Bay of Islands: exploring Urupukapuka Island

Bay of Islands: exploring Urupukapuka Island


We immediately fell in love when we heard the name Urupukapuka Island. What a glorious sound! The island in the Bay of Islands in the north of New Zealand in Maori means “the island with many Pukas”. The Puka is an authentic tree with large leaves that grows on the islands in the Bay of Island. Urupukapuka Island is an unspoiled oasis of green tranquility. It has no inhabitants, since the Maori left the Islands many years ago. The night before departure to the island we stay at 40 kilometers distance in Whangaruru Bay. The trip to this amazing spot is our first adventure in New Zealand. It is also a first test of our rental car on unpaved terrain. After a nice drive of about an hour, we arrive in no man’s land. With our small tent we are the only inhabitant of the campsite in the bay. With a little imagination you can call the weather of the Dutch type. There is a faint sun and gentle drizzling rain that change turns.

2015_08_04_14_03_51The next morning we leave early towards Russell for the boat trip through the Bay of Islands. This trip should end with us landing on the Urupukapuka Island. It is a beautiful trip through the bay dotted with small islands. The nice thing about the trip is the potential encounter with groups of dolphins that live in the bay. They are curious creatures, so it’s almost a guarantee that you will find them with a boat trip. After some detective work of the Captain, we find an enthusiastic group. A great experience! In some periods during the year it is possible to swim with the dolphins. But, now a new generation bay residents just was born and swimming is not allowed. You can spend hours watching the dolphins. They perform like circus artists swimming next to the boat. Yet we have other plans and Urupukapuka Island is waiting for us.

2015_08_04_14_12_40We arrive on the island in the afternoon and settle down at the Campsite Urupukapuka Bay in Urupukapuka Bay. The next day our hiking experience will start, so it is time to take a rest. There is not a wide variety of walks on the island, as it is small without any official roads. The only documented walk is the Archaeological Walk. How much archaeology can there be on a desert island? Once there was a Maori tribe owning the Island. According to an old story this tribe sold the Island to the British for 45 dollars. The remains of the Maori tribe are the archaeological part of our walk. These remains are six forts (Pa) and some shelters and storages. They are the proof that agriculture and fishing were the main activities of the Maori tribe.

Paradise bay UrupukapukaThere is a large round trip time of 5 hours that consists of two smaller walking loops of 2.5 hours. We decide to take the whole hike of the island, but in the opposite direction from the set route. Also, we will pass the archaeological highlights and the five main bays of the island. As is common in New Zealand, the weather turned and we have to deal with heavy rain. So we rain cover ourselves and our backpacks well before departure. The tour takes us through some storage areas first to the rugged north of the island. Here we find, just after some breathtaking cliffs, the first fort settlement. This Pa Kainga North is an important natural defense point of Urupukapuka Island. It has an amazing view over the sea and Bay of Islands. “For women and land men die”, is a well known inscription at this defense point. The Pa and storage facilities are no more than brick evidence that the Maori actually lived here.

urupukapuka island inlandAfter this archaeological excursion we follow our route along the Otago or Indico Bay. A beautiful, deserted bay that  in sunny weather would have had a tropical atmosphere. Now, the beach offers a somewhat desolate sight. Not much further we follow the road to Onera / Paradise Bay where the trail is dead. In the bay there is no sign of life except a couple of moored sailboats, but paradise it is. To get back on the route, we are trying to cut off a piece. That is a challenge in itself, because we continue our track on a slippery mountain path away from the coast. After half an hour we succeed to get back to the marked walk. The center of the island is beautiful and green. Sometimes you feel like you’re in an Irish landscape, with a chance of bumping into a Hobbit Village. We continue our route inland towards Cable Bay. Again we pass some archaeological settlements and Pa’s. Finally we return to Urupukapuka Bay for the return to the mainland. Tires and soaked, but with a great adventure behind us. It was a special introduction to the Bay of Islands and the peace and tranquility of New Zealand. But we also faced the special climate conditions New Zealand has to offer.

More information on the walk is available though Department of Conservation (DOC) and 100% Pure New Zealand.

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