Rangitoto Island

We were invited by a new friend and Mel’s teaching colleague, Sharona, to join her and her friends Kelly and Jess on an excursion to Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano that sits just 8km off the coast of Auckland.

We caught the ferry from the Waitemata Harbor at 10:30am on a Sunday morning, and floated away for the first time from the land mass of Auckland.  The ferry ride lasted only 25 minutes, and before we knew it, we were walking on a mass of igneous rock.

The landscape of the island was unlike any place we had been before.

Between boulders of rock which used to be molten lava, lush greenery has sprung up.

A class of university students was there with their notebooks and measuring tools, collecting data about the plants that grow in such conditions.  Reminded me of high school bio camp… good times… haha.  Interestingly, the 2311 hectares that compose Rangitoto Island support over 200 species of moss, plants and trees including the largest Pohutukawa forest in the world.  And another tidbit for you: Rangitoto itself was formed about 700 years ago by a series of volcanic explosions, and its name has been translated to mean “the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed,” relating to a major Maori battle at Islington Bay about 1350.

It took only about an hour and a half to reach the summit, which sits at 260m, so the hike itself was not too strenuous.

The cool breeze at the top was refreshing, and the summit held breathtaking views of the city of Auckland and surrounding islands.

The view is certainly not justified in these pictures, by any means, but let me just say how cool it was to look around in all directions and find yourself separated from every other land mass by the blue pacific.

Rangitoto Island contains a number of lava caves to explore.  You needed a “torch” (aka flashlight) to explore them because they are so dark, but since we didn’t have one, we used our cell phones to shed a bit of light on our path.

We inched our way through the dimly lit caves, which were luckily vacant of rats, snakes, and mice.  (Before boarding the ferry, they ask you to check bag for any of the above animals, in order to avoid bringing them to the island.  After a thorough check, we told them we were gratefully free of these critters).

Several minutes later, we emerged out the other side.  My favorite part was a hole in the middle of the cave, shedding some light in the tunnel of darkness.

Before leaving the island, we explored the coastline lined with dark, igneous rock.

We found a few “baches” (cabins) built along the edge where people actually live.

There’s not much on Rangitoto Island, other than washroom facilities, so I imagine actually living on the island would take a fair bit of planning, as far as food supplies are concerned.  But I suppose it’s just a boat ride away from the city, and might even be faster than the commute some people make in their cars.

Rangitoto was the first of hopefully many island excursions in our time here down under.  Also on our list are Waiheke and Great Barrier Islands, along with the big South Island.


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