Monday, December 19, 2011

The Wangapeka Track. 3rd -10th November 2011

There is a track winding back to an old fashioned shack called the Wanga-peka Track.

And so five Australian Bushwalkers set out on a walk in the Kahurangi National Park at the top end of the South Island of New Zealand. Almost due West of Nelson, starting near Matariki and finishing at Little Wanganui on the coast north of Westport.

The weather forecast did not look good but you have to take what you are given. Any other time I would have sat in town and played tourist but this time I was a guest in the party and the others were keen walkers ruthlessly led by Captain Wassenberg. Even the name sends shivers down my spine. Guess I just got a little slack in my old age and expanding girth.

The shuttle bus left Nelson at 7.30. That’s 7.30 in the morning. I must have looked silly climbing in the bus in my jim jams. At least I could change on the bus. Peter, the driver was a very knowledgeable tramper himself with reams of information on the area we were to visit. He was taking us in to the start of the Mt Owen Track and the Wangapeka Track but 8km before the end of the road the Dart River causeway was flooded and a little risky too drive across so we disembarked and had a extra 8km to hoof before the trip actually started. As the weather forecast was lousy and Mt Owen was the highest peak in the northern sector and in theory we were 2hrs late because of the extra walk we decided to leave Mt Owen for another day or should I say 3 days.

We started the Wangapeka Track at Rolling Junction at 11.15 am and reached the Kings Creek Hut at 3.15 pm. The walk follows the Wangapeka River and me assuming the river was flat with just a little downhill to make it flow envisaged a easy walk in to the hut like walking into Aspiring Hut.

Silly me. The track does follow the river but there were lots of little ups and downs. The track not the river. And me being as unfit as I was, then those littlies turned into bigs. Most of the walk in was in rain, not enough to justify rain gear but either way you would have got wet. Rain from the outside or sweat from the inside. Never the less when I got to the Kings Creek Hut I was buggered and my wonky knees were screaming.

The party consisted of 3 Redlands Bushies, Captain (Super fit) Wassenberg or if you were game enough Sir or just plain Ted. Russell who was also very fit and it helped that all he carried was a handkerchief cut in half for equipment. And Rob, who thankfully also had deteriorating knees. Two YHA Bushies, Kerry, who was a little new to this game, could walk fast but had not yet learnt to pace himself and old blubber guts me, could pace myself but it did not seem to help with enough food on board to feed a regiment for a month in case it was necessary.

Kings Creek Hut. 4th November

Late yesterday afternoon was fine but the rain started about 4am this morning. Our plan was to walk up to Kiwi Saddle Hut which was an off shoot off the main track and was up on the tops of the ranges. But there was a creek to cross and that would have been flooded. On our walk in yesterday we met a tramper walking out who was stuck in Kiwi Saddle Hut on the other side of the stream for 2 days waiting for it to go down. The catch was he had to walk down from the hut for 3hrs to find the stream was flooded and then had to walk back up to the hut again for the night.

So here we sit in Kings Creek Hut waiting for the weather to clear. We could not move on to Stone Hut as there is a very large party of American Outdoor Education people camping there for the night and the hut only holds 10. Here we have a 20 bed hut all to ourselves. We just sat around with “I remember the time” and “back in the good old days” stories.

1.30pm and all's well. I never realised how much fun you can have sitting in a hut with no library. Kerry for instance is not noted for his powers of observation but came up with a profound statement “The rains coming down now.” He meant the rain is a little heavier than 5hrs ago. Rob was measuring the angle of inclination of the falling rain. Mainly down. But at different times it was at different angles. I decided to have some lunch as my pack was too heavy because of the excess food. So for lunch I had a charming little combination of cheese slices, Swedish salami and dried tomato in pesto in a wholegrain tortilla wrap. Not much reading matter, only two magazines. One of them I never got to read as it was very popular. I think it was a porn magazine called “Forest and Bird”. The other was a South Island accommodation listing. In these conditions King Creek Hut seems pretty good and a hive of exciting activity.

Captain Wassenberg just kept pacing.

Kings Creek Hut. 5TH November.

6.30am and alls well. Except it’s snowing. Not really heavy snow but enough to leave frozen clumps of snow on the grass. We are at 480 metres elevation here.

We started walking at 8.30 am heading for Stone Hut, had a quick look at the historical Cecil King’s Hut and then onwards crossing Luna Stream on the slippery ice covered swing bridge and then another swing bridge over the Wangapeka River arriving at Stone Hut at 11.30am in sunshine. We were walking alongside a lovely stretch of river with its deep gorges and waterfalls but becoming flat as we approached Stone Hut.

There was 4 DOC track clearing fellas staying there and our 5 made it quite cosy in the 10 bed hut. Two young Czech girls just passed through going the other way stopping long enough to have a cuppa and some soup, they had just walked up the Karamea Valley and then stayed in the Trevor Carter Hut for a day to dodge the weather that had us idle. Trevor Carter Hut being a day and a half further up the track that we were following. These little lassies were in a hurry to get out as they had work lined up so they took a short cut over the Biggs Tops which at this stage was covered in snow and another700 metres higher than we were. They seemed to know what they were doing but their plastic shopping bag gaiters had me wondering. They were certainly braver than me.

Stone Hut is in a lovely position, the river just in front with a Blue Duck preening itself just opposite.

I fell in the creek while trying to cross it for a photo. With the sun out it was not a big problem. And all of a sudden it started to snow again. Talk about Melbourne weather. All the while the DOC blokes were out there somewhere clearing the tracks. They sure do earn their money.

Stone Hut. 6th November

Left Stone Hut at 8.40am heading for Helicopter Flat Hut at 730metres high but we had to walk over the Wangapeka Saddle at 1020 metres high. We got to the saddle at 10.20am. The weather looked sort of reasonable so we altered our plans and decided to go over the Biggs Tops to the Trevor Carter Hut knowing full well the Tops had a good covering of snow from the previous two nights of snow. This was the way the two Czech girls had come the previous day.

Walking up to the Wangapeka Saddle the track had snow beside it all the way. To get to the Biggs Tops you leave the Wangapeka Track at the saddle and head up another 300metres to the treeline, walking in snow all the way.

We geared up and started following the snow poles sidling around a ridge in snow 300 to 600mls deep. Going was slow with one of the party not familiar with these kind of conditions, and the weather appeared to be changing so we bailed out and retraced our steps back to Wangapeka Saddle. It was good fun and a little different to what we would have expected. We stopped beside a creek at 1pm and had our customary 15min. lunch hour.

Captain Wassenberg had a heart after all.

We then headed down to Helicopter Flat Hut following the Karamea River. It was good going initially except for a detour around a big land slip and when we got down to the river there is a couple of wet boot crossings and then slow going due to little ups and downs to get around rocky bluffs bordering the river. We arrived at Helicopter at a tired 5pm. The 10 bunk hut all to ourselves as the American Adventure group which were there were camped in 3 and 4 man tents. I do not know where the women in the party camped.

Kerry had a bath in the creek this evening as he thought he could smell something while the others had bucket baths. I was always told that only dirty people bathe. So that was that.

Helicopter Flat Hut. 7th November.

As per usual Ted was up at 5.30am stuffing around but the rest of us did not move a muscle till 7.30am. It takes will power. Today is a easy day, time and distance wise.

Left Helicopter at 9 for the Trevor Carter Hut via the Lost Valley. A very pretty walk, made better by the fact we had sun and blue sky. Arrived at 11am. Beautiful modern hut and a excellent situation. The crystal clear Karamea River out the front door and a great view up the Taipo Valley where we head tomorrow. The more intellectual minds in the party spent the afternoon throwing rocks in the side creek so they could cross without getting their tootsies wet. They could have walked upstream a couple of hundred metres and stepped across, it would have been a lot faster.

The dumb ones, Kerry and myself, sat in the hut looking at the view.

Then the tranquillity was pleasantly disturbed by a visit of an angel. A female angel, albeit grubby. The advance scout of a group of 5 angels. This was a party of local young mothers who abandon their partners and off spring once a year to do their head clearing exercise. They had arrived at the hut via the Biggs Tops. That was the way we attempted the previous day and backed off. They had a lovely sunny day but melting snow to contend with. They breed them tough in NZ. (Except one was a pom but she has been forgiven.) Great night, great company.

Trevor Carter Hut. 8th November

The long range weather forecast did not mention yesterdays beautiful day but they did say today was going to be rain. Not to be confused with showers which is a different proposition altogether. Rain means you are going to get wet.

We left the Trevor Carter Hut at 8.10am which is early by our standards and headed for Taipo Hut up the Taipo Valley. If Captain Ted had his way it would be 6.10 but 4 against 1 are strong odds. The reason for leaving early was to try and dodge the rain and it was only a 2 ½ hrs walk if you read the signs. Unfortunately, most walkers are pretty dumb and can not read as we took 3hrs like most people who do this walk.

We just got in to the Taipo Hut and out of our wet gear from the showers when it started to bucket down.

There was 5 soggy ladies out there somewhere on our tails. By the time they arrived we had the fire going, clothes line strung up and water boiling for a cuppa. We all took over the hut, which sleeps 16, and ate, drank and talked for the rest of the afternoon. Walking does not have to be painful. Tomorrow is a big day. Taipo Hut is at 700metres and to get to Bell Town Mananui Hut at 250metres we have to go over the Little Wanganui Saddle at 1100metres.

I am glad we did not have to go over the Big Wanganui Saddle wherever that is.

Taipo Hut. 9th November.

5am. Heard a Kiwi call at Taipo Hut. Set off at 7.40am for Little Wanganui Saddle in fine weather with mist on the mountains and down below the saddle, but with little sun. Arrived at the saddle at 9.15am. Very pretty spot with a large tarn and good picture opportunities. Headed down into the valley towards Bell Town Mananui Hut, a steep down and hard on the knees through some lovely moss forest. Morning tea just before Wangapeka Bivouac at 11 and lunch at 12.30 just before the Tangent Ck. Bridge. Captain Ted relented and allowed us 16min. for lunch.

The track on this side of the range is much rougher and the flora lush. Slow slog over tree roots and rocks arriving at the Bell Town Mananui Hut at 3.20pm. Starting to rain and a little worried about the 5 girls behind us. Sigh of relief when they arrived 2hrs behind us, wet as shags and all smiles. A good night. Five blokes and five girls in a 10 bed hut. Drinks, jokes and tall tales. Great company.

Bell Town Mananui Hut. 10th November.

Last day. 7.40am left the hut for a 3hr. walk out to the trail end. Followed the river most of the way along a very wet track from all of last night’s rain and just before the end of the track I stopped. Imagine when one dies and you go to your version of heaven, you would hear angels singing. Well I was standing on the side of the track and even with my hearing difficulties and imagination I could hear singing. A lady with a beautiful voice was singing some form of opera. I did not think I was dead although I probably felt like it but off in the distance somebody was playing music and it was opera. Wonderful experience for the end of the walk. Civilisation.

Thanks as always to Ted for doing all the work organising the Wangapeka Track walk and to the company of Kerry, Russell and Rob and to the 5 Takaka ladies for a memorable trip.

Love Lance.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tongariro Northern Circuit

The two fat blokes and their entourage (minus a couple from GBI plus an extra picked up along the way) departed at 7:15am on a misty moisty morning from the hostel at National Park along with about 20 others who had all stayed at the Hostel the previous night. After a short drive we were deposited at the trail head at Mangatepopo. There was already a steady steam of walkers that had been deposited by other buses heading off. There was only our group and one or two others with large packs doing the 3 or 4 day circuit, all the others were doing the Tongariro Crossing regarded as the best day walk in New Zealand.

Most of our group have walked in a wide range of weather conditions over many years and we were more than a little surprised by the lack of equipment and water that most of the day walkers were carrying or not carrying. The weather for the day itself did not look all that fine but still there was an apparent lack of gear.

The landscape reminded me of Scotland (not that I, as the poor member of the two fat blokes team, have ever visited that exotic land) and, as it turned out later, the purple flowers scattered amongst the rocks and coming and going from view with the cloud whipping past was heather, Calluna vulgaris, imported to remind the poor British souls of their beautiful homes that they had left behind. It is now a rampant weed within the National Park

After a short walk we came to the turn off to Soda Springs which we all visited. It was then up and more up as the track climbs up the saddles where for those keen walkers you can detour to the summits of Tongariro and/or Ngauruhoe. Two of our group, with too much energy, decided to peak bag Tongariro. We more sensible people headed over the crest of the ridge, about 1860m, to get out of the cold wind and to the great views of the red crater and for a spot of lunch. To sit there for a 30-40 minutes and watch the changing views of red crater and Ngauruhoe with the wind whipping the clouds past was a wonderful thing for a person who has no active volcanoes, and their barren landscapes, anywhere close to their home.

The descent down the loose volcanic scree slope was quick and easy. A stop at the Emerald Lakes with the earth close by emitting a constant stream of sulphurous gases was interesting. The others headed along the track to Blue Lake while I cut across the valley floor to admire the parallel runs of solidified lava flows. Very interesting photography. After getting back on the track and meeting up with the others at a high point over looking Blue Lake we headed down the never ending ziz zag track to our accommodation for the night, Ketetahi Hut.

A good night with an interesting mix of people from around the world and informative DOC Ranger/Hut Warden.

The next morning, we had to climb some 300ms meters back to Blue Lake which was a bit disappointing after losing that height the previous day the day. Lance, the other half of the two fat blokes’ famous team, had organised the itinerary and did a fantastic job. Due to the completely different weather conditions we had the opportunity to see the Red Crater with a backdrop of Ngauruhoe which we had only seen fleeting glimpses of the previous day. I headed back up the loose scree slope, the others thought that was pretty strange after already going up some 300m from the hut but it was a once a life time chance to see the different two faces in two days.

After sitting up there for half an hour or so I descended back to the track junction at Emerald Lakes to find the group had headed of to Oturere Hut for lunch. It is a very interesting walk though lava flows before descending a nose of one flow to a valley floor. You must stop regularly on your descent and take in the changing views of Red Crater and Ngauruhoe. Wonderful constantly changing vista.

I arrived at the hut at 13:00 for a welcome cup of tea and some rejuvenating food. We departed the hut at about 14:00 and headed for our night’s accommodation at Waihohonu Hut. We arrived at this very large and brand new hut after another varied and interesting walk at about 5:00 pm, enough time to set up our bunks, brew up a cup of tea and have a wander around outside to take in the new vistas of the mountains.

Waihohonu Hut reminded me a little of the new Windy ridge hut on Tasmania’s Overland track, large, modern well built with too much space. Both huts have very large kitchen dining areas that lack the crowded intimacy and group conversations that the older smaller and consequently crowded huts seem to generate.

Last day’s walk passed the original Waihohonu Hut which is a lovely historical hut. After that it really was a bit of a trudge all the way back to Whakapapa Village, particularly the last 2 hours along the newly “hardened” track from the turn off to Tama Lakes.

A quick bus ride back to the Hostel at National Park and then an easy 2 day drive back to Auckland completed another varied and interesting walking trip to New Zealand’s North Island.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Two Fat Blokes and Friends - NZ revisited

We have reached the stage now where Greg and myself are fairly well known in the celebrity world. Our travel writing career is booming though our royalties from our books and CD's have not started rolling in yet so we are still short of funds and unable to pay off our credit cards from our last excursion.

People jealous of our fame keep suggesting we should put something back into the industry in view of the large amount of money we will make out of our travels. To this end we decided to help some less talented individuals and run a course teaching others about eating, travel, eating, photography, eating and journalism. And eating.

As we have not received our financial windfall that we so richly deserve, we decided to again visit the land of our recent success. New Zealand. Because it is cheap.

Besides Greg and myself, the class consisted of six others. Three gentleman and three ladies. It was quite obvious the three gentlemen had done some early training for the trip as they too were of ample girth. But the ladies were like rake handles, to use a phrase from my dear old Dad. Talk about skinny. Boy did they have lots to learn about the gourmet culture.

On the flight home from our last trip, I was reading articles to Greg out of the New Zealand paper to entertain him. One was about Great Barrier Island and I thought, beauty, Great Barrier Reef, which can be our next trip. But it turns out Great Barrier Island is a part of New Zealand. First it was Russell Crowe, then Kiwi Fruit and now one of our islands in the Great Barrier Reef. Next thing you know they will be sending apples to Australia.

It seems Great Barrier Island or "The Barrier" to the locals is eighty kilometres north east of Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf and is like New Zealand used to be before we snuck our soft, furry, cuddly little possums over there. Teach them for pinching our Kiwi Fruit.

We did our homework on the Island and then planned our adventures. Our chosen place to stay was a small house on a rural property in the vast metropolis of Okiwi which is in the northern part of the island and central to the tramping area and the pub. The house was called "Island Stay". Three bedrooms, kitchen, dining come lounge area and a lovely verandah to sit and chat. And eat. It even had a toilet and the best shower. Plenty of steaming hot water, gravity fed from a tank way up in the hills. It had so much pressure you could not even think while in the shower. Wasn’t fancy, but quiet and relaxing. Could even hear the booming surf at night. Nine out of ten for the house, eleven out of ten for the shower.


For our first lesson, Greg was going to teach the class about Tramping. This is imperative for travel writers with no money.

Our first trip was the Harataonga Coastal Track 21. The locals said we made a great first up choice as it was flat. Number one rule to our class was never believe a local. The Barkly Highway is flat, the Nullarbor Plain is flat. The Harataonga Coastal Track is not flat. Although after doing numerous other walks on Great Barrier Is (GBI), in retrospect, the Harataonga Coastal Track might just be a little bit flat.

Because the walk was over twelve kilometres long and following the coast we had to do a car shuffle and started walking early at 9am. Lovely walk on a formed but not necessarily cleared track, similar to some of the Lamington tracks only the trees have these real funny names which most educated Australian people could not pronounce. It did help having three plant people in the party. What is wrong with plain old fashioned “Gum Tree."

Beautiful ocean views and not many ups and downs as the track was an old bridle trail. Bet the women made a mess of their wedding dresses on that trail. Bugger if I know what they would be doing there in the first place. The end of the trail which was the southern end took us over a flat topped hill called a "Pa" which is a old Maori defensive fort. The trail ends at a camping area called Harataonga which is set on a large grassy area near some Mahoe trees, like big Moreton Bay Figs. To get back to the house we then had to do a reverse car shuffle. With twist, for extra points.

Every tramp in the wilderness centres around making correct decisions. You have to know the skills of the mountains and make decisions. You have to work with the rest of your party, experienced and new comers, and then make decisions. And so it was when we had to decide where we were going for dinner that evening. We had sent out an advance party to Cafe Motu, just a short walk up the road. The cafe does not open at night, serving breakfast, brunch or lunch but as soon as our members mentioned Greg and Lance, they willingly agreed to open up for dinner for us that evening. It was obvious our reputation as food connoisseurs had preceded us. Halema and David said they were low on supplies as the barge, with their order from Auckland, had not yet arrived but they would whip something up. Man, is she good with the whip and get your minds out of the gutter. We started with Mussel chowder as entree. Mains were Roast Lamb with potatoes, pumpkin, peas, and beans and as Greg and I were special, to soothe the welts on our backs we were given as desert, Raspberry Shortcake with ice cream and cream using her Grandmothers recipe. Cafe Motu Thurs to Sunday 9am to 4pm. Okiwi. Phone 4290002. If you want a group booking at night. Just inquire and mention Greg and Lance. Five Star.


Was to be our most challenging day, walking wise. The summit of Mt Hobson via the Kaiaraara Track. The party split into two leaving a car at either end of the track with Mt Hobson in the middle. The first party consisted of Ted, a friend of mine from the old bushwalking days and a member of the Redlands Bushies and Anne K from the BBW and QLD Bushies adding the beauty to the party. I joined in with this party to make sure they did not break into a run. We approached Mt Hobson from the Port Fitzroy end. I hope you are taking notes or all this information is available from the DOC Website, Great Barrier Island. NZ.

Absolutely beautiful walk following the creek up under a Manuka canopy in temperate rainforest and then a million formed steps to the summit. Dept. of Conservation ( DOC ) has done a tremendous job and must be congratulated.

The riff raff (other party) approached the peak from Aotea Rd via Windy Canyon, a much easier route but in the early morning light, very spectacular. Taking 2.5 hrs to do the 3.3 km. Both parties met on the summit for lunch and swapped keys and route for the return. A great days walk.

That evening we frequented the Port Fitzroy Boat Club with the classier people having champers and the standard slowly dropping to beer and then Coke. I had to drive otherwise I would have had double Sars. Deary, deary me.

By now the group was getting in the swing of things and you could see they were learning the things that they were being taught. The married couple, Ray and Jill were especially attentive to the extent they often practiced the sleeping in segment of the course that the master Greg had taught. Jill was our quiet one she would just sit and study our notes on eating and do her crosswords.

Ray. Well Ray you could hardly say was a quiet one. He was our walking encyclopaedia . Did you know that Norway gained independence from Sweden in 1905 or that the Spangled Mugwump only had two offspring, because the male would kick any others out of the nest because it practised zero population growth? Fascinating.


After a very strenuous two nights of eating, the team opted for a quiet day. It was not necessary to get up early at 8am like previous days as we were off to Glen Fern Sanctuary.

One of the class was Ann T. For somebody who wanted to learn about the culinary delights she just did not seem to fit in. She was into plants and birds and wet bath mats. If you want a vigorous discussion, ask her what she has against wet bath mats. Then step back, cower on the ground and protect you head. No suits or evening dresses for our Ann, she wore cheesecloth and kaftans and she had this constant rainbow glowing over her head. But she did try, while everybody was eating exotic cereals and mueslis for breakfast, she was cooking omelettes. Poor kid, she will eventually learn.

The trip to Glen Fern Sanctuary was special. It is on a peninsula of GBI that one resident and his neighbours have spent a fortune fencing off from the rest of the island and proceeded to eradicate all the pests. No rats, cats, pigs, stoats, possums and any thing else that the mainlanders so successfully breed.

This has the native wildlife to multiply and a large number of birds to return to the revegetated property. The tour costs $40 each for a 2hr tour, starting with a short explanation in a lecture room and then a drive in a Unimog to the top of the property near a lookout and then a guided walk back through the forest with a walking discussion on all the plant and bird life on the property. Our 2hr tour wandered into 3hrs and Helena our guide was very knowledgeable about all aspects of the property. Recommended.

The afternoon was my choice of the activities and was spent strolling down Whangapoua Beach. Sand hills on one side, surf on the other. No navigation problems, no worries, camera in hand. Needless to say, some of the cretins in the party were at the far end of the beach while Greg and myself were still only half way. At the end of the beach is a creek flowing out of a vast lagoon area full of bird life. Next trip to the island I intend to hire a canoe and have a leisurely paddle. To get back to the house it is necessary to wade across the shallow section and walk back along the road.

Somebody, in a Ray of hope, decided to wade across the deepest section at the mouth of the creek on a run out tide. Upon hearing this I rang information from my mobile for the phone number of the life savers. Did you know the life savers in Chile, South America do not have a phone connection.

Needless to say Ray and Jill survived.

That night some of the galloping gourmets were back at the Boat Club while Greg instructed the others in cooking spaghetti. Then much to his disgust was expected to eat it.

Another of our party was Kerry. While a very good walker and real easy to get along with, Kerry has a problem with heights. He even gets worried reading Playboy because of the exposure. Unfortunately, just prior to the trip he had a pushbike accident, shattered collarbone, bruised ribs and the biggest haematoma on his hip that you would ever want to see. It kind of looks like some of the desserts that Greg creates. As Kerry was walking along the track you would see him wince as he had to take a big step up or down. Just stretching the body past the comfortable. A real trouper. His cooking skills were nonexistent, although he excelled at eating. A very valuable member.


To compensate for yesterdays quiet day we decided to have a even quieter day. Our walk started from the Whangapara Road ( kindly refer to your maps that I know you all have in front of you as this gets complicated ) up the Forest Road, hooked a right into the Tramline Track and then another right down the Hot Springs Track. Or, if you’re technically minded North, East and then South. This took about 3hrs and was Ray and Jill’s choice as they wanted to visit the Hot Springs. Now I know most people think I tell a few fibs but something very strange happened. Greg went into the water. Remember Greg, he is the bloke who did not want to go to Kakadu in the Top End of the Northern Territory in July as the water is too cold. He is the bloke who did not want to walk along the Larapinta Trail near Alice Springs in case it rained and he got wet. And, if he was there, he would not have sunk with the Titanic because he does not like water. He even makes his cup of tea with dehydrated water.

Here he was wading into the hot springs and sitting in the water. I could not get to my camera fast enough. Now I don’t think anyone has ever seen Greg in water. It has just never happened.

So a group of stunned mullet silently walked the hour back to the other car on Whangapara Road. Admittedly the springs were hot water but still. Greg in water?.

That afternoon we visited one of the small settlements called Claris. Claris has two claims to fame. The Airport and the Claris Texas Cafe. There were hamburgers, pies, coffee and all sorts of things that the group gormandised on. While at the cafe, things were even better. (That was a joke. You know, airport, cafe.) Never mind. While the more discerning in the party, namely Greg and myself, satisfied ourselves with Lemon Syrup Coconut Cake and ice cream. Pure class.

Dinner again was at the Boat Club while others practiced their cooking skills under Greg's tuition.


From our house at Okiwi we could see a rocky outcrop high on the range behind us and Ted had a bee in his bonnet that it had to be visited. So just to stop his complaining that was our next trip. Coopers Castle.

And a good thing we listened as it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable walks of our trip. The track to Coopers Castle starts from the road over the saddle between Okiwi (pronounced O - Kiwi ) and Port Fitzroy. Leaving at 8.45am you walk up a ridge on what seems like a Lamington Track (often used but poorly maintained) through the rainforest out to this rocky outcrop called Coopers Castle. A beautiful view with a big drop below us. That was morning tea at eleven. From there we followed a track south to the Mt Hobson - Port Fitzroy track. Lunch was in a lovely rocky creek with flowing, crystal clear water and then back to Port Fitzroy car park at 2.15pm.

Once again we had a beautiful dinner at the Boat Club.

Something very profound was said on that trip. Now consider that after this trip we were off to do the Tongariro Circuit, which is a walk around a supposedly extinct volcano where all there is to look at is barren scree slopes of lava and rock, crater lakes, barren mountain peaks and not a tree, bush or blade of grass in sight.

Also consider that we had a group of greenie, tree hugging birdos who were always wandering along behind comparing leaves and bark "This leaf has rolled stipules and is alternate, is the domatia convex and the stipules opposite?"

You can imagine the conversation.

Well after walking along for days and putting up with this inane chatter. One of our fitter and more walking oriented made a comment.

"One good thing about the Tongariro Circuit". That was all that was said and I understood perfectly.

I promised I would not reveal who said that in case that person got busTED.


This was our final walking day. We decided to do the Kiwiriki Track. Once again we start from Port Fitzroy and walk past the turnoff to Kaiaraara Hut and on to Bush’s Beach and then following the west coast only slightly inland, up and over several ridges and crossing a couple of rocky creeks with crystal clear water. After 4hrs the track comes out at Maungapiko on the Forestry access road we were on during the Hot Springs walk. A short trip up to the Maungapiko Lookout and a late lunch at the turnoff. From here it is a vehicle track walk of 2km back to Port Fitzroy. Very similar to some of the forestry roads on Mt Glorious, crossing streams in beautiful rainforest.


As per usual, we were up bright and early. Well this day we were. One out of seven isn’t bad. Greg wanted to get more photos of Windy Canyon in the early morning light and we wanted to show Kerry the area as he was ailing on the day of that trip.

Having done that, some of us retired to the Cafe Motu for breakfast. As you do.

We had coffee and pancakes and berries and cream and - - - - - - - . Sorry, I got carried away.

On a trip like this it is the characters on the Island that makes it so interesting. Like the lady who sells the fuel at Claris carrying out a running discussion with her customers as they flit in and out. Like Kerstin and David of Island Stay . David goes for a surf when he feels like it but like in other small towns holds down four different jobs to keep busy. There is the lovely couple running Cafe Motu, Halema was helping DOC on various projects as well as being the a'la carte chef at the Cafe while Alan runs a small nursery supplying and planting trees for other rehabilitation projects and is the chief waiter and bottle was here at the cafe. One of my never to be forgotten memories is being served my pancakes by this gentleman dressed in his T-shirt, tartan board shorts and full length gum boots and the wild and woolliest hair do you will ever see. Looked like Einstein on valium. But nevertheless, highly entertaining and very knowledgeable about the Island and its flora and fauna. A real bushie.

You just have to slow down and talk to whoever takes your fancy. They all have a story.

The rest of the morning was pack and catch the ferry back to Auckland. Leaving the Island amongst a few light showers. The first rain of the trip.

The interesting thing about travelling in a group is their various outlooks on life. Jill and Ann for instance were always doing their crosswords when back at the house. Personally I find crosswords boring, but all the others joined in so it says something about the intelligence of the people in the party. I felt like a leprechaun in amongst a group of intellectual giants. Greg likes to read the paper. Ted was always looking at maps. Ray was discussing things with anyone who would discuss things back. Kerry just sat there and groaned from pain from his bike accident. Anne was the quiet one, she would toss in her two bobs worth and then blend in with the group and keep a low profile.

Me, I would just sit there and pretend I was asleep (except for when he was really asleep ed note) and take mental notes about everybody else.

The thing is everybody got along fine and I think they all had a great time.

Greg and I would like to thank everybody for your company and input to a most successful visit to Great Barrier Island.

There is something else. As a few of you know I have not been well, I visited a Surgeon before I left to go on this trip and I have to go into hospital to have a double operation. The Surgeon said he must first operate to remove my foot from my mouth so that he can get access to see why my tongue is stuck in my cheek.

Love Lance.