Great Barrier Island Car Day
Aotea (Great Barrier Island)
I knew we were being watched as soon as I awoke to the sound of squawking Kaka. Someone or something was aboard with us. Looking up from where I lay in bed the very beady eye of a red beaked seagull standing on top of the bimini was peering in at us through the rectangular crack made by the open hatch cover and its frame. I report this because it kept looking in, looking away and then looking back at me. “Come on lazy bones, time to get up.”
Our little white car had a rear seat passenger in the form of a punctured wheel, taken from another hire car. We had volunteered to drop it off at the garage in Claris for its repair, secretly in the hope the man might drop a little off the exorbitant cost of the daily hire rate. He didn’t.
It was 8.00am and we were going to make the most of every dollar spent. The key was left under the front seat and the tank was full, all ready for us. The owner lived 30 minutes away up a gravel track and the island was as safe from theft as places we know used to be when I was a lot younger.
After dropping off the wheel we ventured into the little Milk, Honey and Grains Museum where the displays were housed in three wooden garden sheds linked together. I will let the photos speak for themselves. The curators clearly had well developed senses of humour.
Had we not been thwarted in our plans by the distant and approaching Cyclone Hola we would have anchored in Tryphena Bay, the wide bay near the southern tip of the island, ready to head off to the Mercury Island area and on down the Coromandel Peninsula, so we visited by road instead. The car ferry cat came in as we watched and some folks debunked into fishing boats for a few hours of relaxation. A sizeable artic drove off the ferry, “No way,” I said, looking at the short tight bend at the far end of the shore road.
Much smaller lorries pulled up alongside and started transferring his load.
The day was beautiful and we sat at a shaded table overlooking another bay for lunch in the company of some very pretty Banded Rails (Mohu Pereru and sparsely distributed).
The tyre would not be repaired for us to take back to Fitzroy because the mechanic hadn’t turned up.
At remote horse shoe shaped Whangapoua Bay there is a very big and old Pohutukawa[rw1] Tree. Within its shade are two neat white picket fences (a favourite form of fencing of the Maoris as well as the Europeans) surrounding the unmarked mass graves of some of the 120 souls who drowned when the S. S. Wairarapa was wrecked through a serious navigational error in 1894. The Maoris helped with the respectful burial of the unfortunate folk.
On the beach just beneath the graves was the body of a little blue penguin which I photographed simply so you could see what they are like. They have had a very poor year with the king tides and storm surges flooding their burrow nests so that there are virtually no young in the area this year. But then hopefully nature can recover from such hard times.
We explored the far end of the beach, watched a wet suited family playing in the surf and lay back and relaxed. White ringlet rollers kissed the beach with a sigh after their long South Pacific crossing. Autumn leaves were falling from our Pohutukawa and I spied Sacred Kingfishers darting purposefully here and there when I did open my eyes.
Our last stop would be at the Motairehe Marae where Maori families still live and Pakeha (descendants of Europeans) appear to have been accepted. An idyllic (in good weather) estuary where a handful of black haired children, fresh back from school, climb around the play area.
We had nine and a half hours exploring and returned to Zoonie ready for refreshment, relaxation and another couple of episodes on the Sopranos, care of Jonty and Jenny. The blow we knew was coming our way had now been given a name, Cyclone Hola.