New Zealand Walk: Get into hot wa­ter on Great Bar­rier Is­land

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Ju­dith Doyle

I’m a walker, not a tram­per. So the 100kms of tracks that se­ri­ous tram­pers tackle on Great Bar­rier Is­land, are not for me. But the is­land has mag­i­cal walks as well, I dis­cov­ered last sum­mer.

Our group of Tranzit Tours – se­niors all, a few in their 80s -- en­joyed two par­tic­u­lar walks, both tak­ing nearly an hour, at a re­laxed pace. One leads to some nat­u­ral hot ther­mal pools in the bush, an­other is in Glen­fern Sanc­tu­ary, a preda­tor-con­trolled regenerating na­tive for­est. And, of course, we walked along some of the is­land’s long curv­ing beaches – Med­lands Beach, my fa­vorite.

It was pure magic to walk through bush on an easy, flat­tish walk to the nat­u­ral hot springs. Steve Billing­ham,

from Go Great Bar­rier Is­land, drops us off at the start of the Kaitoke Hot Springs Walk, about half­way along Whanga­para­para Road which joins the eastern and western sides of the is­land. Les Cock­eram of Tranzit Tours leads us along an easy grav­elled track which soon crosses a bridge over the Kaitoke Stream. Here we’re sur­rounded by mag­nif­i­cent nikau palms with great arch­ing fronds.

The nikau give way to regenerating for­est, mainly ponga, manuka and kanuka. The gi­ant kauri that were once pro­lific on the is­land were felled en masse in early pi­o­neer­ing days and ex­ported around the world. Only in the north of the is­land rem­nants of in­tact kauri for­est re­main. An enor­mous amount of kauri plant­ing has gone on in Great Bar­rier and it is en­cour­ag­ing to pick out a few of th­ese young kauri as we walk along.

Still on an easy level track, we are soon walk­ing through the ex­ten­sive Kaitoke swamp. This is a large un­mod­i­fied fresh­wa­ter wet­land of manuka and fern. We keep an eye out for the pateke brown teal, banded rail and fern bird. I don’t man­age to spot them on this walk but we see the teal and rail later, in other parts of the is­land.

More regenerating bush, a wel­come long-drop loo be­side the track, an­other cor­ner and we reach the green­ish-grey wa­ters of the pools in their nat­u­ral sur­round­ings. And nat­u­ral means nat­u­ral – the hot pools have noth­ing ar­ti­fi­cial about them. No con­crete steps or sides. We change into togs in the bush – fe­males to the right, males to the left. Then I step over some rocks and slowly sink into hot wa­ter. Bliss.

The pool is just deep enough to sit or re­cline. The hot springs pro­vide ev­i­dence of the geo­ther­mal ac­tiv­ity that be­gan to pro­duce min­er­als like copper and sil­ver on Great Bar­rier Is­land five mil­lion years ago. The spring wa­ter is from a deep ground­wa­ter reser­voir and con­tains leached chem­i­cals from vol­canic rocks. It’s do­ing you good – you can feel it.

We walk back on the same track in two’s and three’s. I’m lucky to be walk­ing with Steve who is a mine of in­for­ma­tion on – well, ev­ery­thing is­landrelated. He shows me how a friend of his makes the bowl of fallen nikau into

Left: We cross the Kaitoke Stream.

Above: A trib­ute to Tony Bouzaid, founder of Glen­fern Sanc­tu­ary. The hot­wa­ter springs walk starts half­way along the Whanga­para­para Road while the Glen­fern Sanc­tu­ary walk is on the north­ern side of Port Fitzroy Har­bour.

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