Get into hot water on Great Barrier
attractive fruit bowls -- they’re a crafty lot on the island. The track takes about an hour each way including lots of chat and photo stops. Back in the minibus, feeling super-relaxed after my hot thermal soak, I must admit to nodding off as we return to Tryphena.
The other walk to be greatly recommended is in Glenfern Sanctuary, situated on the northern side of Port Fitzroy Harbour. One side of its pest-proof fence actually runs along the harbourside. Energetic trampers walk up to the highest point and then down the bush walk. But we are dropped at the highest point and walk down. Even so, I find the hour-long walk quite taxing, with its many deep steps. But the bush-and-bird rewards make up for my complaining knees.
Before we start the walk we are introduced to one of two predator dogs – this one is Tui. She comes with us to a high rocky point where the founder of the Glenfern Sanctuary, Tony Bouzaid, is remembered in style. The hat he always wore and a formal tribute are set into the rock at this very high point which must offer the greatest view in the whole of Great Barrier Island. You can see Mt Hobson, Port Fitzroy, Kaikoura Island, Little Barrier Island and even Hen and Chicken Islands.
Tony Bouzaid, champion yachtsman, purchased a block of land here in 1992. Farming had ceased in 1967 and regeneration from pasture to forest was starting. In 1994, Bouzaid started planting 10,000 trees and began to control rodents – ship rats, kiore and mice. Finally his vision expanded to include the whole of the Kotuku Peninsula which includes private as well as Department of Conservation land. He financed the predator-proof fence himself which protects much of the sanctuary. Later there was a successful aerial eradication of predators. These days there is a
network of 1000 tracking tunnels and bait stations and, with the help of the two rodent dogs, predators are largely kept at bay.
When Tony Bouzaid died suddenly in 2011, a natural pond on his land was enlarged to make a habitat for pateke or brown teal, as a memorial to him. The local community donated and the local volunteer fire brigade pumped 50,000 litres of water into the pond. There is now a thriving pateke population there.
The first ‘feature’ pointed out to us on the sanctuary walk is a weta nest above us. Then we cross a swing bridge into the canopy of a 600-year-old kauri tree and imagine how this bush must have been when these grand trees were numerous. Further down is a black petrel colony and, between November and May, they breed and nest here in an enormous gnarled old puriri tree. There are celery pine, totara, lacebark and rimu to be picked out on the walk.
One of the last remaining populations of chevron skinks in the world survive in the Glenfern Stream. Steve thinks the chevron skink should be New Zealand’s national emblem but he doesn’t get much approval for that idea! A few years ago only 300 had ever been sighted in the wild and they were thought to be near extinction. Now, thanks to the dedicated monitoring they get here, they are surviving well in the absence of predators. The kokopu (long fin eel) and koura (small crayfish) also live in the Glenfern Stream.
When we emerge from the track after about an hour, we’re delighted to see kaka doing acrobatics in the trees near the Glenfern Cottage and the information centre – a fitting finale to our walk through a very special place. A cup of tea or coffee is also welcome at this stage before we board our minibus back to Tryphena.
Above: We relax in the hot thermal pool in the bush.
Above: We walk down through the sanctuary in regenerating bush. Below left: Steve demonstrates how the nikau can be made into an unusual fruit bowl. Below right: Tui, one of the predator dogs.