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PATHS LESS TRAVELLED Whangaparapara day walks, Great Barrier Island / moderate

had spent hours poring over maps of New Zealand looking for a few day trips on the proverbial track less travelled. Kiwi friends and guide books ticked off all the usual spots, and it seemed the South Island was the sure bet until I spotted Great Barrier Island.

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WILD FILE

Though not entirely untouched, it was the spot. A desire for the removed coastal life would be easily sated at Whangaparapara, but this bustling metropolis with a population of 45 also serves as a point from which to launch day walks or longer backcountry tramps into the Great Barrier Forest, without the traffic of better-known tramping Mecca’s. Across the harbour are the eerie, creaking remains of an abandoned whaling station, a glaring anachronism only a short tramp along the Old Mill Track. Well-maintained tracks abound on the island, so opportunities for multi-day tramps are plentiful. This time we opted for two days of short walks and started with the Wairahi Forest Sanctuary, just west of the harbour. From the harbour headwaters, where the remnants of old wharves and cast iron boilers are reminders of the kauri timber industry, we followed the Pack Track over a stile and turned onto a track on our left which took us high above the pohutukawa-lined shoreline. The track was enclosed by kauri of various girth and age, fern trees and nikau palms. In places, the ground had been ploughed by wild pigs. We were buffeted by wind and light showers as we climbed but the reward was a spectacular view of Mt Maungapiko and Mt Young to the north and the Broken Islands to our west. Around 3am that night, the heavens opened but we stuck to our plans for a second day walking in the Great Barrier Forest. In response to our temerity, the rain continued and the road quickly became a rutted strip in a downpour. Our second walk was an expanded version of the Kaitoke Hot Springs Track. Where the Kaitoke track begins at the main road some 3km from the harbour, we tramped north.The DoC work here is plentiful: solid bridges span the creeks and a long stretch of platform led us over an expanse of the Kaitoke Swamp. With no break in the rain, we traversed the higher portions of the trail towards the Kaitoke hot springs. A check of our bearings confirmed we were in the right spot, but the trails, now inundated despite the erosion measures, were flowing with enough volume to appear streams themselves. We scouted alongside two tributaries and found several pools that had obviously been dammed by previous visitors, but found the water only lukewarm at best. The rain had, in the most literal sense, diluted our plans. Undaunted, we climbed a brief knoll and then made our way down an extremely steep and sodden slope towards the junction of the Tramline Track. We continued west, resigned to and ultimately welcoming the rain’s company. We hooked into the Pack Track and made the circuitous trek back to Whangaparapara Harbour, drenched but satisfied. The next morning as we waited for our flight back to the mainland at Claris Airfield, the stubborn sun finally broke high and clear, and we were content to sit with our backs soaking up the warmth. The perfect silence was broken only by an occasional gust of wind in the swamp and the distant sound of waves pounding Kaitoke Beach. - Craig Carey

Access Whangaparapara Harbour Time Three to five hours Grade Easy to Moderate Map Great Barrier Island, InfoMap Holidaymaker series

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