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Great Barrier Island

Monday, 12 February 2007 : Filed under: Great Barrier Island E-Mail This Article

Great Barrier Island
Jimmy’s Grave on Medlands Beach – Great Barrier Island, New Zealand


Comment by josh — February 12, 2007 @ 12:28 am

Great Barrier Island (Aotea in Maori) is located about 80km north-east of Auckland. It protects the east coast of New Zealand’s north island, acting as a barrier of waves and weather, as its name indicates. Great Barrier Island measures 285 square kms and is home to about 800 residents, with only self provided electricity and utilities.

Map: Great Barrier Island

Andy and I left Auckland via the Sea Link ferry destined for Great Barrier Island last Tuesday. The weather was bad, and the sea was worse. The waves were huge, coming over the top of the boat, and the boat was constantly going almost vertical as it went over a wave, and then back down as it prepared to face the next wave. This was not normal, as we would find out later on our calm return trip. Because of the unusually bad weather, we were forced to take an alternate route to Great Barrier. The ferry ride ended up taking us six hours instead of four – five of which I spent below deck trying to fight off sea sickness. Luckily the Sea Link ferry had a nice theatre and was showing The Worlds Fastest Indian, a pretty sweet film about a New Zealand motorcycle racer.

Andy and I had quite a bit of luggage packed, which got a bit wet from the huge waves hitting the open deck of the boat before we managed to move it indoors. We were prepared with food and clothes enough for a week on the island.

When we finally arrived, it was a bit chilly and raining pretty hard, not the tropical paradise we had been expecting. We were counting on public transport to get us around the island, but plans changed when we found out the public bus slogan was “We go everywhere on the island… eventually.” A local later told us that they run busses about every two weeks, and when they run them they run ten at a time. I’m not sure how true that was, but we saw none while we were there. Lucky for us we met a local on the ferry over, and he gave us a ride to the nearest campsite at Medlands Beach.

The area near the campsite was beautiful, even as we struggled to put up the tent in the middle of a downpour with extreme winds. We were a fifty meter walk to Medlands Beach, which is the site of the photo above. The beach was really long, with huge waves breaking evenly along the entire coast. The picture above is a rock formation in the middle of the beach. A sign on top informed us that Jimmy had died on this rock.

I have tons of great pictures of the trip, I will try to post entries one day at a time. I had no access on the island to keep things updated :) .

Comment by Clara — February 12, 2007 @ 2:00 am

Absolutely gorgeous! I’m looking forward to seeing your other photos. What a neat experience. Truly you were roughing it. To spend several days in the midst of the beautiful scenery and so close to the beach…WOW! It seems the spendor of the island was well worth your endeavors (slow boat, sea sickness, hiking) to get there.

Comment by Peg Moore — February 12, 2007 @ 4:40 am

WWWWWWWOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The photo is stunning! And your experiences are AMAZING!!! Just amazing! Like out of a wild-adventure movie! (Except ugh, ugh, ugh about the sea-sickness. I think I would’ve been in tears, especially to hear the trip would be *6* hours instead of 4. Thank God for the distraction of the theater!!!!!) I’m so happy (excited!) for you to be making such rich memories! And I love all the details–love being able to envision you there. THANK YOU! XOXOXOX

Comment by josh — February 12, 2007 @ 12:01 pm

Oh yeah, the boat sailed into Tryphena, so you can see on the map where we came in, and then where Medlands Beach was.

Here is a picture of the ferry boat:
Sea Link ferry to Great Barrier Island

Comment by kriz johnson — February 13, 2007 @ 4:45 am

Thanks for continually posting things Josh, the pictures and comments are very interesting and I enjoy reading them. Just thought I’d drop in and let you know. The island sounds awesome, despite the seemingly horrible trip over there.

Comment by josh — February 13, 2007 @ 9:26 am

No problem man. Hope things are going well back home, and that we will be seeing you guys before too long.

One interesting thing about the boat ride, on the way over Andy stayed up top the entire time. Sometime during the worst of it, a small personal airplane flew in front of the boat and appeared to dissapear into the waves. A while later, a military looking plane flew by as if it was searching for it… pretty wild.

Comment by beth — February 13, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

Julia and I arrived on the island on Thursday. The ride over wasn’t nearly as bad as Josh and Andy’s, but my weak stomach still felt sea sick. Luckily when we got off the boat the Great Barrier “bus” (actually a small mini-van driven by a cheerful local) was there to pick up another passenger. We were able to get a ride to Medlands beach to meet the boys.

From the day we got there until the last day, the weather just got better and better. With the sun out shimmering on the giant blue waves, it really seemed like paradise. The beaches we visited were long with light colored sand (I retrieved a sample:), surrounded by beautiful cliffs and trees. And there was almost no one around! I kept thinking of what a contrast it was to beaches back home, which are usually filled with people and lined with hotels. I think that’s the craziest thing about NZ- there really are secluded places everywhere that are so beautiful and untouched.

We rented a car on GB and drove around the island. The main roads were steap, one lane, and gravel. A “town” meant that there was a store. We visited hot springs and hiked up a mountain. We also saw oyster catcher birds and the endangered dotteral. There are not as many introduced predators on GB as there are on the mainland, so many endangered birds and plants still thrive there. (Some introduced species on the mainland that aren’t on GB include the australian possum that eats through trees destroying native forest, the Norway rat that eats bird’s eggs, goats and deer that also munch through vegetation. There are dogs and cats on the island as pets, but in certain areas they are forbidden because they too catch and eat the native birds and eggs.)

All in all, Great Barrier was pretty far out!

Comment by Adam — February 13, 2007 @ 3:26 pm

Sounds really cool guys! Thanks for the biologist info Beth. Those are the little details that computer scientists seems to overlook ;) . Did you guys encounter any sharks? Was the water warm?

Comment by josh — February 13, 2007 @ 6:22 pm

We didn’t see any sharks but the water was pretty murky on the east coast. The water seemed warm to me, but all the surfers in NZ wear full suits.

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