So far, #WalkNZ has been a solo journey – but it was always meant to be.
Last week I was asked if I was bored of walking by myself. An interesting question.
I said no – I’ve met many people along the Te Araroa trail and, for the most part, I’ve spent each night with an eclectic group of random fellow trampers.
That said, I have to admit I am a little bit over listening to myself think while I’m walking. Mainly because all I seem to be thinking is how much my feet hurt, how much my shoulders hurt, how boring and monotonous this road walk is, and where I should put my foot so I don’t a) slip over b) twist it or c) fall off the trail/down the hill.
So, it was quite a joy to have one of my best friends join me on the Coast to Coast trail across Auckland, which just so happened to conveniently cross over three dormant volcanoes – part of the 40 plus volcanoes in the Auckland volcanic field – and thereby ticking off volcanoes 18, 19 and 20 in my #40by40 volcano challenge, and reaching the halfway mark.
By volcanic standards, they are on the little side but technically they could erupt at any moment.
The Coast to Coast walk itself starts in Auckland’s central business district and moves south, crossing the isthmus from the eastern coast of the city to the western coast, walking through inner-city parks and down urban streets.
Auckland represents New Zealand’s narrowest neck of land, just nine kilometres from north to south and less than two kilometres east to west, giving the city a traditionally strategic position when the indigenous Maori ruled.
The first volcano of the day was Auckland Domain, an inner-city park. It features a large crater with a small scoria cone (called Pukekaroa) at its centre, which was formed by volcanic activity some 140,000 years ago. The crater forms an amphitheatre that hosts a variety of concerts and outdoor events.
The Coast to Coast walk meandered into the park and crossed the scoria cone but because I was too busy yakking to my friend at that point I forgot to take any photos of the crater itself. Although I did get a nice photo of me beside a water feature at the entrance to the Domain.
The next volcano of the day was Mt Eden, a 196m high hill and the highest summit in Auckland, showcasing stunning views of the city.
I have fond memories of Mt Eden when I was growing up in Auckland – firstly a primary school trip, when for the picnic lunch, sitting in the crater (you can’t go in the crater these days), the supposedly hard-boiled egg I had brought exploded as a rotten, smelly mess causing some pandemonium among the children (thanks mum!); and secondly when I was at university, and I and I guy I was dating would go up there on weekend nights, look at the city lights and make out in his car (alongside other young people doing exactly the same thing in their cars).
The third and last volcano of the day was One Tree Hill, a cone-shaped 183m-high peak featuring an obelisk as a memorial to Maori that stands out on the Auckland skyline. Originally a tree had stood near the summit, giving the volcano its English name but a series of attacks on the tree and its replacements over the years have resulted in no tree now, although some native trees have since been planted in recent years.
How often can we say we’ve walked across the big city we grew up in or live in?
This walk took me down memory lane – the university I studied at, the park grounds where I listened to Carols in the Park, the ice-cream shop I went to on a date – but it also had me wandering down a whole host of streets I’d never walked down and through suburbs that were different to what I imagined, giving me a slice of Auckland I’d never seen before.
With a school friend in tow and hours of endless banter, Day 39 of #WalkNZ marked one of the best days of the Te Araroa adventure so far.