Are you wondering what life of mountain biker would be like on Great Barrier Island? Auckland MTB went there over Easter to check it out! Thanks Sarah Gilkison for the article.
On the long Easter weekend Naomi, Tad, Simon, Cushla, Alex and I headed to Great Barrier Island for some riding adventures. Our ferry was meant to depart on Thursday evening, but due to the swells from the storm which left Auckland soggy, it was postponed until Friday morning. The swells were still going strong on Friday which made the ferry trip quite exciting. A small Chihuahua was sick a bit too close to Tad’s feet, and a kid was held over the side to throw up, only to have the strong winds blow it back onto the people behind him.
Our first ride was over to the accommodation at Blind Bay. We tentatively left our gear in a pile by the ferry on the promise made by the shuttle man that he’d come back and pick it up later and deliver it to us. Simon worked out a route which took us down a trail from the summit of Rosalie Point Road to Medlands Beach. It was fantastic. About 20 minutes of fairly steep downhill on well drained clay topped with gravel with a few tight switchbacks thrown in to keep the speed down and the trail interesting.
After lunch at Claris-Texas café, rain downpours and road hills, we arrived at our accommodation, the Sunbeam Sanctuary. The sanctuary consisted of a few cabins around a common kitchen/bathroom area and a greenhouse-like geodesic dome, complete with a solar powered sun-drier, dolphins spray painted on the floor, crystals, a wand, and tin foil on the interior walls. We suspect this is where the rainbow therapy went down. We were under instruction to feed the ducks and the chickens, eat veges out of the garden, not to mind the rats too much, and to use the candles when the solar power ran out.
On day two I found a rat had nibbled the mouthpiece of my camelback during the night, yum! That aside, we set off back towards the middle of the island and rode the Te Ahumata Trail. This was one of the highlights of the trip. A clay based gravelly single track climb for about 20 minutes came out of the bush to reveal outstanding views across towards Claris and up the back of Mt Te Ahumata. From there, the downhill was good fun and ended with a set of rideable stairs. The end of this trail takes you to the start of the Forest Road which is apparently a nice ride, but we didn’t have time to do it on this trip. From there, we headed down to Claris where there was a local market and the boys got their fresh cream bun fix.
The ride continued along the road to Awana where the surfers were out enjoying the swell. Up the east coast of the island a bit further we took the right-hand turnoff down to the Haratonga campground where the Haratonga Walkway began. This trail is about 10km long and winds around the headlands north to Okiwi. The views are stunning and the trail a bit more technical. It is narrow and rocky in some places, with some stream crossings. By the end of this trail some of us (won’t name names) were getting a bit knackered so we decided to head back via the road instead of back along the trail. This ended up being a very decent (steep, long, hot) climb up the back of Mt Hobson. We’d run out of water by this point, so some of us filled our camelbaks up from the stream and lived to tell the tale. Another downpour ensued on our way back to base. That night Tad taught us how to play Grass – a pot dealing card game, which seemed fitting at the sanctuary.
Day three involved numerous Easter eggs, expertly hidden by Nomes around the accommodation. Five of us (Simon decided to have a day of R&R and swimming) rode over the road to the start of the Windy Canyon/Palmers Track Walkway up the east side of Mount Hobson. We hid the bikes in a bush and headed straight up about 1000 stairs. The views were outstanding and there are plenty of native birds and plants around. Up to the top and back took around 2 hours 45 minutes. We had planned to swim on the way home but there was another downpour so we headed back to base.
On our last day, we left our bags at the sanctuary to get picked up and delivered to the ferry, while we headed off for a shorter ride. This included a repeat of the Te Ahumata trail, then a ride around the road to Medlands beach for body surfing and some lunch. We headed back to the ferry, our bags were dropped back in the nick of time, and we were off back to Auckland, knackered, but buzzing after an adventurous weekend in one of the most beautiful spots in the country.
I’d thoroughly recommend an escape to GBI for a long weekend trip. There’s much more to do than just mountain biking; there are plenty of walks and the beaches are beautiful. The few cars we came across along the main roads were very courteous, the locals were happy to give advice on places to go, and the walkers on the trails did not seem to mind riders using them too. You just have to plan a bit in terms of taking all your food and gear over as there are not many shops or cafés around, and arranging shuttles can be a bit of a mission given the businesses operate on island time and the phone and internet connections can be a bit dodgy.