Friday, December 28, 2012

A hike on Great Barrier Island

To celebrate the apparently successful leak fix, I decided to move over to the next harbour over, where there is better access to one of the island's many hiking trails. I am now anchored at the entrance to Kiwiriki Bay, between an off-lying island, which is little more than a tree covered rock, and a most beautiful tree-lined shoreline on my other side. The shore is fringed by the red blossoming 'Christmas Trees' - Putukaua, I believe they are named (although I am no doubt spelling this wrong) as well as Tea trees, which are also blossoming. The bird song in the small bay just to the east is remarkably varied and I spent 15 minutes just floating there and listening in the dinghy on my way to shore.

The hike to Mount Young (it also has a Maori name, which I cannot recall) begins at a beach near the head of navigation in the bay. It follows the bay to the mouth of a river and then winds along this river valley, crossing the stream once via a narrow ford. Tree ferns as tall as 30 feet and Tea trees shade the trail and give it a jungle feeling. Eventually the path leaves the river valley and scales the side of a hill, with little thought to erosion. A few switch-backs would have made this section much easier to climb and saved the trail from destruction. The soil here is a reddish clay and prone to washing away. It was also very slippy after all the recent rains.

I met a family on their way back down who were off one of the smaller sailboats anchored at Kiwiriki. They had set out to reach Mount Young, but found the going too rough carrying a very young baby as well as a 3 year old girl. I admired them for tackling even the first section of this hike with young children. The baby seemed quite taken by the whole experience, but her older sister was obviously bored.

A little further on I met an older couple, Liz and George, who told me they are training for a hike to Everest base camp in May. As we walked together, they told me that this year will be the 60th anniversary of New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary's ascent of Everest. A friend of their's, who is Hillary's niece, will be there for some sort of commemorative celebration later in the year. Liz and George are on a 42 foot Beneteau sailboat anchored a few harbours over from our anchorage. It is interesting how it is mainly the sail boaters who are the hikers. There are loads of power boaters here, but they seem to prefer fishing to hiking in general.

As the trail left the river valley, the flora changed to an attractive open mix of deciduous and coniferous trees - all second growth. Liz pointed out some young Kauri trees (valuable timber now protected and used mainly for fine woodworking and boat building). She also showed me a conifer whose male version has rough needles while the female is smooth to the touch. Reindeer moss appeared in quantity along each side of the path - a sign of a very healthy ecosystem, I have been told.

At a road intersection, I said goodbye to my hiking companions and wished them luck on their trip to base camp. A spur climbed quickly from here to the base of Mount Young's summit and the rest of the path was other rock. The views at the top were amazing - all the more so because most of the trail had been in the woods with only a few sections where there was any view. Mount Young, at 371 meters gives 360 degree views around the island and I could see beaches with smashing surf on the outside and the Coromandel Peninsula guarding the Hauraki Gulf to the south.

The forests in New Zealand are remarkably beautiful. I was told that New Zealand is very much like BC, Canada, but the forests in the north are quite different from those of BC - with a pleasing blend of textures and colours and a slightly tropical feel.

The trip down was much quicker, although I had to be very careful not to slip on the stretches of slick clay where the path must become a river when it rains. This is one place that a good hiking pole or stick would be invaluable!

Back at the boat, I dived in to wash off the sweat and scrubbed off 6 weeks of growth along the waterline. I also found a healthy coating of barnacles on the propeller, which would explain my slow trip between the bays.

I like this island, now that the sun has come out and the boat is no longer doing its best impression of a sieve. I think I may stay here until next year, although by New Years Eve, I have been told there may be as many as 500 boats in this bay! It seems unbelievable, because the place looks crowded to me now with only 30 boats...


Visits Rimpac said...

Merry Christmas, we hope you and Rani have a wonderful New Year filled with great adventures.

Neil & Sharon

Good Anchorage said...

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Good Anchorage Team