24 Mar 2016

Over The Mtn's & Thru The Woods - NZL by valeriepeltier

33/34

Star 0

Comment0

With it being our last full day in NZ we got up early, packed our things for the day and set out on our journey to Rangitoto Island. The island is only about a 20 minute ferry ride, so they are able to do multiple trips throughout the day for both pick ups and drop offs. The Volcano was only formed 600 years ago, which makes it the youngest volcano in NZ's north island and It is also the largest cone in NZ.
We had chosen to get out first thing in the morning and hop on the first ferry over to the island, departing at 9:15am. The weather continued to stay cloudy with showers here and there, but with our rain gear we were all set for a day of hiking. The clouds were a little higher than the previous day so there was still hope that we would be able to see the view of the mainland from the lookout point on top. Our 20 minuted ferry ride picked us up, brought us across the choppy 2 m swells to the wharf at Rangitoto and returned back to the main land.
As soon as we disembarked the boat, Lauren and I headed straight for the summit trail. This was the main trail that we had come over to the island for because it provided a chance to look into the crater and out over the island and the harbour towards the mainland. Basically giving you a 360 view of Rangitoto and the surrounding islands. The sign at the entrance read "Island Summit hike, 4.6km" and knowing that it would be a constant uphill climb, and that there was a side trail to a cave system we started off our island adventure there to ensure that we had enough time before the last ferry of the day.
Along the way we stopped off at all of the lookout points and info boards explaining the geological history of the island. At about 3/4 of the way up, the path split into two one direction continuing uphill to the summit and the other off to the side towards the cave. We chose to continue the uphill to the top first so that the weather didn't have a chance to cloud over further before getting to see the view and saved the caves for the way down.
When we rounded the bend up at the top emerging from the tree line, not only did the view open up but the wind also rushed past us sending chills through our body. At the lookout you were able to see a misty outline of the cityscape off in the distance as well as the odd boat out in amongst the swells. On a clear day you would most likely have a clear enough view of the city that you could count the cars driving by the ferry terminal. We didn't stay too long up top since the wind was quite chilly and the rain was starting again, but the path led us along the rim of the rim of the cone looking down into the now filled crater. I found it fascinating at how quickly life had taken over and reclaimed the land and filled the once desolate area with the succession of forest growth. The crater reached 60ft in depth with the trees climbing and covering the entire surface area of the cone.
On the way back down the steep section just inside the tree line was absolutely stunning and reminded me of back home with the changing colour of leaves and the leaf little scattering the ground making a crunch underneath my boots with every step I took. It didn't last for long before it turned back to gravel but the nostalgia was there for a brief moment and sent a longing excitement for home and the familiarities of it.

Star 0

Comment0

When we reached the turn off for the caves we turned off to follow the side trail it lead us along a rocky uneven surface marked with sign posts in order to stay on track. The caves we only a 15 min walk up the path but along the way there were some other small caves and geological features that stood out from the remainder of the environment. We only briefly stopped off to explore before continuing along towards the cave.
When we reached the cave I stopped to get out my head lamp from my backpack before climbing into the entrance of the cave that disappeared underground. I led us into the cave with Lauren following close behind, the light from the entrance only reaching so far into the cave before we began to rely solely on our lights to light up the path. About mid way the cave opened up again to the sky above where the ceiling had collapsed revealing the forest around it and allowing the foliage to encroach into the cave. Just after the opening the cave dipped back into the darkness and the circumference of the tube began to shrink and changed from a full height stance down to a crouching stance. The interior of the cave was surprisingly quite dry for the fact that it had been raining on and off for the entire morning.
The lave tube continued right till the end where it opened back up to the forest and the brightness of the light reflecting off of the clouds. It took a minute for my eyes to adjust back to the light before continuing along the trail where we circled back around alongside the cave although this time on the surface instead of underground.
We stopped off at the turn off where the trail rejoined with the main summit track and sat on a group of cut logs for our lunch break. There had been a few signs along the trail warning us of the high population of wasps in the area, but since we hadn't really come across any so far I figured the rain might have kept them away. Within five minutes or so they emerged from their nests and began swarming around our legs and our cheese and crackers. At first they were fine and not really bothering me, until they began swarming my face and head. I suggested packing up and continuing our lunch further down the trail on a bench at the lookout and Lauren immediately agreed, so we gathered our things and slowly moved away from the wasps as not to startle them. We managed to escape with no stings and ate our lunch elsewhere away from the wasps.
After lunch the weather began to take a turn for the worse, so we hiked back down to the main hut on the island where there were several others waiting for the next ferry ride back to the mainland which was supposed to arrive within the next 15 minutes. We discussed the idea of staying and hiking more of the island or returning back to the mainland and in the end decided to return back before the weather got worse.
When we reached the mainland we wandered around the shops for the remainder of the afternoon before returning back to Carl's house for a snack. There were a few really cute trinket shops and second hand stores close by so after dropping off our packs we went back out and wandered some more.
Later that evening after dinner we all ended up hanging out at the house and got into a game of cards against humanity with Carmon, Anna, Lauren, Carl, Mercedies, and Melinda, which in the end turned into a huge laughing fest with the language barriers and the cultural backgrounds. We had a blast and ended up staying up playing past midnight.