Auckland Baptist Tramping Club

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Early on a cold Saturday morn, a few hardy souls huddled together waiting for The Moment. Then a few more hardy souls turned up – 20 ABTC-ers in all – finally The Moment arrived – the kiosk at Pier 4, Quay Street, Auckland City was open and we joined the queue to confirm our tickets. The ferry trip was a gentle hour and quarter, passing Brown’s, Motuihe, Rangitoto, Motutapu and Waiheke on the way. Yet little of them could be seen due to the low cloud. We stopped briefly at Orapiu, Waiheke, to drop off some fishermen then crossed the channel to Rotoroa. A few of our number had visited the island before, but for most, it was a first. We were met at the wharf by Ranger Jenine who briefed us on island protocol and ensured we weren’t carrying any pests (Rotoroa is a wildlife sanctuary and has just become pest-free).

We were then welcome to roam the island, keeping to the paths and avoiding the houses (as some of them could be tenanted). We took the short path beside the bay to the Museum/information centre where we worked out our route and left some of our gear.  We had been advised to walk the Southern Loop track first (75 minutes) as the re-planting was not yet tall enough to give much shade. However it did not much matter as the weather was overcast, drizzly and, at times, even misty. We stopped below the Chris Booth sculpture, pondering its shape and meaning (relevant to the island’s past as a 12 step rehabilitation centre) then climbed to the hill on which it stood for a view of Ponui Island and the mist-shrouded reaches of the Waitemata. Then down onto Men’s Bay (we later received a very succinct explanation of why it was called Men’s Bay and why the then workers’ children were never allowed to go there) where the men in our group obviously had to pose for a photo. Back to the generous under cover outdoor picnic area attached to the Museum for a shared lunch. What a feast! In honour of our 3 lovely ladies with tributes from Nelson, David and May and a devotional poem by NZ author Joy Cowley read by Joy.
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Then it was off to Ladies Bay for a swim for some (mind that stingray, David!) and a walk along the beach to a natural cleft in the rock, a surge pool and a flushing ‘toilet’ (actually another gap in the rock that when filled and emptied with water sounded just like a toilet flushing). By this time the sun had come out and so had a stingray cruising the bay looking for some lunch.
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The Northern Loop took about 45 minutes; we added the steep descent to Cable Bay, grateful the grass had dried after the rain and was no longer slippery, and climbed back up the hill where we could soon see Home Bay and the cluster of service buildings, workers’ homes, houses to let and the Chapel and Museum below us. At 4pm the Ranger Phil had organised a talk and slide show for us – all about the history and development of the island from the time the Salvation Army bought it from the Ruthe family as a place where alcoholics could de-tox up to the present when the Rotoroa Island Trust now lease it from the Salvation Army and are well into the process of restoring it to a wildlife sanctuary.

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We left the island greatly enthused by the amazing work of the Trust, the two couples who live and work on the island and the philanthropic couple who bankroll all the work the Trust accomplish.