>Aotea (Great Barrier Island)

>We took a three day trip out to Aotea, or Great Barrier Island.
Day 1 – Got up early and walked down to the pier to catch our ferry to the island. As we walked, we kept seeing people with numbers pinned to their shirts. I asked a typically friendly Kiwi if there was a run today. Apparently, I missed the Auckland Marathon. They also had a half, quarter and 5k. Bummer. We got to cheer on the runners on our way to the boat. We got on board with quite a few different characters including a nice Kiwi couple, white trash family that let their dog pee all over, and a couple from a country that we couldn’t place the language. It began very sunny which gave my forehead it’s first mild burn. (I should have listened to the Department of Conservation ranger when he recited all the pertinent information for Northern Hemisphere people about how much stronger the sun is here.)

Almost 5 hours later, the dolphins guided into the harbour near the small town of Tryphena on GBI.
We heaved our loaded backpacks on our backs, and headed down the only road. We weren’t sure exactly where we were headed. We had no reservations anywhere, but thought that we wanted to camp somewhere near the beach. 10 minutes into our walk, the nice Kiwi couple from the ferry pulled up and offered us a lift into Tryphena.

The town consisted of a couple buildings and an Irish pub. We walked past all of it and headed to the other side of the island for a place called Medlands Beach. We knew that there was a campsite and a beach. Sounded perfect. My guess is that it’s about 10k to Medlands Beach. The road climbs about 300 meters. As we neared the top, a lively local stopped and offered us a ride. He told us that his wife works on the golf course twice a week and he was on his way to pick her up. (He was very friendly.) He introduced himself as Buster and was very proud to show us how beautiful his island is. He has lived here for 30 years and said that he recently returned from Auckland. “Holy Hell” was all that he could say about it. GBI has about 1,200 residents. Auckland has 1.2 million.

We set up our tent, the weather was nice and we made some food. Then we went out to explore Medlands Beach. We didn’t see another person on the beach all day.

Day 2 – We woke up today with nothing to do. What a great feeling. After making tea, eating some fruit and nut bars, we walked along the road to see what was out there. We walked for about an hour to the next beach (Kaitoke Beach) where we sat down and ate sandwiches. Kaitoke Beach was much longer than our beach, Medlands. We walked back to our camp and were picked up along the way by a friendly, but a bit smelly construction worker, Tobias. We haven’t been hitchhiking yet, these people are so friendly, that they see you walking and just ask if they can take you somewhere. After such a strenuous morning, we crawled into our sleeping bags and took a long nap. Then we got up and made some dehydrated mashed potatoes and walked along the beach again. Mind you, this isn’t like the beach in Hawai’i that I am used to, we wear all of our layers and I still haven’t touched the ocean since we got here. (We saw a stingray and giant jellyfish within 3 meters of each other and Medlands Beach the first day that we arrived!)

We found a bench that overlooks the the ocean so we sat and had our tea there this afternoon. There was a half dozen people on the beach today. We had to pass some of them twice as they were walking the length of it as well. Being so crowded (it’s only 2-3 km long) we retired to our campsite (we are the only people there) and made some tortellini. We found in the grocery store pouches of food that are already made and just needs to be heated. We boil some water, place the foil pouches inside and 5-10 minutes later, we have decent food! Tonight was two kinds of tortellini, one with mushrooms and bacon, the other with sun dried tomatoes and bacon.I guess they like their bacon here. The ferry ride back to Auckland is supposed to take twice as long as we stop by another town on the island first, Port Fitzroy.
Day 3 – We tried to lighten our packs by eating as much food that needed to be cooked as possible. That means that breakfast consisted of more mashed potatoes and some chicken satay flavoured ramen. We began our walk from Meldands Beach back to Tryphena. A nice Japanese woman that has been living on GBI for five years picked us up (these people are so friendly and talkative) and gave us a lift to the “city centre”. It consisted of a post office/tourist shop, a general store (we picked up supplies for PB&J), and an awesome cafe that had french toast to die for. We hung out drinking tea until it was time to catch the ferry. We gave ourself an hour, but it clearly wasn’t going to be enough time to get there. Luckily, our our friend Tobias (not so smelly today, construction worker) came flying by in a huge truck and picked us up. Like a roller coaster he flew to the port in a truck that took up the whole road. We only clipped another vehicle once, but he got us there on time. Mojdeh has more faith in people, but I think that he was still on the same meth high from the last time we saw him. Either way, we were safe on our ferry. I will spare you the details as this post drags on, but the weather got better as we left, dolphins popped up from time to time to show off, and the ride was nearly 12 hours. We did meet a nice Swiss couple that has just finished studying law here in Auckland. Now we need to get some more food, fuel, and a map. Tomorrow, we walk north.

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