A Tale of Great Barrier Island by Gus

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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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe 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.

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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.teenage boys holding mops as if they were soldiers

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.

great barrier clean up

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. 10502489_242198045974132_7513004355070039754_n

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.

10336627_236232233237380_5175793285606235730_nMy 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.

Nature Watch NZ – The Praying Mantis


We have continued to be fascinated by the Praying Mantis which seem to enjoy our hospitality. Lots of folk we have met dislike them with a vengeance and find them creepy and unnerving. I have to admit that the way they rock and watch can make you feel a little uncomfortable if you study them for long. They have big bulgy eyes on a little triangular head perched on a long neck which makes them look a bit like a bald, inscrutable ascetic monk. (I think its the praying bit that makes me think of a monk!) But they are also quite comical in the way they wobble along on their long legs. We have noted two distinctall good things must come to a end.... shapes of Mantid – one is quite long, straight and flat, the other has a more rounded body and seems to bend more in the middle. We have looked on some websites to try and find out what the difference is – is one male and one female? Are they different species? No definitive answer though. There are apparently two types of Praying Mantis in New Zealand – the New Zealand Praying Mantis and the South African Praying Mantis, but according to the sites we have looked at the only real difference is that the NZ one has a distinctive blue marking

getting a bit chewy now...

behind the front leg. Also the NZ one sits on top of leaves whereas the SA one

hangs beneath them. We haven’t spotted any with blue markings and since most of them we see are hanging from our ceiling or sitting on the table or the shelves we have no idea of their leaf preferences. They are supposed to eat aphids though so worth encouraging them. Anyway – the reason why I started writing tonight is to tell you the tale of our misplaced kindness to our friends the Praying Mantis and the dreadful repercussions that ensued.Look Mum - no head!

Earlier this evening one of the flat, long bodied variety flew on to my knee and so Nigel decided to put it outside, as he went out he spotted another PM of the fatter bodied variety on the window by the door so he kindly put them together. Since our curiosity had been aroused about the different shapes we looked at the websites and then went to look at our PMs to see if they had the blue markings on the fore legs. Imagine our horror when we found the long, flat bodied one in the jaws of the fatter bellied one! Too late for rescue we got the camera out and proceeded to document it’s demise! Attached are some of the photos – if anyone can shed any light onto the reasons for the different shapes please let us know! It may be, of course, that the flat bodied one is the male and the other the female, who is enjoying her post coital snackette!!

mmm - delicious!  What\'s for pudding?

Only the wings to go

The last vestiges

and she ate it all up!