very long and soon we were approaching the Green Campsite, which was the place for our first night.
    We all started to set up our tents after a bit of indecision about choosing the right spot. It was low tide, and there were beautiful views into the harbour so I chose to pitch my tent right on the bank’s edge. Perfect spot, I thought, despite some people’s concerns about high-tide water levels. Then I went to join all the others in the sheltered area in the middle of the campsite to make some dinner and have a recap on the day.
    There were a lot of ants that were taking possession of all the wooden tables, so everyone was using a stainless-steel bench fitted in the corner of the shelter instead.
    At one point one member of the party obviously thought enough was enough, and got up and smashed his fist on the top of one of the wooden tables, clearing himself a square piece of the table.
    Believe it or not, it worked. No more ants came onto that cleared square for a long time after the hammer-like attack!
    After a bit of rain in the night, the next day was again beautiful. We set off nice an early towards the Tramline Track. Our first stop was the Kauri Falls, a two-minute detour and well worth it.
    Then we had a stop by the river for morning tea. I was very taken by the stunning clear water in all the rivers we came across on the island. Further up the track there was another detour to Maungapico peak (280m). It was a nice track with a little rock climbing at the top, which was rewarded with stunning 360° views.
    Then we came back down and carried on Forest Road. This is a wide road shared with mountain bikers, but we only met a few. Not very far at all from the end of Forest Road was our next night spot, the Kaiaraara hut. It was pretty full already when we arrived, so some people chose to pitch their tents instead.
   It was still quite early in the day, so after some food a few of us decided to take a walk to Port FitzRoy. It ended up being a bit longer then estimated, but oh my!
   There was a general store,which was open when we got there, and we all had a beer (or two) and chips! What a treat in the middle of a four-day out-party tramp, not to mention more stunning views and a local giving some of us a ride part of the way back to the hut.
   The next day we had a big climb ahead and, as we found out, a lot of stairs! Wow, I mean a lot! Some people powered through full steam ahead, while some, like me, got slower and slower the higher we went.
   On the way, we made a stop and went to see one of the old kauri dams. Well, what’s left of them. They were very impressive.
   Great Barrier was, once upon a time, a source of kauri, and it is also known for its whaling industry, honey export, a short-lived gold rush, and copper mining. It’s a beautiful place, this Great Barrier, and full of surprises. 
    After a stop at the top of Hirakimata (Mt Hobson) summit (627m) there was only a short walk down the hill to our next stop for the night, Mt Heale hut. This hut has stunning views during the day and beautiful sunset views over Little Barrier at night.
    We arrived at Mt Heale Hut early, just in time for lunch. After everyone got settled, it was time to play a game.
    Some of us were intrigued by the sound of the Monopoly game that claimed, on the packaging, that it could be played in twenty minutes. So a few of us huddled around a table and started to learn the rules of the game. Some players showed that being a property mogul came naturally to them. Others adopted a more calculated approach and soon got ahead by figuring out all the different strategies—and also being lucky enough to get all the right cards!
    On the last day, we had heaps of time and we made a few stops before getting picked up. The first stop was Kaitoke Hot Springs. It was very pleasant and relaxing to soak in hot water after days of tramping, and we followed this with morning tea.
    Some of us then left a bit earlier to have enough time to go exploring in the nearby Oreville stamping battery. The whole town of Oreville once surrounded the huge stamper battery of the Barrier Reefs gold mine.
    Then it was time for our trusty hired van to come and pick us up. We were keen to hear all about what the home party had been up to while we were walking the Aotea Track. We even had time to stop at the pub for refreshments and another catch-up, which was an icing on the cake—a wonderful end to an even more wonderful trip.
    Thanks, Annika, for organising!

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