A Tale of Great Barrier Island by Gus
For five weeks in June and July 2014 I went with 29 other boys and two teachers from school to Great Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. We were there to learn some new skills, have fun, learn about the community who live there and be challenged.
I flew on to Great Barrier Island (GBI) on a tiny little plane, it looked and felt dodgy. It was a noisy plane so we got given ear muffs. Mr Hall, Aaron and I landed at GBI “international” airport, and drove about 1h to Orama. We arrived at night and put our bags in cabins and went to tea.
We went on two long uphill walks on Saturday and Sunday with just the teachers because the OPC staff were having a break from the girls trip. Coopers Castle was a long, very steep walk with great views at the top. We had to keep away from the edge because there was a big cliff with a huge drop but there was a great view over Okiwi. It was hard to walk up because it was so steep and we had to scramble parts of it. On Monday we had the power and water tour and it showed us that Orama gets their water from a stream and power from a generator because they don’t have mains electricity.
Next Monday we went on our first expedition. My group walked one and a half hours to a bay. We found a big dead mako shark on the beach. and mussel barrels that we kept throwing into the sea and they would float back into shore. We descoverd some good climbing rocks that we scrambled on. We also found some kina it looked like a hard spiky ball but you open it with 2 spoons and there is a mussle like fish inside which Teina ate. Mitchell also caught a rat with his bare hands and strangled it to death.
When we got back to Orama it started raining that night. It got really windy and rainy on Wednesday. We practised how to belay then went white water rafting (aka brown water floating) down the so-called stream that became a river. It wasn’t very fun and we got cold, wet and numb and then we had to carry the kayaks back to the trailer .
On Wednesday night at 11:59 pm we were awoken from our sleep and were evacuated to the Orama lounge because there was a big storm. We had to get dressed quickly – luckily I had my waterproof trousers so I pulled them on over my fat pants, grabbed my sleeping bag and rain jacket and followed the adult with the torch – we had no idea where we were going because it was dark and wild. It was tipping it down with rain, my cabin was shaking in the wind. it was kind of scary but not really, it was more exciting than scary. In the morning there was mud everywhere, tractors, trees and a generator were washed out to sea. We sat in Orama lounge all day because it was too dangerous to go outside because of all the debris around.
The next day we helped Orama clean up. My group had the hardest task of cleaning the classroom and gym, which had knee deep mud and took 3 days to get out of the classroom. Then we ripped up the carpet and cleaned the walls. The tables and the couches had been washed from the classroom through the gym and into the foyer on the other side of the gym. I found my student book outside with mud all through it and soaking wet.
My group spent 4 days shoveling mud while group 3 went to Glenfern and got on TV, but luckily TV3 came to Orama for a little bit and we were on TV too. Glenfern is an island wildlife sanctuary that Scott and Emma look after, they are trying to regenerate the native populations of NZ birds and skinks. I found a Chevron Skink buried in the mud at Glenfern; they are very rare and so it was quite exciting finding one.
Shoveling mud was boring but seeing what we accomplished felt great. Orama lounge became our new hang out space which was way cooler than the old classroom. Unfortunately, there wasn’t another gym that we could use.
Sea kayaking was the most challenging activity and I didn’t really like it because we got wet and cold. The day we did it, it was really windy, there were salty big waves and a big swell. We had to turn back because it was too rough – the waves were 3m high they had big white caps and the wind was 50 knots gusting to 65 knots.
I loved coasteering, it was so much fun and I want to do it again. It was epic getting pulled in and pushed out in the swell. I jumped in off some rocks that were 9m high. I did a swan dive off a 4m high rock – I was a bit sore after the swan dive but it was great fun.
My favourite was surf kayaking and I really want to do it again. It was brilliant catching the waves and getting tipped! I got quite good at it and I came 3rd in competition but I got the highest score of 7.5. We had to different heats and do tricks but it was timed and I lost in the semi-final.
Sailing was fun but scary because we were in the middle of the ocean with big waves and it felt like we were going to flip. I didn’t want to be the first to capsize but once we did, we realised that it was quite good fun and we did it lots! The thing is once you flip you aren’t supposed to stay in the boat or the boat ends up completely upside down. But my partner stayed in the boat and it completely tipped it so then we had to stand on top of the upside down boat to try to get it back the right way up! It was hard but we did it.