1. Rangitoto

Visited on October 27

I thought I’d start out with the biggest, baddest, most obvious volcano in Auckland. Rangitoto stands out not only as a beautiful subject of many an enviable sunrise photograph but because it is by far in a way Auckland’s largest volcano, comprising virtually 60% of the lava of the Auckland volcanic field.

The ferry to take us to Rangitoto Island

The ferry to take us to Rangitoto Island

It started out as rather a grey day for an outing but that meant we wouldn’t get sunburnt. Cassie came with me for this adventure. We booked our tickets online to get $8 off the cost of the ferry.  http://www.fullers.co.nz/tickets-fares/timetables/rangitoto-island.php

We had no dramas finding a park (ok, just a little one: as the parking space was so small, even for my wee car, I had to crawl out the passenger door) and made it to the end of the wharf in time to have a relaxed cup of coffee. I definitely needed my jacket on the way over but he trip went by rather quickly; Rangitoto is only 20 minutes or so from Devonport.

Just imagine the spluttering from this tongue of lava as it hit the sea. You can see this dynamic form locked in time down beside the wharf

Just imagine the spluttering from this tongue of lava as it hit the sea. You can see this dynamic form locked in time down beside the wharf

I approached the Island with a sense of anticipation. I’ve lived most of my life in Auckland but never been here. Time to change that! What a sight awaited us… Lava! Lava rocks spilling out into the sea. No dilly-dallying by the shore for us though, we were on a mission… To the top! I chose the right track (there aren’t many so it wasn’t hard) and then we were off on a gentle incline.

The path can feel quite gravelly at times until you compare it to the barren swathes of a'a lava chunks

The path can feel quite gravelly at times until you compare it to the barren swathes of a’a lava chunks

The paths are liberally scattered with large scoria pebbles so sturdy walking shoes are required. We passed the intriguingly named “Kidney Fern Glen” and wended upwards past barrenish fields of frothy a’a lava seemingly little-changed since the days of their first erupting onto the landscape. Actually, they are the landscape. The whole island is a volcano; before Rangitoto erupted there was just sea.

It’s actually only an hour walk up to the summit. I was rather sceptical of this as it all UPHILL, but as with anything challenging, I’ve found that you eventually do get there in the end just by putting one foot in front of the other. There are a few conveniently located seats and information signs. I stopped here to slather on some sunscreen as the day seemed to be heating up.

That there is the crater (behind me). Yes, it is lined with trees but still looks pretty steep when you look over the edge.

That there is the crater (behind me). Yes, it is lined with trees but still looks pretty steep when you look over the edge.

We made it to the top! But somehow heaps of other people got there before us 😦 They must’ve ridden in the vehicle as we didn’t see most of them on the way up. After stopping to peer into the surprisingly steep-sided crater, reading the information sign about early explorers and generally gain a sense of composure.

North Head and Mt Victoria on the Devonport peninsula with the City in the background

North Head and Mt Victoria on the Devonport peninsula with the City in the background

Excited to see the other side of the lighthouse we can see from the East Coast Bays

Excited to see the other side of the lighthouse we can see from the East Coast Bays

Browns Island/ Motukorea is also on the list of volcanoes to explore

Browns Island/ Motukorea is also on the list of volcanoes to explore

I learned that the first (European) woman to climb the summit of Rangitoto was also called Sarah? That it took 3 hours of bush whacking, although admittedly there were fewer bushes to whack. And when she arrived back at shore her dress was in tattered shreds up to her knees. Scandalous!

After climbing to the summit, finding it comparatively crawling with people and grappling for a small portion of the 360 view, we checked out the information bunker and then descended circumnavigating the crater in a clockwise fashion.

Rangitoto is a comparatively new island and as such there is not a whole heap of vegetation. The bush is not as thick as in other parts of NZ. Any soil was created from the rotting remains of unsuccessful plants germinated from wind-blown seeds. All this is to say that since it is not soooo lush with plants, it also doesn’t support bird life quite so well as other protected islands, and this is noticeable in the comparative lack in bird song. All that was to try and describe how amazing it felt when Cassie spotted a saddleback, not just any bird, but a saddleback! I didn’t try and get a photo but just enjoyed the moment. I had never seen a saddleback in the wild before (discounting the aviary at Auckland Zoo and the bird sanctuary island Tiri Tiri Matangi).

Lava cave tubes form when the surface of molten lava cools and hardens leaving the still (very) hot lava underneath to dribble out.

Lava cave tubes form when the surface of molten lava cools and hardens leaving the still (very) hot lava underneath to dribble out.

Down in a deep dark hole

Down in a deep dark hole

View from the bottom looking back

View from the bottom looking back

On the way back down we purposely detoured via the lava caves. I even took a torch which wasn’t really needed (although, I can’t say I didn’t bump my head coming out the bottom end), torch light hardly distinguishable from the ambient light filtering through from both ends and the “cave in” in the middle. After this inner earth experience we rested a while and ate our lunch on the roots of a nearby, friendly tree.

Our lunching spot

Our lunching spot

Some of the luxuriantly green undergrowth (much brighter in real life)

Some of the luxuriantly green undergrowth (much brighter in real life)

More verdure supported by a single rock

More verdure supported by a single rock

The lava caves path linked up to the main track and from then on we were walking back down the same path which we had climbed up a couple hours before. Nothing new to see, although the clouds had dissipated and the sun had come out quite strongly. Then a young couple started talking to me and I noticed they had a baby in the stroller (crazy!) and that baby looked just like my nephew… It was my nephew! Surprise! So much surprised was I that I don’t even have photographic evidence of this.

Clear blue skies on the way down

Clear blue skies on the way down

Artificially flattened area beside Kidney Fern Glen at the base of the track to the summit

Artificially flattened area beside Kidney Fern Glen at the base of the track to the summit

The eponymous Kidney Fern whose reniform shape is more easily appreciated once it properly unfurls

The eponymous Kidney Fern whose reniform shape is more easily appreciated once it properly unfurls

A cheery woodland creature

A cheery woodland creature

Not wanting to miss our ferry we made our way back to the wharf and read information signage/took pictures of more rocks. But not before we’d done a very decent detour via Kidney Fern Glen. That is a very cool place barely ten minutes from the shore. The low, scoria-lined paths are so winding and narrow that you feel like a giant. It would be an ideal nature discovery trail for children, although a bit overgrown in parts and dead-ended in others (doesn’t that just add to the excitement?). The kidney ferns themselves were just like the ones I’d pointed out by the path on our way up, only then I didn’t know what they were just that I could not recall ever having seen one before.

The ferry to take us home

The ferry to take us home

Recommended for an energetic day walk on a not too sunny day (all that black a’a lava heats up quite a bit, so I hear). An all-terrain stroller will get you to the base of the stairs at which point baby will have to ditch it and ride in style.

3 thoughts on “1. Rangitoto

  1. […] Rangitoto Island, the Northern cone and main/central crater […]

  2. […] (left) and Rangitoto (right) on either side of the […]

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