Rangitoto Island Volcano – Auckland, New Zealand
Quite sleepy from the dancing shenanigans of the night before, I wolfed down a pseudo-breakfast and ran to the ferry docks with Angela (California), Adeline (Singapore) and Izumi (Japan), to catch the 9:00 a.m. ferry for our visit to Rangitoto. Because this was a Sunday, it was impossible to get a packed lunch unless you prearranged it with the kitchen staff and the RAs, which we forgot to do. We were off to climb a volcano without food. We left at a quarter to nine, made the boat by seconds. At the ferry docks, I bought a bottle of water, there was nothing resembling food.
Rangitoto is a Maori word meaning blood red sky. Strangely enough, it’s not about a volcanic eruption, but references a battle where a great commander of a war canoe was badly wounded. The ferry ride over was brilliant, the ocean was turquoise. Being still early in the morning, the ocean was teeming with the sparkling reflections of sunlight. In the distance, I could see other islands, blue and grey, still partially hidden in the fog. The closer we got to the island, the bigger it looked. The peak is at 260 meters and it is the highest volcano in the Auckland area.
There were a few paths that we could have taken, but we decided on the quickest way to the summit. Straight up. Why? I plead insanity. The walk was only an hour, felt like five. The tramp was wonderful despite the near heart attacks we almost gave ourselves. There were fields of volcanic rock everywhere, similar to rivers of freshly-tilled earth. Right next to it, was dense shrubbery mixed in with ferns and palm trees.
At one point the four of us collapsed in a heap on the road, figured we were never going to reach the top. The signs kept telling us how many minutes to the summit, but we never seemed to get there. Ever. We kept going up, up, up, under the blazing sun, no sign of food, water or life. Then, in a burst of energy, we collected ourselves off the dirt path, rounded the corner up ahead and found the top.
It was right there. Well, sort of, we had reached the crater. The crater of Rangitoto is not exactly the top; it is a lookout point where you can see the crater and the forest that has grown into it. It’s pretty nifty. The quest for the summit was not yet over. Luckily, there was a staircase and a sign. Signs make quests much easier. Once again we climbed.
The view from the top is indescribable. No camera can capture the beauty – even National Geographic. Islands faded into the horizon like a matte painting, the ocean shone. The view of the city was wonderful. Once we were well watered and rested, we saw a bumblebee the size of a small dog! We tramped down to the path for the lava caves, not marked at all, nor the way to them, except for the occasional post with a yellow dot on it.
Going through caves without a flashlight was quite the experience. We entered the cave and were immediately plunged into total darkness. We had to walk facing the wall with our hands attached to the rock, gingerly feeling the centimetres ahead with our big toe, to avoid falling over. The floor was not level and had many obstacles to trip over and holes to fall in. Pitch black, pitch black. Took a photo and blinded everyone. Found a skylight that had foliage falling into it, but once we passed the skylight, we couldn’t see again. Blackness, blindness.
The ceiling became sharply lower and lower until we were crawling on all fours into the abyss. We saw it, the opening to the outside and sunshine. Exit straight ahead.
We didn’t die. We didn't get injured. After the run down the volcano to catch the 12:45 ferry home so we could go out for Korean food, we were positively EXHAUSTED. I needed a massage and a hot bath and I knew I would get neither.