When I find out we're going to be riding a 'trike', it's hard to stop my mind conjuring up images of a 3-wheeler kiddy toy. My preconceptions are quickly erased when faced with a gleaming blue monster. This is definitely a trike for grown-ups.

Crazyhorse Trike Tours and Joy Rides on Great Barrier Island is the brain-child of Steve Billingham from the Barrier Tour Company. An ex-West Aucklander, Steve's multi-faceted tour company gives groups a local's perspective of the island. But from the beam of joy splitting his face, I can tell the trike, which sports twin carbs and a 1600 engine, is his baby.

To avoid grit and flying bugs, we're advised to don sunglasses, then he starts her up to a mean growl. We buckle ourselves in, then we're off, blasting down the empty country roads with our hair flying and the wind whistling past our ears. I resist a strong urge to sing "Born to be Wild".

Unlike a motorbike, the rear seat of the trike is designed to carry two passengers side by side. But riding open air means communing with nature on an intimate level. Steve recalls going for a spin one evening, slamming on the brakes to avoid a van and then feeling something wedged in behind his back. Unbelievably he had just picked up a hitch-hiking morepork. "We just blinked at each other in shock," he laughs.

We cruise through the village of Claris where Steve lives. It's a small community consisting of a post-office, café and medical clinic. The doctor here is also the priest. "If he can't cure you he can hold your funeral", says Steve. We take a sharp turn down a back road to the deserted inlet of Okupu Bay, where much to our surprise, four dolphins are serenely cruising the breakers.

We're in the mid section of the east coast of Great Barrier Island and the area contains vacant shores of white sand at every turn. In summer if half a dozen people are on Medlands or Kaitoke Beaches the locals consider them busy.

Further up is Harataonga Bay where the UK series Castaway was filmed in 2007. Around 160 locals were involved in the making of the series and the community welcomed the injection of British pounds into cafés, shops and the Irish pub. The castaways' house has since been dismantled and the some 800 inhabitants of the island have been left in isolation again. But it's this isolation which makes Great Barrier Island an intriguing place to visit.

Located 90 kilometres from Auckland, all of its electricity is produced by wind turbines, solar panels and battery or diesel generators. There is no street lighting. Though occasionally the mainland does intrude. In the 1990's the Auckland City Council cracked down on vehicle safety. Before then cars could apply for a 'Barrier Warrant' which meant that, as long as it had a steering wheel and brakes, a car was considered fit for the road. "Which was fine," says Steve, "If we wanted our car's window wipers to work, I pulled on one end of the rope, and my wife pulled on the other".

In saying that, the trike does have a regular warrant, though there's no one at the police station to check anyway. The resident policeman and policewoman are both currently in Alaska, bear hunting.

- The author visited Great Barrier Island courtesy of Tourism Auckland and Sealink
Visitor Information
* See www.greatbarrierislandtourism.co.nz for details on Crazyhorse Trike Tours and Great Barrier Island tours

* Visit www.greatbarriernz.com for information on accommodation and activities

* For information on getting to Great Barrier Island visit www.sealink.co.nz andwww.flymysky.co.nz