Friday, March 8, 2013

Great Barrier Island, NZ- March 2013

It's heaven here. The island is quiet, off the grid and beautiful. Perfect transition after spending too much time in the cities and in crowded hostels. We needed a week away- to regroup before we launch into seeing NZ. So, after a few days in Auckland- we booked a 4.5 hour ferry to the island. Upon arriving with no plan, reservations or even a map- we paid the shuttle a few bucks to take us to he closest town, Tryphena. It dropped us off in front of the market, pub and cafe. All next to one another. That's Tryphena- apparently. After chatting with the locals and realizing that there were limited affordable accommodations in "town"- we set off for a campground that was on the map. It was about a half hour walk to the campground- the walk being along a beautiful road that hugs the bay and views of green and blue waters within small coves with white sand beaches. I think of it being a scene more familiar with a postcard from the Bahamas....

As we would discover many times later- the map we were given by the shuttle driver was unclear (although presumably better than having no map, which was our previous predicament). At a fork in the road, I hailed down a local to inquire about the campground's location. He had few teeth remaining, was frail and shirtless, and someone that looked like perhaps he was a faithful meth user. "That's my campground" was the answer- "hop in and I'll give you a lift". Without even eyeing Nate's response, I quickly declined and said we'd make our own way there which of course turned into a long hike up a steep, graveled road which I was hardly prepared for- since I was still wearing my flip-flops from the ferry ride. Once we found it, we realized that not surprisingly, we were the only ones at the campground. After discussing our dilemma and my choosing our our current situation over hiking all the way back to town with our packs- we set up camp. We then set back into town to check out the Irish pub- make some friends- and perhaps drop it into conversation that we were at the camp at the end of the road either searching for a confirmation that it was fine--- or just to let someone know where we were (assuming that it would upset our folks to start an email with "just so you know...." We didn't end up bringing it up at the pub. After getting back to camp, he owner drove down into the field to collect the night's payment. Immediately, my concerns over our safety were diminished since he brought us a large bag of a dozen or so apples, zucchini and squash. We slept in peace, alone, under a star-filled field happy to e on the island. Still, admittedly, I felt relieved to wake up in the morning and pack up to go on our way.

That morning, we loaded our packs up again with all our food, gear, clothes and a few apples- preparing for a hot 2 hour walk to the other side of the island - to a beach town called Medland. It wasn't but a few minutes down the road that we got an offer for a lift- and a recommendation on where to stand to get a lift to Medland. Flagging down a ride in the location that had been recommended- Joe who works at the cafe we had been o the day before (and was the one to break the news to me that there's no bus on the island and no need since everyone hitches) pulled over and asked us where we were off to. No problem he said. He needed to do a quick errand but if we were still there on his return- we could jump in. And we were- so we did. A windy road up into and over the hills - we were thrilled when he dropped us of at the top of the long, steep hill where a rustic hostel stood with chickens and 11 chicks running about. Perfect! It was a beautiful beach with not a soul on it other than Nate and I.

The above was my journal entry on the second day after arrival. I was reminded of it because we are now back at the same hostel 5 days later after having hiked - or hitch-hiked across much of the island. The folks here are off-the-landers. Rain and stream water are captured here. The are only three general stores on the island that I am aware of-- most folks grown their own food or order shipments from the Auckland grocery stores which are delivered on the ferry for a $30 service fee.

We spent more time doing "tramping" than "walking"-- tramping being the more difficult of the two-- but we saw and experienced such amazing beauty as we zig-zagged our way across the island.

For my own sake of remembering:
Day one: arrived by ferry around noon, caught a local shuttle to Tryphena, stayed at sketchy campground west of Tryphena.

Day two: Hitchhiked from Typhena to Medlands - stayed at the Medlands Backpacker

Day three: Hitched to Claris, walked 2 hours to Hot Springs and then tramped through rough terrain for 2 hours to Green Camp.

Day four: Tramped for 6 hours through rough terrain to campground near Port Fitzroy.

Day 5: spent the day in Port Fitzroy and local nature conservancy. Hitched across the island to Whangapoua Creek campground.

Day 5: Hiked the Harataonga /Okiwi Coastal track or 4 hours to Harataonga Beach

Day 6: Hiked up the campground road to the main road- and hitched a ride with the around-the-world boaters.. Grabbed lunch in Claris- and then hitched to Medlands.

Day 7/last day: hitched from main road to Tryphena by a nice guy with a failing car- then walked an hour to ferry

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