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Sunday, February 28, 2021
TripOutlook Travel Blog

Island Escapism

  • Porae tossed in salt, pepper and flour, grilled on hotplate with peppadews, capers and olives, served with toast and garden fresh salad.
  • Split crayfish barbecued and seared with butter, cilantro and lemon, with freshly dug new potatoes, grilled tomatoes, avocado and vinaigrette.
  • Smoked red moki with pasta in a lemon zest, caper and Kaitaia Fire cream sauce, with salad greens and olives.
  • Whole snapper and kahawai wrapped in beet leaves and baked in a sweet chilli lemon sauce, with vinegar-infused sushi rice.

Sound lousy? These are the meals I’ve served up for family friends on Great Barrier Island over the last few days, kayak caught, speared or gathered by snorkel from the reefs just down the road.

We bought a valley on the island nearly ten years ago, on a romantic whim while living in Thailand. The real estate agent who had shown us property a few weeks earlier during a brief trip home, rang on my mobile while stuck in a Bangkok traffic jam. We took it as an omen and signed up.

A couple of years later we moved in daunted by the reality of going cold turkey, from international ex-pat life with home help for 4,5 and 8 year olds to stay-home Dad, re-training Mum, and maintenance of a 75 acre property with off-grid house.

Great Barrier is 90 km north-east of Auckland, a 30 minute flight or a 4.5 hour car ferry ride: far enough to be out of commuter territory and to breed an independent-spirited bunch of 600 permanent residents.

Fifteen months living on the island was a crash course in alternative power systems, property maintenance, roading issues, gardening principles, kayak fishing and bread baking in a Rayburn wood stove.

I worked harder than I ever had, lost a lot a weight, discovered the crayfish holes on the local reefs, watched my youngest daughter graduate from the play centre to the primary school, both at the end of the drive, and the older two children absorb the laid-back lore of the island.

When we returned to the mainland to pursue ‘sensible’ jobs and schooling, it was with a apprenticeship in practicality and an empathy with weather and tide.

Now six years on, we return to our island home from Auckland every holidays, counting down the school term weeks until we are on the car ferry, the kids talking excitedly about surfing, catching a grand daddy snapper, or who will be master of the table tennis table.

I wonder whether any other vagabond families are interested in sharing this resource?

Sited in a private valley behind Kaitoke Beach (Google 57 Kaitoke Lane), a kilometre up a rugged driveway, is a sheltered bush clearing with our three-bedroom (minus one for the ping pong table) farmhouse-style homestead and a self-contained guest cottage.

The lights work off solar, there’s gas-fired hot water caliphonts, hobs and a fridge and a spring-fed water supply.

I have a work desk set up in an upstairs bedroom overlooking the garden and an outside bath tub, linked up to broadband internet, where I can work part-time. I’m yet to write the next great Kiwi novel, but it seems to be the place that would lend itself to one.

If you are interested in a family sabbatical on Great Barrier let us know. We could rent the cottage and/or the house for 3, 6 or 12 month stints, or even look at sharing the property in the longer term with like-mined people.

The play centre and primary school at the end of the drive (want to ride a bike or pony to school?) would welcome new enrolments.

Having travelled widely around the world I think Kaitoke – with its wide white sand, rock pools, productive reefs and islets – is the best beach anywhere and most days you won’t see a soul on it.

Contact tim.higham@orcon.net.nz for more information. We can meet families in Auckland ahead of their island adventure.

By Tim Higham

Further information: http://www.holidayhouses.co.nz/properties/25719.asp

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