Saturday, April 12, 2008

Sidetrip: Great Barrier Island

One of the things that has made it very hard to keep current here is the fact that I've had several chances to go travelling. I finished my trip around Northland on 2 January, but that does not mean I cam straight home. Oh, no; I had an addendum all arranged - a night in Auckland, and then a stupidly early (7:00 a.m.) ferry for four hours out to Great Barrier Island. Very few people have been there, it hardly ever features, either in the news (although there has been the big court battle between the two airlines serving the island over their names and yellow pages adverts) or in general conversation. I didn't think I knew anyone who'd been there at all, but once I'd made my bookings, I was talking to a colleague about summer plans, and she said that not only had she been there but loved it so much they'd never go back, so their memories might not be besmirched by reality.

Only a few hundred people live on the island, in several small settlements. Ferries arrive in Tryphena Harbour

The voyage over was peaceful, only a handful of people wanting to go to the island. It was a little disconcerting to get there and find crowds of people waiting to leave (apparently it is horrendously busy over the New Year, but by about 2 or 3 January, the numbers are dropping off dramatically). Even more disconcerting was the sight of the local policeman on the wharf, wearing not only an armoured vest of some sort but also his sidearm. He turned out to be a friendly fellow - I met him on the road several times while I was there and he always waved; the gun and vest were because there'd been some sort of incident in the pub and police HQ in Auckland had told him to go prepared until the people involved left the island.

Tryphena town is tiny, and even so, split into two - one part has a store/cafe,
camping ground and librarywhile the other part has another store and Irish pub. They're separated by a headland, but look out in the same general direction: I was nearly confined to this part of town, as the rental car I had booked never showed up and public transport is limited. I had a slightly uncomfortable session on the phone when I rang the rental car people to complain about their no-show: I had rung the wrong firm! Luckily, they could produce a car for me - not the biggest car I have ever seen. In fact, I had carefully not booked with this firm because I thought their cars were too small. Given the rugged nature of the roads, it turned out that the Mazda 121 was a good choice, and was fun on the corners - it would bounce its way round them and then roar off to the next one.

So, I explored the island for a couple of days - up to Port Fitzroy
where I took a bit of a walk in the bush, along an old logging trackNow, the island, even today, is a four-five hour ferry ride from the mainland, and is mainly covered in bush yet some brave souls have attempted farmingWhangaparapara Harbour is on the West Coast of the island:- here I tried to get some lunch and maybe hang out on the internet, it was about 2 in the afternoon, but I was told that the generator was off so could not have anything involving cooking. Hard to believe that I am still within the boundaries of Auckland city! The East coast has the only traditional white sand beach on the island - this is Medlands Beach:
For my last night on the island, I just had to try the local Thai restaurant (I'd eaten at the Irish bar, my hostel (Stray Possum) and the cafe in Tryphena) simply because it struck me as odd that there would be one in such a remote place. They were doing a buffet only, and probably the less said about the food the better. At least I tried them out, and they did appear to be lovely people.

So, it was time to go home (although I had several hours to kill, reading Don de Lillo's Underworld before the ferry departed)

I think I'd be quite happy to go back, it was very peaceful, particularly as my hostel was in the bush, a couple of kilometres from Tryphena.

This was not quite the end of my northland holiday, however. My flight back to Dunedin was for the next day, with my time carefully planned so I could hire a car (a very nice shiny red Suzuki Swift) and go up to the Leigh Sawmill Cafe to watch Don McGlashan (with the Seven Sisters) and Little Bushman (Warren Maxwell and his band) perform as part of their Summer Sunsets Ultimate Warm Lazy Summer Concert series. It was a great way to finish off my trip, a very chilled atmos and warm-hearted music.

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1 Comments:

Blogger owens valley tomatohead said...

Showoff. :)
Great Barrier Island looks great.

3:53 AM  

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