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.

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..and the wickets came tumbling down!

covers on!Yesterday the boys and I went to see the ODI between England and the Black Caps (Nigel stayed at home as he is a Scotsman and good Scotsmen don’t do cricket!!). We set off on the bus after the boys finished school hoping to get the second half of the match but it had rained properly for the first time we got here, and as we approached the ground people were leaving in their droves! Typical! We come all the way to NZ to see a cricket international and it gets rained off!

super spongeEngland battingBut in true Brit style we sat there and watched the groundstaff working on the rain sodden pitch and the sun started to shine. The PA system boomed out all the weather related music it could find – “It’s raining men…”, “Mr Blue sky”, “4 seasons in one day”, “Here comes the sun”, and so on – you can imagine the rest! Play reccommenced at 6pm with England on 85-2 so things looked promising but in true English style 3 wickets fell in very quick succession and England were on the back foot, the Black Caps were merciless and England were soon all out for 158.

Black Caps supporter!

Aonghas by this time had bought a Black Caps flag and was waving it as each wicket fell! Lachlan bumped into two of his new found school friends – another Lachlan and Abraham. Abraham was sporting a daft England hat as his Dad is English but he soon changed allegiance to the winning side too!

kiwi kids cricketAt the interval there was a display of cricket from the Kiwi Kids cricket schools – loads of Primary aged kids playing which was great to see. Aonghas has signed up to play at school now so we’ll see how he gets on. When play resumed we were treated to a magnificent display of batting from the Black Caps and the banter in the crowd increased between the English and NZ supporters, all good natured but by now quite drunken! More opportunities for flag waving for Aonghas. He was amazed by the vociferous group of young men sporting a variety of fancy dress who heckled every English supporter who went past them! He was particularly worried about the young man who, sporting a rather fetching dress and wig of long flowing locks, made a frighteningly good go at being a woman!!

In the fieldmagnificent batting from the Black CapsThe inevitable happened at around 9pm – a bit earlier than scheduled – when the Black Caps made the run target of 164 with the loss of no wickets in 19 overs! I haven’t been to many cricket grounds but Hamilton seems a very pleasant place – mostly grass banking so everyone sits down with picnics etc and with the sun shining it made a great evening’s entertainment.

sunset over Seddon ParkThere is a full test match here in March so we may have another day out then, who knows?

Aonghas’ ready for school in his hat!
Back to school this morning though and we had to wake two rather tired boys! It is Aonghas’ turn now to have a little crisis of confidence. He was so eager to start school and is enjoying the daily swimming lessons and playing in the brilliant play parks every interval (break) but has realised that he doesn’t have all his friends, and is finding it difficult when the others go off and play in their ready made friendship groups. However, the other boys all seem very kind and are good at asking him to play so I think it will be just a matter of time before he forges some new friendships.

We are now starting to get to grips with the money a bit more and learning to compare NZ prices with each other rather than converting to pounds all the time to compare prices between the UK and here. Looking now to buy a car so we can get further afield at the weekends since there are no buses on a Sunday! Still no news on our house sale so if you know anyone out there who wants a nice house in Ingleton…..!

I am still washing all our clothes by hand as our washing machine is still in a container somewhere on the ocean (hopefully still in a ship!) which gives me something to do during the day apart from writing this, dipping in the pool and reading! The library is a five minute walk up the road so that’s really handy. The sound of the cicadas outside is constant and puts me in mind of mediterranean holidays. praying mantisThere is an amazing array of insects too – loads of grasshoppers, some big black/brown beetle type things about 3 cm long, praying mantis, moths, little green bugs, little bright yellow bugs, spotted shiny bugs and lots of spiders with really long legs. We hear a shriek from Aonghas about once every 10 minutes “Mum, come and look at this….aaaagghh!” He is coming to terms with them but we have to do a bedcheck every night before he will go to sleep! I think I’ll have to get a book from the library to find out what they all are.

Weet-Bix Tryathlon

Today I cycled in the Weet-Bix Tryathlon with Jamie and Mitchell. Mitchell swam and Jamie did the run. We had to get up very early and cycle to the University where we met Jamie and Mitchell. grabbing his bikeAt first it was a bit scary and I didn’t really know what I was doing! There were loads of bikes and I had to wait for Mitchell to tag me after his swim before I could set off. To start off with I couldn’t find my bike but I felt good once I got on my bike and started cycling but then the two people in front of me crashed into each other and I crashed into them! I fell on the grass but I got up and carried on.Gus in Tryathlon

There was a steep hill and I had to get off and push then I got on again and there was another hill – I cycled up it for a bit and when it got too steep I had to get off and push again! When I came into the finish area there was lots of noise and people were cheering the person in front of me but I went faster and overtook them.finishing line in sight

Jamie setting offThen I found Jamie and tagged him so he set off then I ran to the finish line and got a gold medal from Debbie Tanner who is a New Zealand Olympic Triathlete.

Debbie Tanner and Gus

We waited for Jamie to finish his run and then I ran with him to the finish line and had a team photo with Jamie and Mitchell.

all winners! Mitchell, Aonghas & Jamie

Breadhead and Harold the giraffeIt was good fun and I would like to do it again next year but hopefully it won’t rain next year! (It only rained a little bit and was still really warm – Mum!!) Breadhead and Harold the Giraffe were really funny and danced. My number in the Triathlon is 1126C and when they were giving away a bike as a spot prize they said 1127C – I nearly won!!

Aonghas

Barbecues

Our landlords – Colin and Judith – asked us round to their house for a barbecue on Friday evening. Not often that your landlord will loan you their car and invite you round for food! Kids were impressed as they could watch the telly! That’s a luxury that they are learning to do without at the moment.

On the Saturday we had a lazy day at the house then Liz – our relocation consultant – picked us up go for a bbq at her house. Liz has been excellent in everything that she has helped us with and has gone way beyond what her employer would expect her to do – thanks Liz!

Liz and Chas moved to NZ about 4 years ago from the UK so had lots of helpful hints about the transition. Liz has 2 boys, the eldest is Gus’s age. All 4 had a great time in their pool while we lazed about keeping refreshed on NZ white and Mac’s best bitter.

Saturday Eve

Have arranged a going away party at Ingleton Community Centre for Saturday evening. Not been very efficient at getting invites out. Did a joint mail with our Christmas cards but harder to get in touch with folks whose addresses we don’t have. The old caving grapevine doesn’t seem to work as well as it used to so apologies if you didn’t hear about it in time. Lots of you did make it though and it was lovely to see so many folk and we hope you all had a great time too and had a safe journey home. We’re really sorry if we didn’t get the chance to talk very much to you all. We have sat and played back the evening in our heads and think that one or the other of us spoke to everyone, so we hope we didn’t miss anyone. Thank you also for all the kind gifts both for us and the children.

Have uploaded some pictures from the evening to http://www.flickr.com/photos/easegill/sets/72157603851691832/show
If anyone has other photos from the night please send to easegill@gmail.com or add links here in the comments.

We do hope that it’s not the last time that we see all our friends. I’m sure that at some point we’ll come back for a holiday but NZ is a really cool place for a holiday and we’d love to put any of you up if you visit. The only problem you’ll have is not having enough time to see it all!

Saturday Day

House empty, work finished – seems like a good place to start writing this. First of all thank you to everyone for all your kind words, messages, help and meals over the last few weeks We’re staying in a caravan at Silverdale for our last week in the UK. The weather has been pretty wet but there have been some excellent winter sunsets over Morecambe Bay.

Sunset over Morecambe Bay from Silverdale

Today I’ve been spending some quality with my brother while we drive up and down to the tip all day getting rid of the piles of junk and rubbish that even we’re too embarrassed to take with us! Also need to get ready for tonight’s party – and collect some balloons!