Finally, a day of sunshine!
I almost couldn’t believe it – I had to pinch myself to make sure – but there it was, crisp blue sky and a white-gold orb coating my immediate world in warm rays of sunshine. No rain to be seen; not even a cloud.
It was rejoice-worthy.
The majestic-ness of the day was in stark contrast to a mere few days ago when a weather bomb had hit New Zealand and put paid to my attempts at climbing the volcanoes Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Taranaki – what should have been volcanoes seven and eight in my quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 (#40by40).
But finally, the weather gods were in good moods – today I was going to climb Rangitoto.
The island Rangitoto sits in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, providing the picture-postcard backdrop to New Zealand’s largest city. It’s one of Auckland’s 48 volcanic cones, is the youngest volcano in New Zealand (emerging from the sea about 600 years ago), and happens to be home to the world’s largest pohutukawa forest. And I was going to add this iconic 259m peak to my list of volcanoes.
There was some doubt as to whether we would actually make it when the boyfriend decided to take his time and we missed our train and the connecting ferry. But the slight delay meant a second breakfast, basking in the sunshine (oh my goodness, it was glorious) and looking out at Auckland Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf. Then it was a quick half hour ferry ride to the volcano.
As we zoomed closer, Rangitoto seemed to flatten out and the detail became clearer. It was an island covered in dark green trees, and dotted along the coast were historical holiday homes (known as baches in New Zealand).
We set foot on the Island and tramped off on what was described as a moderate walk. While it should only take an hour to reach the summit, we couldn’t dilly dally as we had to catch the last ferry back to Auckland.
The uphill hike took us past ancient lava flows that, from a distance, looked like freshly ploughed fields. The sparseness of the flows contrasted to the brilliant greens of the pohutukawa trees, under whose shade we hid under for most of the route. In summer the forest must be a sight when the crimson flowers bloom.
Every so often the forest canopy gave way to a view of Auckland city with its syringe-like Sky Tower taking centre stage.
The walk was slightly more strenuous than I had been lead to believe (this could have had something to do with the ridiculously heavy pack I was wearing plus handbag, which was full to the brim with stuff for a wedding the next day). On passing a group of school kids on their way down, my friend sought some motivation. “Go Katrina, go Rhonda,” the children chimed as we strode past.
Surprisingly, the crater when we got there was unremarkable – just an indent in a carpet of green trees, which also obscured any view except for the brilliant blue sky above.
A signpost said it was a two-minute walk to the crater summit. This involved huffing up a series of steep steps but at the top, well, it was ‘wow’. The Auckland CBD stretched out in the distance with the Auckland Harbour Bridge just visible. Between the city and rush of green blanketing Rangitoto’s slopes was a slash of blue sea, where boats that appeared as white spots zigzagged and circled.
We did a round of high fives and cheered, thrilled that I had finally been able to tick off another volcano – the total now stood at seven.
The celebration at the summit was short-lived, however, as we realised time was getting on, and so we bade the view farewell and scurried down the volcano just in time for the last ferry of the day.