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Bill and Sue nearly fish food!

On our way to the broken isles

After our hiking we decided we needed some R&R, for a change!  We left Kaiaraara bay and motored back towards the Broken Islands, a group of islands off the west coast of Barrier island.  We had planned to visit them with Norsa but as it had been raining that day we had continued onto Smokehouse bay.  We tucked ourselves up inside an inlet off of Rangiahua island.  We had the beautiful anchorage to ourselves. 




Our position on 18th February

36º 13.5 south

175º 18.4 east

Our view from the cockpit

The water clarity was amazing and, for a change, warm.  We could see fish swimming around under us so decided to have a snorkel.  We didn’t stay in too long because we got cold quickly but in about 20 minutes we saw a small turtle, 7 stingrays and lots of edible fish.  We went back to the boat and I got the fishing line out with the snapper rig to try and catch one.  I carefully threaded a bit of squid bait on the hook and wrapped it round and round in bait elastic.  I hate this because it goes all squiggy not to mention that it stinks.  I took the dinghy in close and dropped my hook. 

Camomile tucked up in amongst the rocks

The water was so clear I could see the snapper taking the bait but they were too small, they have to be 28cms long otherwise they have to go back.  I kept pulling it away from the little ones but the big ones were nowhere to be seen.  The greedy wotsits managed to eat my bait without taking the hook!  I started again and tried 3 times but each time the little ones came and snaffled my bait so I gave up.  I went back to the boat and Bill decided that he would bring his superior fishing skills to bear. (He added this bit!!!) A wait and a moderate amount of swearing resulted in not a single bite so I didn’t feel so bad.  We’ve yet to catch one of these snappers, they are supposed to be delicious but I think the only way I’m going to find out is buy one from the supermarket!

We left Camomile at the anchorage

The next day was Sunday so we had a lazy day starting with a bacon and egg breakfast.  As we don’t have a car for a Sunday drive we decided to go exploring the bays in the dinghy.  The wildlife here is brilliant.  There was a Cormorant colony on the next island and they were making the most amazing noise.  It sounded like a child screaming and we were relieved to find it was just the birds.  On the other side of the island the water was quite deep and open to the ocean. 

What was lurking in the deep?

On our way back to the anchorage we saw what we thought was a shoal of fish disturbing the surface and decided to go and investigate.  We zoomed straight through it.  As we turned back round we saw a huge fin surface and realised we were in the middle of a bubble net made by a pod of orcas fishing for their lunch. Orca, or killer whales as they are sometimes known are one of the oceans top predators and work together to hunt. Bill realised quickly that they would have no problem turning our dinghy over and might fancy us instead of the shoal of fish we had just scattered. Realising our vulnerability we headed straight back to the shallows.  As I looked back there were 4 Orcas of varying sizes breaching right where we had been.  Nearly fish food, too close for comfort!!

Climbing Mount Hobson – Hirakimata

Mount Hobson in the distance

When we set out for Great Barrier Island we had in mind all the sheltered bays and anchorages our cruising friends had been telling us about but also wanted to climb to the highest point viewing the famous Kauri Driving Dams on the way. It is very possible that this idea came to us whilst under the influence on Norsa but it certainly was not made in the light of any previous experience of climbing a 2037 ft peak through a humid forest. However felt we were in good company as Norman and Sara are both experienced and fit and we had been on bush standard walks over half as long as this in Tuhua.

Norsa had to go

Our position on 15th February

36º 11.0 south

175º 21.7 east

We moved our boats to Kaiarara Bay where the valley leading to the mountain forms an inlet which shallows at its head and dropped our anchors in sandy mud full of hopes that the forecast rain for the following day would not materialise. We awoke to a dark cloudy sky heavy with rain so Sue and I decided not to risk it as 7 hours walking to the peak and back could get really uncomfortable in wet cloths not to mention that the visibility would be poor anyway. The dark clouds then did their thing and it came down in torrents all morning long so we settled into a lazy day. Norman & Sara braved the clearing weather in the afternoon and managed to walk a 3 hour circuit reaching the Kauri dam knowing that they had to leave the island the next day.  They came over to Camomile for a shared supper before leaving the next day.

Off for the shopping across the little streams



The most gorgeous puppy

The following day brought sunshine but was still damp and it seemed to us that the mountain tracks would still be saturated from yesterdays deluge so we decided to walk to Port Fitzoy for supplies. It took us 3½ hours to walk there but a detour on the way via a waterfall track turned out to be more worthwhile than expected.  When I clambered up the jungle culvert towards it I discovered the large pool at its feet to be full of bikini clad young ladies giving diving lessons to their kids. Sue was pleased when we reached the shop to find a 3 month old puppy tied up outside.    




7.4kgs of shopping in a backpack


Our shorter return trip only took 2½ hours but I had over 7 kilos of shopping on my back.







Tramping through regenerating bush

Finally Friday 17th broke clear so we were up and at it, landing our dinghy on nearby Bushes Beach and making our way through the heavily wooded terrain on a loose gravel track. The mountain is located in the centre of the island and various mountain tracks allow relatively easy access to the summit.








The main Kauri driving dam

We had chosen the shortest but steepest route up the Kaiarara track past the sites of two Kauri Driving Dams. This track was posted at 3½ hours and after 1¾ of climbing up steep but very well defined paths with occasional flights of steps we reached the first dam.

Kauri trees are majestic, can grow to an impressive girth and height and can live for thousands of years with the oldest living ones in New Zealand dating back around the time of Christ . Their huge weakness is that they are tall and dead straight. Straight enough therefore as sailing ship masts and easy fodder for the saw mill. Thus the Kauri logging industry was profitable in the island’s early European days and up to the mid 20th century.  However the forests on Barrier Island extended well inland where there was no easy way to get the logs to the sea. Kauri logs were dragged to a convenient stream bed with steep sides and a driving dam was constructed of wood with a lifting gate near the bottom large enough for the logs to pass through. The dam was filled, which might take up to a year, and then the gates were tripped and a massive torrent of water and timber would roar down the narrow valley to the inlet below where they were held in booms before being towed to the Auckland sawmills. The noise of this man made avalanche could be heard miles away and would draw crowds of onlookers but anything standing in the way of the wall of water and logs was annihilated. The logging industry decimated huge swaths of ancient growth so most of the trees we saw around us today were younger native forest and exists due to the efforts of the New Zealand Forest Service who were responsible for planting around 150,000 kauri seedlings in the 1970s and 1980s.

Short rest by a waterfall

We climbed on with some apprehension because the way ahead was steeper still. We need not have worried though because, aside from a few narrow tracks where we had to scramble a bit, it was mostly well laid path, good bridges and increasing flights of steps and walkways. By the time we got to the next waterfall though Sue had already counted 650 steps and we admired the commitment of the DoC people who had managed to haul all this timber up the hill to build tracks for our convenience. We were also starting to understand how hardy these Kiwi bush men (descended from the likes of the 6’8” George Murray whose sons Ivan and Jack were only an inch or so less) really were.  Before we moved on we stopped for a carb and sugar break because we reckoned if we were ever going to burn fat the next hour would be it. By the time we had met a couple on the way down the track Sue had counted 1600 steps but we were pleased to hear that “there were not that many more”. I fear they may have been suffering a rare form of Kiwi altitude sickness (take-pity-on-the-sweaty-poms-itus) for, actually, there were 2540 from bottom to top give or take a few.

Onwards and upwards

Upper kauri driving dam

Up to the last stint it was hard going but was at least broken up by sections of path to help you get your breath back between step sessions. We had a short rest by the remains of the higher Kauri dam which was similar but smaller than its big brother downstream but then came the last 1000 steps which were unrelentingly continuous.







Unrelenting steps into humid jungle


Don’t get me wrong, if the steps were not there we would have had no chance however, we both really felt it. Muscles burning, drenched with sweat and gasping we ascended flight after flight. Part of the problem was that, shrouded with the humid thick jungle like vegetation we had no idea how much further it was to the top. At the count of 2300 Sue stopped having decided that this was not such a good idea with a subtext of “by the way, was it one of mine by any chance”. She looked un-amused so I hastily retreated in the only direction open to me – up.

Two minutes to go

Happily we were on the home straight and met a small sign post that claimed it was only another 2 minutes to the top. It did seem to me at the time that the sign writer was related to the couple we met who were going down and was suffering the same delusion however because 10 minutes later we arrived at the summit trig point to a stupendous view.

We made it!

It had taken us 3 hours (30 minutes less than the prescribed time), I turned around to grab the camera, switched it on and behold, the view was gone, the cloud descended and it rained. Bugger.

Making the best of it we huddled and gratefully munched our sandwich lunch with raindrops dripping from our noses while the worst of it past. 20 minutes later the view was back and we could see at least 30 miles or more. Right across the Coromandel to the mainland with the island spread beneath our feet like a forested bedspread. It was great.

Going once ....








Going twice ....









View from the top reappears








A long way down


After just ½ hour at the summit we started our descent. James, our eldest, had warned me that I would find this hard on my knee injury and he was right. But we retraced our path down the mountain and, as we made our way, the weather improved so, facing downhill we were treated to vista after vista through the overhanging trees. At last the steps stopped and we were back on the gravel track on more level ground so by the time we reached the final bridge it felt like the home straight. 30 minutes later we reached the dinghy and though we had started to suffer sore feet were really rather pleased with ourselves that we had managed a 7 hour walk in just 6. Not too bad for old duffers eh?

Glimpses during the descent

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