21. Pukeiti/Puketapapakanga a Hape

Visited on 3 June

Pukeiti, Auckland's smallest volcano, by the blue marker with it's impressive lava flows fanning out to the North (Thanks Google Maps)

Pukeiti, Auckland’s smallest volcano, by the blue marker with it’s impressive lava flows fanning out to the North (Thanks Google Maps)

We drove as far as we could along Ihumatao Quarry road (that should be a clue as to what used to go on here) and parked outside the Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve. We knew we were about to meet Auckland’s smallest volcano (or at least the crater with the smallest diameter ~30 metres); the aptly named Pukeiti, literally ‘the little hill’.

This is literally the view from where I parked my car! Pretty sweet, ay?

This is literally the view from where I parked my car! Pretty sweet, ay?

We entered the reserve and walked down the wide access path parallel to this stone wall. At the end we turned right, went through a gate and under the tall trees. Emerging from under their branches we could see the “little” hill rising up in front of us.

In the entranceway to Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve. Pukeiti (not pictured) is in the field beyond this restored stone wall.

In the entranceway to Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve. Pukeiti (not pictured) is in the field beyond this restored stone wall.

Pukeiti’s sacred name is Puketapapakanga a Hape refering to “the small, flat-topped hill where Hape arrived”. I’ve read an alternate spelling of Pukutapapatanga a Hape also within Hayward’s Volcanoes of Auckland and on the SOUL website so pardon my ignorance for not knowing the correct spelling.

Standing on tiny Pukeiti is still quite an experience and with such a commanding view it feels more grand than Hampton Park

Resting on tiny Pukeiti is quite an experience and with such a commanding view it feels more grand than Hampton Park

For a moment in time I felt intensely connected to the past. Here I was looking out over the same landscape as Hape and other settlers of the area for the last 800 or so years. His view would’ve been slightly different though: Puketutu Island across the water would’ve been higher and more pointed before quarrying began, nearby Otuataua would’ve been a cone instead of a crater, the surrounding volcanic fields would’ve been criss-crossed by intact paenga-maru (sheltering and dividing walls) and filled with abundant produce. Whatever the differences, though, we would’ve both looked out over the same tidal mudflats and observed the variation that water ebbing back and forth brings to the landscape.

Puketutu Island viewed from the summit of Pukeiti

Puketutu Island viewed from the summit of Pukeiti

Pukeiti's shallow dish of a crater with a nice boulder

Pukeiti’s shallow dish of a crater with a nice boulder

The sun finally came out over Pukeiti

The sun finally came out over Pukeiti

I loved this volcano! Still the most astounding thought to me is that it’s so close to Auckland’s Airport, literally on our international doorstep. I would definitely recommend taking visitors here and locals too as everyone I’ve talked to has no idea of it’s existence either. Make it a must-see next time you pick up from or drop off a friend at the airport.

27. Mount Albert

mt albert1

Aerial view of Owairaka/Mt Albert (Thanks Google Maps)

I didn’t have many expectations from this one as I only knew it as just another suburb of Auckland. I’d actually been aiming for Mt Roskill when I got stuck in traffic & a bit disoriented so just pointed my car at an obvious hill and found myself on Mt Albert instead. I parked at the end of Summit road and found this…


Oh nice, real inviting signage you have there

Vehicles must drive clockwise so I decided to walk the other way, off to the right.


First glimpse of the first crater… just beyond that fence.


Not actually a crater but a quarry site

Owairaka and the 99 year decapitation. That’s right, rocks were removed from 1860 to 1959 reducing the height by about 15 metres. There was even a rail line from Toroa Terrace up the mountain to help with rock removal. Look closely and you can see the trig point in the distance just between the gap in the trees.


Short cut to the summit

Why walk around on the road and risk being run over when you can scamper up the side of a hill?


Mt Roskill seen from Mt Albert



Disappointingly uninformative

I’m one of those people who actually stops to read information on signs like these. Pity there was nothing here for me to share with my readers. But I would’ve probably read something like this: Named after Prince Albert, Mt Albert has many Maori names, the most well known of which is Owairaka meaning dwelling place of Wairaka. Pre-European Maori extensively modified the scoria slopes with pits and terraces to form a defensive pa much of which has been destroyed by subsequent quarrying. Originally there were two scoria cones on Owairaka, the main (central) one was levelled to form a playing field and the Southern, smaller one has held a buried water reservoir since 1945.


Sky tower viewed from Mt Albert

Ok, so there’s a bit of zoom on my camera here, but still, the city does seem awfully close considering Owairaka is our Westernmost volcano.


Eastern Rosella sitting in his gum tree acting all Australian



I thought they were strangely uniform rocks or maybe steps until I found this sign

One year has passed since the above photo and you can see from the Streetview image that the erosion control is holding up quite well. Cars are still allowed to drive around the summit and Google car is no different.

Mt albert

View into the archery field (Thanks Google)



I went past the sign!



One of a few interestingly shaped rocks lined up by the exit.

That’s all for the actual mountain but there is something else of interest in the area. Just down the road at the Unitec Institute of Technology evidence of lava flows from Mt Albert can be seen.


Part of a basalt lava flow from Mt Albert volcano hiding in the grounds of Unitec…



…and on the other side of the main road on campus.

Behind which is the Oakley Creek walkway and a little further down there is even supposedly a waterfall which I would’ve got out and explored, had I known it was there.


More basalt rocks



Still more basalt rocks


I saw many, many people out enjoying this lovely volcano on this fine Winter’s day. Joggers, walkers, dog-exercisers, archers, picnickers, strollers, drivers, seat-sitters and me. People seem to genuinely love this place, their “mountain”, and rightly so -it’s a very nice place and has a real community feeling about it. Public interest here is nothing new though, way back in 1903 the government set aside land for this Domain to be joined a few decades later by almost as much land from the Railways Department.


23. Rarotonga/Mt Smart

I like to tell people about the time I went to Rarotonga and how I only stayed for 1 hour…

I would never have thought that there had been a volcano in the area of Mt Smart. I mean there’s a mountain… wait, why isn’t there a mountain? Oh, there used to be a mountain! Story of more of Auckland’s volcanoes than I care to admit.


Rarotonga Mt Smart Stadium (Thanks Google)

So there once was a mountain here. A rather large one at that, the scoria cone standing 87 metres high. Now it’s a sports stadium but not just any sports stadium -there are some evidences of it’s volcanic past.

The early Maori settlers of the area brought the named Rarotonga, which means the lower South, with them from Hawaiki. European named the place Mt Smart for Lt Henry Dalton Smart who commanded NZ’s mounted police in the mid 1840’s


Beasley Ave, where we first tried to park

I first aimed to park on Beasley Ave as it’s a no exit street and on the map it looked like the safest place to park but it wasn’t to be, so I ended up on Maurice rd around on the Western side.


We started out from this rise on Maurice road

There on the side of the road, in front of a local business, is our first clue (or 2nd, if you count the rise in the road) that there might be a volcano in the vicinity. This rock was just sitting there, obviously propped up to make me take notice of it. What’s that hole in the rock? I don’t know. It didn’t seem to me man-made.


The main entrance

Maybe I’ll come back here to watch a game or something and that will give me an excuse to properly get inside, but for now just my camera made it. Below is our second glimpse of a volcanic past: those pohutukawa trees are planted on a small ridge that was left of the lower, southern slopes.


Inside the stadium, kind of


People painting the field


The other field, on the eastern side at the end of Beasley road



We exited into the end of Beasley road and followed this stone wall along until it dipped down to ground level where we saw a mysterious pathway into the woods. So of course we followed it…


Enticing path that warranted further exploration

I’m glad we followed that path or we would’ve missed these huge slabs of volcanic rock. I’m not sure which volcano they originated from. That might sound silly since Rarotonga created 300 or so hectares of it’s own lava flow but it initially erupted through the edge of the lava flow from Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill).


Look what we found…


…slabs of volcanic rock just hiding out under the tree cover


Quite a few puriri trees in the area

And, as we all should know, Puriri trees attract wood pigeons.


Kereru -NZ Wood-pigeon



At some point there was a security fence blocking our progress so we had to pop back out to the road. We rounded the corner and were under no illusions that we were well and truly back in busy, industrialised Auckland.


Avenue of pohutukawa lining the footpath to the South


Hut in the South-Western corner, behind a scoria wall.

I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest, but there’s slightly more here than meets the eye, so I went away happy.

You’ve been viewing the best of my holiday snaps of our vacation in Rarotonga. 🙂 Maybe one day I’ll get to the real Island? I hope so.