Great Barrier Island, a life changer

Great Barrier Island Programme - Malachi Gerrard shares her experiences with her class on Great Barrier Island last term.

5 weeks of action packed fun and adventure, many weeks of preparation, fundraising, training and great anticipation, finally it's time to leave, our bags are packed our journey has begun, leaving behind us the comforts of home, technology, junk food, relaxation and sleep. Emotions were high we are prepped and got ready for the bus trip to Auckland an overnight stay and onto the ferry ride to the island. As we approached the island it was as if time stood still, I gazed from the ferry silenced and mesmerized by the tranquil water and lush green flora. I knew I was entering a very special place, in my silence I acknowledged the islands pure perfection, and on arrival I felt the warmth of the islands welcome. As we docked energies were high with excitement, hydrenaline and curiosity embraced every individual in our class - we were finally here. Straight off the boat and into a very strict regime of introductions, camp tour, groups and appointed chores, unpacking, ground rules, food prep and sleeping arrangements. We even had time to enjoy a kayak on the pristine water. We soon learned organization was the key. So many experiences, too many to mention, so I will highlight my favourite activities and most impressionable memories. GBI day 5 Early morning start after a windy rough night. At 8:30am we gathered with instructors to discuss the programme for the day. First on the list was high ropes. The weather was overcast as we headed to the back of Orama. High ropes, an obstacle course of high poles adjoined by cable chords, we were dressed in safety equipment, and taken through a quick safety course. Adrenaline started pumping time to take the ‘Leap of Faith’. Relying completely on teammates below to hold and pull the ropes connected to safety harness to support and enabling me to swing towards a bar 3 metres away, holding on and swinging until lowered. It was frightening but knowing I had safety equipment and my team, the fear soon turned into excitement and I was able to appreciate the views of Orama from a high height. GBI day 10 This morning we were pumped and ready to start a new week with new challenges and outdoor activities. ‘Coasteering’ the weather was perfect for this activity blue skies and sunshine. To get to the perfect jumps for coasteering, we had to trek over a hill, over jagged rocks towards our first epic jumps. Standing looking down into the crystal blue ocean. Adrenaline starts pumping a feeling we are becoming accustomed to with the activities on the island. The penguin dive, spinning dive, the pin drop and my favourite of all an 8 metre jump that was repeated several times, and enjoyed by everyone fun at its best. GBI day 18 Whanau Overnight all the groups join together for an overnight expedition. This was based at Mike’s beach out of all of Great Barrier Island, this was my favourite place. It’s amazing sunsets and sunrises, views of land and sea. After 1 hour trekking with 65l packs, enjoying spectacular views we arrived at Mikes beach. Settling in, tents up, organised chores and then wetsuits on and we are off to catch some waves on the Boogie boards. The crystal clear turquoise water and powerful waves set the tone for a most exciting time we stayed in the water for hours. On returning to camp we made seating surrounding an open fire on which we cooked sausages, potatoes and damper. The evening was followed by roasting marshmallows, jokes, riddles and stories under a starlit night. Next morning 6:30am early start to watch the sunrise and yoga on the beach, then breakfast, clean up and on our way to Maybees beach for kayak surfing. Maybees beach is spectacular we set up our kayaks put safety gear on and headed out into the ocean gnarly rides, nose dives and flips. GBI day 11 An overcast day with crystal clear water the rowing boats are out, our dry bags taiko, ready to go for a fish and snorkel just out of Orama. Sam and Emerson caught fish which everyone enjoyed it it was delicious. The water was chilling and fresh, snorkeling through the seaweed pathways observing marine life in its natural habitation in great abundance and untouched. Emily and I were startled by a huge stingray it gracefully moved as one with the water leaving us to continue. GBI day 21 Overcast day, duties are finished, sambo instructs us to get helmets and harnesses.Taiko was off to a day of abseiling and rock climbing. It was a long slippery trek uphill, pass the skink, through the predator fence and all the way to the walls. We all stood down the bottom gazing up for most of us it was a first to look at naturally formed rock walls that we were about to climb. No coloured pegs, no handles just rock with its natural crevice formations. It was new, exhilarating, dearing and everyone was ready to conquer the walls graded 14-16. Totally reliant on your partner's to belay and second belay effectively. Everyone made it to the tops feeling empowered and enjoyed the surrounding views. Soon we were strapped and clipped together with carribennas for the ‘Via Ferrata’ 30 metre abseil off a cliff face. Everyone was nervous, sambo covers abseiling safety procedures. We safely, slowly and steadily made our way, across the cliff tops towards the ‘Via Ferrata’. As we arrived we started to support each other as individuals were lowered. Looking around admiring the view and now it was time to abseil down. A thrilling feeling as I jump off the wall into the distance and back. I was stoked and felt accomplished as I watched my teammates experience this and come down with similar enjoyment. We met members of the community and were welcomed into the local school to share activities with the pupils of Okiwi school we had a most enjoyable time. The islands energy clean, fresh and inspiring and the activities, responsibilities, lessons and skills it was inevitable for change to occur. And I know everyone left the island changed grown for the better in some way. GBI class of 2018 are very grateful to all those involved in supporting us in our adventure. Malachi Gerrard

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