Monday, April 21, 2014

Great Barrier Island: March 30th to April 8th

Aotea is the Maori name for Great Barrier Island. Capt. Cook named it in 1769 for the shelter and protection it provides to the Hauraki Gulf. The island is only about 55 miles from Auckland but it could not be more different.

Rugged and remote it has an abundance of native forest, marine life and birds. It is part of the Hauraki Gulf Marine park system and protected because its natural and cultural heritage is rich, divers and unique.

Also, rich in history, from the 1840’s the island’s natural resource has attracted European settlement. A number of industries exploited the island’s forest, minerals and migrating whales. Copper was mined here along with gold and silver. The Kauri forests were logged, only a few original kauri forests survived. The Great Barrier Island was also the site of a number of shipwrecks and you can see two grave sites mark these terrible disasters. 

Our first “port of call” on GBI is on the southern tip at Tryphena Harbor. This is the main ferry port for folks coming from the main land. There is a small village with a couple of restaurants, and bar, store and post office. It is also home to the GBI Social Club, with pool table, food and movies on Monday nights.

The next stop for us is Whangaparpara Harbour. ( here the wh makes the f sound so it is pronounced, faan-guh-para-para).  It is here that you can see the remains of the old whaling station and timber mill. Also in this very lovely bay are a wharf and the Great Barrier Island Lodge. A great place for dinner and drinks. We have a wonderful meal here, the managers are very nice and have traveled to the states and knew my home town of Santa Cruz and knew much of the Northwest as they traveled from California to Alaska. We anchored in graveyard bay, and yes there is a small “pioneer” type grave yard with about a half dozen grave sites. The oldest we saw was from 1910. From here we can hear all the exotic birds, the kaka a large brown noisy parrot, the ever changing song of the tui bird and the wekas, the “chickens” of NZ as the Māori and settlers both used them for meat and eggs.

We then sail to the large much protected Port FitzRoy Harbour. This port is made up of many different bays and it is fun to explore. In Kiwiriki Bay we are befriended by a pair of Pateke (Brown Teal) ducks. The Pateke are among the rarest ducks in the world. GBI is home to almost two-thirds of the remaining world population. They swim (and beg for food) around us for two days.

I have a goal of catching a snapper while I am here. For snapper you have to jig for them and one of the places I am told where you will have success in near one of the many mussel farms here. Mel drives me out to one in the dingy; I jig and jig no luck… I have caught a couple of Kahawai which are good to eat but the snapper is illusive.  We move to Rarohara Bay as we are going on a tour the next day. Tom and Kim from Exit Strategy will meet us here and go with us.

As part of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park system much work is being done to restore the native vegetation and bird life on GBI. One project here Glenfern Sanctuary. A privately owned pest fenced sanctuary. Started by business man and adventurer, Tony Bouzaid, it is committed to creating a safe haven for native species. We take a guided tour of Glenfern and learn how this project is providing pest free (or nearly) environments in its efforts to preserve and restore native birds and forest. We walk through regenerating old growth forest of Kanuka, Manuka, Puriri and Kauri trees. We even get to cross over a suspension bridge into the canopy of a 600 year old Kauri tree. A very beautiful and informative tour.

After our tour at Glenfern we meet with our tour guide for the day, Steve of Go Great Barrier Tours is set to take us around the island. Steve has lived on GBI for 20 plus years. He is a great guide and gives us the history from Maori times through present. GBI residents (about 700 full time) are an independent and self-sustaining lot. While it has been offered many times, there is no cable power here. All residents produce their own power through solar, wind, and generators.  We tour the magnificent east side of the island with its beautiful beaches and vistas. Surfers come from all over New Zealand to ride these waves. We are so glad we took this tour as it is difficult to sail around this side of the island and the seas and winds are rarely favorable.

Too soon our time at GBI is up. We are leaving on the April 8th we leave to start our trip to Opua and make final preparations for our May departure for Tonga.

Another trip to GBI is on our must do list when we return as we have just scratch the surface of this unique island.



Kawau Island March 25-30

After a very blustery sail from Waiheke Island we arrive at Kawau Island and anchor in Mansion House Bay. Kawau Island is north of Auckland in Hauriaki Gulf. The island was once a mining settlement (mid 1800’s) and later became the home of New Zealand Governor George Grey (1862).

The Mansion house was first built as the mining superintendent’s home during Kawau’s copper mining days. After Gov. Grey purchased the home he enlarged it as pictured. He was a collector of plants and animals as was common for wealthy Victorian gentlemen. He planted hundreds of different trees and plants and introduced many exotic and native animal species to the island, including zebras (they all died because it was too cold for them), peacocks and wallabies, (they are still around).

Of course this caused havoc to the native species of plants and animals and work now continues to restore the natural vegetation in the reserve. The house and grounds are now a Historic Reserve administrated by the Department of Conservation.  We toured the house and it is beautifully restored with period furniture and artwork, all very interesting, (no pictures were allowed so none on the blog).
Like most of the island here there are numerous walking trails and we spend a couple of days exploring the interesting floral/fauna and views they provided. Many of the trails have you imagining you are walking through a forest primeval, with a canopy of massive fernwoods, pine and  Manuka trees. One trail was especially interesting as it showcases a very large Redwood tree planted by Gov. Grey in 1864. I hope the pictures I post will do it justice.  

We heard from a kiwi friend of ours that if you go to shore at dusk you can perhaps see the wallabies as they forage for food.  With camera in hand we head to shore. As there is a wallaby fence around the grounds we hike out beyond it, nothing…. I then leave Mel and hike further up the trail while he stays put. I am gone for about 10 minutes and when I come back he has seen two. We then continue to stroll through the open field (where they are said to come out) but nothing. So I with the camera missed out.

After a couple of days exploring here we sail out to North Bay. On the way we take a day sail to test out our new light air sail, it works great. Along the way we see Orca’s two pairs of mother and baby, and our first sighting of blue penguins.  I get a couple of great shots of the Orca’s but the penguins are shy so the picture is not so great.

We settle in at North Cove as we have a very special invitation to meet Lin and Larry Pardey. If you are a cruiser you may have heard of this couple. They have written several books and articles on world cruising. They live here on Kawau Island and we meet them for drinks at their home. They have a lovely home overlooking this beautiful bay. We have a nice evening sharing experiences and getting to know each other. While they may have several thousand of sea miles under their keel and us, uhh, not nearly as many, we still have common experiences to share and we certainly listened to their words of experience.