Entries are open for the Great Barrier Airlines Wharf to Wharf marathon - one of the toughest in New Zealand according to experienced competitors who took part last year.
Aaron Carter of Total Sport was one of those competitors. “So, for those of you (and I know there are plenty of you) looking for that incredibly unique and tough event challenge and experience, I would highly recommend popping it on the ‘must do’ event list,” says Aaron.
The Great Barrier Airlines Wharf to Wharf Marathon is scheduled for October 9, and is a fundraiser for Kaitoke School. Nearly 100 competitors took part last year and $9,000 was raised for the school. The race is open to bikers, runners and walkers. The entry fee is $75 including T-shirts and details, a course description and entry forms can be found on www.thebarrier.co.nz or by contacting Kylie Robbins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The race starts at the Port Fitzroy wharf and ends 42.2km later at Tryphena wharf. The route takes runners, walkers and mountain bikers through mature bush, the main settlement areas, and past some of the coastline Great Barrier Island (GBI) is famous for.
After the first couple of kilometres around the edge of Port Fitzroy harbour, you start running along the Forest Road through the DOC estate. This 13km stretch of off-road rugged terrain takes you across pristine streams and through some stunning mature forest. As you climb up through the hills, the amazing sculptured landscape of central Barrier is revealed with turret-like pinnacles of volcanic rock and steep bluffs interrupting the more gently sloping hills. The forest road emerges inland from Whangaparapara, the site of New Zealand’s last whaling station and the often used safe haven for Radio Hauraki in the pirate years.
The race then continues across the road and along the Te Ahumata track, winding through the hill country and beneath the white cliffs visible from the road far below. From the track, you can look down across the central Island valleys to Kaitoke Beach and far beyond. Towards the end of the track the views are towards the West to the Coromandel and Hauraki Gulf. You emerge on the road to Blind Bay and from here on it’s all tar seal, down sloping terrain to the main junction on the island where roads lead north to Port Fitzroy and south to Tryphena. The race turns south and takes you into Claris, past the police station, the medical centre and the airport. You then head across a coastal wetland behind Kaitoke and Medlands beaches and past some of the earliest farms established on the Island. A side track will take you to the grounds of Kaitoke School so competitors get to see where the funds raised by the event will be spent.
From here on, it’s all up-hill and down-hill – up Medlands Rd past Needle Rock and Station Rock and down the other side to the west coast. This road offers spectacular views and it’s well worth looking back over Medlands, Kaitoke and up the coast to Arid Island as you go up the hill. Once over the crest, the road again travels through mature forest till you reach the Tryphena Harbour beaches. The last couple of kilometres hug the coast and go past some of the Island most popular beaches – Pa Beach, Gooseberry Flat, and Mulberry Grove. Again, great places to stay for race participants. It’s then a short sprint to the finish line at the Tryphena Wharf.
For those with a competitive streak, last year’s times (for a 1km shorter race) were 2:37:19 for cyclists; 3:37:19 for runners, and 6:07:44 for walkers.
Great Barrier Island is just 30 minutes by air from Auckland or a 4.5 hour ferry ride from Wynyard Wharf. There is plenty of accommodation available from 5 star luxury lodges to backpacker accommodation and holiday baches. Registrations are now open and entry forms can be downloaded from www.thebarrier.co.nz