By coales, Mar 3 2012 05:57AM
Having previously spent several months in Auckland, and with time to kill before heading South, I set about the task of finding somewhere new to discover. The sea surrounding Auckland is littered with islands, some covered in vineyards and homes, others protected nature reserves. However, New Zealand's fourth largest island also lies off of the North Island coast, and this was the one I set out to explore.
Great Barrier Island is home to approximately 750 people and was a rough 4 1/2 hour ferry ride from Auckland harbour. (Take a look for yourself: http://vimeo.com/37574610 ) Needless to say, I was grateful for the effectiveness of my travel pills. Others were less fortunate. I spent two nights on the island, only a brief visit, but discovered a new and breathtaking part of New Zealand.
It's a very simple and rural place, with the odd areas of habitation scattered across the island. Everything else is either lush farmland or seemingly untouched bush and mountains. They don't have possums here, but local newspapers proudly write about the number of ferral cats and Indian Mynahs (a species of bird) shot by local residents in the past few months. Pests remain a constant issue.
Shops and restaurants are few and far between. My first day was a public holiday and consequently everything was closed. Thank goodness for the emergency can of tuna in my bag. The second day, a Tuesday, was little better. Only one cafe opens in the village of Claris (a 45 minute walk from my hostel) on Tuesdays. Everywhere else is open later in the week. Considering the lack of competition, the food was surprisingly delicious!
There is no public transport on the island. So you either walk, drive or hitch. I had always shyed away from the latter option, a risk I had always thought not worth taking. But I was assured it was the way everyone got around. So, after a long days walking (with a break to soak in the natural hot springs of a stream) I decided I would use my thumb! But I never even had the chance to remove my hand from my pocket, as the first car to approach immediately pulled over and offered me a lift. It would appear to be impossible to walk down the road on Great Barrier wothout someone stopping!
Although the quietness of the island was a shock after the hustle and bustle of Auckland, the lack of mobile phone signal and absence of light pollution and noise, made for an idyllic retreat. The beaches have glorious white sand, kaka (a native species of parrot) flap around in the trees and for the first time ever I could imagine giant moa stalking through the marshes in years gone past!