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Outdoor adventures with William Pike

Great Barrier Island by kayak

 You hear of trips being planned on Sunday afternoons, over a few drinks, at club nights, in a tent, or simply over a phone call. But I haven’t heard of trips being planned whilst in hospital. Back in 2007, minutes before I was wheeled away to the operating theatre to have some minor panel- beating done on the #8 wire holding my left patella together, I said to my mate, ‘we should paddle around Great Barrier Island’.

Extended trips away in the wilderness take considerable time to plan. After weeks of list making, research, and a few get-togethers, it looked like we might actually get to Great Barrier Island. Exactly one year after that operation, we were packed and ready to board the ferry. 

Departing Westhaven, Auckland, it took us five hours to get to Tryphena, on Great Barrier Island. We’d need to be back there in ninedays time to get the ferry home. An easterly 3.5 metre swell was forecast, with the long range weather set to improve. We headed up the east coast first. For two and a half hours I was seriously wondering if we would be able to land anywhere without encountering some massive surf, and breaking ourselves, our kayaks - or both in the process. Good timing between waves and a rocky outcrop for shelter helped us land safely. We had made it! We were on Great Barrier Island, we had the bay to ourselves, a priceless view, and the pounding surf was music to our ears.

As the we ticked the days off and the kilometres stacked up, we were treated to an improving forecast and a reducing swell. Up at 7am, paddle until lunch time, back on the water until early afternoon was our routine. On day five, after paddling for hours in sweltering conditions, we paddled into the flat waters of Haroataonga Bay (Google it). This was a stunning spot, so we made it home for the next two nights. 

The next morning I tiptoed less than 100 steps and dived into the crystal clear water. What a perfect start to a lazy day on the beach. I wandered back to my tent with a deeply satisfying grin on my face. We didn’t see a single person for the next two days. Life was good.

Great Barrier is well-known for it’s fishing and diving. Although we didn’t have any luck with the crayfish, we did alright with the snapper and mussels, night-after-night. With a chocolate pudding desert to top it off, our meals were always fit for a king.

In a touring sea kayak, you can pack a huge amount of gear (around 200L in volume) in the water-tight holds. We took luxuries like; small deck chairs, snorkelling gear, a spare foot (not a luxury for all), basic tramping equipment, tripod/photography gear, large hot plate for cooking, books, fruit, and a pillow – joking.

On day nine we found ourselves back at our starting point. What an achievement, and what a privilege to spend time in such a beautiful place. The Hauraki Gulf is a mecca for sea kayaking. There are countless day trips one could enjoy, or overnighters and extended adventures like this one. If you think sea kayaking might be for you, join a club and learn the do’s and don’t’s before you venture out. Then set yourself a goal, paddle the Te Ara Moana. The translation means ‘the sea-going pathway’.  It is a self-guided five day sea kayak tour along approximately 51km of Auckland’s picturesque south eastern coastline connecting five of Auckland’s charming Regional Parks. 

by William Pike