Several of our group went for an early morning run this morning and were fortunate to see a pod of 30 dolphins cruising in the bay just opposite our lodge. The rest of us awoke (at a more civilized time), to a beautiful day and after another hearty breakfast we set off to explore the western side of the island.
We drove from Tryphena towards Port FitzRoy, and this took us right past one of the most stunning views on the whole island, Windy Canyon. A short walk from the road took us to a magnificent viewpoint, located in the centre east of the island, the canyon is a wind funnel shaped from andesitic rock.
The canyon is located on one of the highest stretches of the island, less than 200m below the 627m summit of Mount Hobson. With clear skies and 360 degree views this was of-course an obligatory group photo option and we got some beauties, just like the one at the top of this page (that's me at the end on the right).
Port FitzRoy Cruise with Skipper Chris
Being protected from Pacific Ocean swells, the coastline provides many sheltered bays and harbours and is perfect for exploration by boat.
At Raharoa in the scenic Port Fitzroy Harbour we meet local skipper, Chris Ollivier. He is a local legend, not only for his Hooked on Barrier boat cruise, but also for his famous carrot cake, which he bakes himself. As we boarded the boat we were welcomed with fresh coffee, an awesome carrot cake, and a beautiful harbour before us, which set the tone for a great day.
Just across the bay at Glenfern Sanctuary we met local eco-warriors Brad and Bridget who are responsible for pest management in the 240 hectare Regional Park. A network of 1600 rat traps and a predator proof fence high keep control of the Kiore (rats) in order to protect the biodiversity and threatened species of the Kotuku Peninsula where they have replanted 15,000 native trees.
Cruising Port FitzRoy to Motu Kaikoura
Sheltering in FitzRoy Harbour is Motu Kaikoura, an island purchased in 2005 for the people of New Zealand and managed by a private trust as a wildlife reserve.
Anchored at the pontoon wharf we enjoyed Val’s great picnic lunch, as we watched the schools of snapper surround our boat and waved at the children in a large houseboat moored across from us. This was the home of Clint and Jacinda Stannard and their three children, who for the last eight years have been the rangers on the island. We could only marvel at the incredible lifestyle of this family in this remote and beautiful place.
More cruising with Chris followed as we made our way back to port and learnt some more of the area. The surrounding red coloured cliffs were reminders of the volcanic origins of the island as Chris explained that the harbour itself was actually a volcanic caldera (flooded river valley).
Having seen whaling and exports of gold, kauri, livestock, cream and fish, it is now mussel farming that provides a sustainable income and future employment in the harbour. It was inspiring to see that while the past was all about exploiting the natural resources of the area, the future is focused on sustainability and protection of the natural resources.
Okiwi on the journey back to Tryphena
Our journey back to our lodge, accompanied by the smooth sounds of the local radio, Aotea FM, included a couple of stops.
Miles, one of our owners, has been coming to Aotea Great Barrier to surf for many years and showed us his favourite break near the Okiwi airstrip, and on the roadside we stopped by a low-growing and flowering Puawhananga or New Zealand Clematis. Scarce on the mainland due to opossum predation, this was the first time many of us were able to get close to this beautiful plant.
Okiwi Passion Organic Farm
But the most interesting stop was where we met Gerald and Catie Endt, they have been running Okiwi Passion Organic Farm for 14 years and gave us a wonderful talk as we walked around their gardens. All their produce is grown for local consumption, they deliver food boxes of their micro-greens, fruit and vegetables to residents all over the island, and host garden tours to raise funds for the local Aotea Heath Centre.
We were fortunate to arrive just after the completion of their new green-house. It shows how much the community values their business in that a large part of the cost of the green-house construction, was raised by crowd-funding from within the local community.
We also gained some fascinating insights about life on the island. Freight and fuel costs are very high, (petrol is $3.17 per litre) and while there are no opossums on the island, rabbits are a major pest, as are feral cats and the Kiore or Polynesian rat.
There is no water or reticulated power supply so everybody is off-the-grid. High sunshine hours mean Great Barrier Island is a world leader in the use of solar technology, but water conservation is also important, especially in periods of low rainfall when it is not possible to buy a tanker of water to fill your empty tanks.
The visit to Okiwi Passion is sure to be a hit on the tour.
Great Barrier Island Pictures - Day 3