21 March 2022

Aotea Again - a Return to Paradise

Once again I've been to a paradise within the paradise we call New Zealand - Aotea/Great Barrier Island - this time with Catherine. This visit was by courtesy of our friends, Don and Helen Burns who have a place overlooking Awana Bay and the coastline beyond that - a really wow panorama.

Awana Bay from the South

We arrived by Barrier Air - a short 30 minute hop from Auckland and spent the first afternoon walking up the beach from their place. Along the way we saw dotterels, oystercatchers and several pateke, the friendly brown teals. It is a delightful estuary with sand hills and an excellent DoC campsite. That evening and thereafter we enjoyed the healthy food and company of our hosts - and later learning the intricacies and satisfaction of 'living off the grid'.

Awana Bay Estuary - Oystercatchers, Pateke and other birds

Day two, after a leisurely start, was spent exploring the Palmer track up towards Mt Hobson- beautiful bush and imposing rock formations. The two old folk found 'walking sticks' useful. Along the way, near the log hauler trestle we met locals working on the track - one of them remembered me from my yachting visit to Fitzroy nearly a year ago. 

Catherine with Don and Helen in the track to Mt Hobson.
There were fern birds up here.

We also enjoyed the company of a pair of fern birds - up in the scrub. The bush on the island, a bit like, I recall, on D'Urville Island, shows the difference of not having possums. We also visited Harataonga, a beach where were delighted to hear stories of thwarted attempts at commercialisation and amusing stories of sham reality survival shows.

For our next trick, on day three, we walked in to the hot springs at the head of the Kaitoke wetlands. Here we bathed in a warm pool to the sound of Kotare chicks who had nested in the bank above us.

To left: View of the Kaitoke Wetlands from the track walk to the hot springs. 

To right:     Bathing in the Kaitoke hot pools. 
                   Photo; Helen Burns

On our last day we visited a mining tunnel with numerous weta on the roof and a beach on a western bay of the island, Okupu. We returned to Auckland and Hamilton (well masked up) replete with hospitality and in a relaxed condition. This island has to be one of the gems of world and it is great to hear of how the locals jealously guard its special nature. Long may it stay the way it is.

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