There I was sitting up the front of the little 6 seater plane, (we’re talking ‘front’ as in right next to the pilot with my own little steering wheel and foot pedals wiggling away in front of me) zooming down the runway and lifting off into the bright blue sunshiney sky! I couldn’t wipe the big grin off my face but managed to stop myself whooping out loud! What a thrill – I can see why people get into learning to fly!
Due to some unfortunate last minute cancellations there was just the 3 of us heading over to Great Barrier Island for 4 days tramping. And what glorious 4 days they were! Perfect weather conditions, absolutely stunning scenery, awesome tracks, lovely friendly locals, quirky accommodation, beautiful swimming, kayaking, wining, dining……we had it all!
Flying out over the Hauraki Gulf was amazing…seeing and identifying all the different islands below us then watching as Great Barrier Island came closer and closer. Before we knew it we were bumping over the grassy runway at Claris. It seems the tar sealed runway is for take-offs and the grass is for the landings….
We were picked up by the very friendly and informative Lianne from Go Great Barrier Island shuttle service and taken over to Medlands Beach where we started our first track, the Kowhai Valley Track, over to Tryphena where we were to stay the night. We had a steep climb up and then over the ridge and down the gravelly road into Tryphena. At the top of the climb there was this cute little art gallery “Top of the Rock” with some lovely art pieces and photography and an honesty box for you to pay for what you bought. Not often you see that these days….especially in an art gallery!
We stayed at one of the oldest establishments on the island, The Innkeepers Lodge at the Irish Pub which as far as accommodation goes, has seen better days, though the pub was great and had a few locals sitting there strumming and singing with their guitars.
The next morning we were picked up and taken up near the top of the island to do the Harataonga Coastal Track and it was absolutely stunning! Beautiful bay after beautiful bay…..it was almost a case of, what, another stunning bay! The track was easy and meandered gently up and down overlooking the bright turquoise sparkling blue ocean.
Lianne was waiting for us at Harataonga bay, (another gorgeous bay) and took us to Claris and our accommodation at Wiltshire Manor (a rather pretentious name) but still very comfortable and cosy accommodation. We can highly recommend the museum there that the owner, David, has built and put together. You could easily spend a couple of hours just reading and looking at all the stuff he has there.
That evening as we strolled along the road to ‘The Club’ for dinner, a local woman picked us up and gave us a lift and then on the way home we got another ride in the back of a ute (and we weren’t even hitching. :))
We were up bright and early the next morning for the Te Ahumata Track which would take us over to Whangaparapara. We ended up getting a lift to the start of the track with Lianne and a van load of other trampers. Apart from this group, we saw no-one on the tracks the whole time we were over there. This track took us right up to the top of a flat topped rocky precipice which looked way harder than what it actually was, and the views……..INCREDIBLE!
We sauntered down the road into Whangaparapara; tui’s whistling, cicada’s singing, sun sparkling on the water, the gentle lapping of the sea….paradise…. We sat on the rolling green lawn in front of the Gulf Harbour Lodge and basked in the beauty, letting the calm tranquility soak into our souls. After a leisurely picnic lunch and a good rest under the big pine tree, we took the kayaks out for an exploratory paddle around the bay and into the inlet. A lovely refreshing swim later, a shower and a fresh change of clothes and a cold, crisp bottle of Sauvignon Blanc while sitting on our deck in the late afternoon sun, completed a beautiful day.
Our last track, before we flew out at lunchtime the next day, was along the Tramline Track to the Kaitoke Hot Springs. We set off just before 8am in the soft early morning light along the wide easy old tramline track, up some steeper hills and across some trickling streams. The hot springs were just heavenly and we were so glad that it was a cloudy day as it would have been too hot if the sun had been shining! We wallowed and totally relaxed in the hot mineral water, no-one else there, just us. A very easy, almost wheel chair friendly track, took us out to the road where Steve, Lianne’s other half, met us and dropped us off at the Claris airport.
Great Barrier Island had worked its magic on us and we were three very chilled out, happy and relaxed women as we boarded the plane back to Auckland. Don’t worry if you missed out on this trip, I’ll definitely be doing it again! Check out the photo gallery for more photos.