Posted by: asprockett | September 5, 2013

Hiking a Volcano: Rangitoto Island in Auckland, New Zealand

After all of our adventures, I have concluded that Auckland is a challenging city for Dan and I to actually get to, despite the good vibes I know we’ve been putting out about how much we are lovin’ on New Zealand. We planned to travel from Rotorua to Auckland in the evening so that we could maximize our time in Rotorua. As we pulled out of Rotorua heading to Auckland, our bus driver warned us that if the bus got pulled over by the police, we would get slapped with a $150 fine if we weren’t wearing our seatbelts. And the company would get penalized $1500 (per person), the cost of which they would gladly pass along to the offending un-seatbelted party. Although we were already belted, you better believe we double and triple checked that buckle!

So, inevitably, less than 30 minutes into our drive, we got pulled over. Oh yes, our seatbelt buckles were still holding tight – have no fear! After 30 minutes on the side of the road, it appeared we were pulled over due to a problem with the brake lights on the bus. Now, I’m not quite sure why we continued to drive for another half hour before pulling over and allowing the necessary “fix-it” part to catch up to us from Rotorua, but that’s exactly what we did. While we waited for the part to actually arrive and then the bus to be fixed, we chilled out with our books and some free coffee from Subway. Perks?

When we finally arrived in Auckland, an hour and a half later than expected (which, OK, that’s really not so bad), we hiked the hills up to our hostel and slept in one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in. The Youth Hostel Association (YHA) has treated us right on this trip, let me tell you!

View of Auckland Central Business District (CBD) from our hostel window.

View of Auckland Central Business District (CBD) from our hostel window.

In the morning we took a ferry to Rangitoto Island in the Hauraki Gulf. The island was formed only 600 years ago from a series of volcanic eruptions. What’s really fascinating, is that it sits right next to, nearly kissing, Motutapu Island, one of the oldest islands in the gulf (dating back to the Jurassic period)! So that’s take a moment to reflect on that: we were hiking on a volcano!

After arriving on the island, we headed straight up to the peak, sitting 260 m above sea level. It’s a pretty solid hour-long hike on fairly steep hills up to the crater and then on to the peak of the island. The view is totally worth it.

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Dan hiking Rangitoto Island.

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A view from our lunch spot at the top of the volcano.

Views from the top of Rangitoto Island.

View from near the top of Rangitoto Island.

At the summit, we met the most adorable family: two mums and six children, the oldest child couldn’t have been more than nine and the youngest was only a few months old. Let’s put this in context. The hike to the summit took Dan and me a good hour, and that’s setting a pretty quick pace. We passed this family of 8 on our way off the ferry and they arrived only about 15 minutes after us at the top. Color me impressed!

From the summit we followed the family down to the lava flow caves. The signage caused a bit of confusion and resulted in me crawling through some very narrow spaces in a cave to “check it out.” I was more than happy to let the adventurous explorer children squeeze into the other side to see what was going on.

It turns out, these were not the caves we were meant to crawl through. About three minutes further down the path we found two large lava flow caves to pick our way through. So cool! And so unlike anything I’ve experienced!

Dan exploring the lava flow caves.

Dan exploring the lava flow caves.

We took the ferry back to Auckland for dinner before heading to our hotel near the airport for our last night in New Zealand.

Dan waiting for the ferry.

Dan waiting for the ferry.

We tried to stop for dinner along Vulcan Lane, but were denied by the senior citizen dinner times (aka, the restaurants closed by 4:30 pm).

Dan knows the secret of how to get into the buildings on Vulcan Lane, but that still didn't get us dinner there.

Dan knows the secret of how to get into the buildings on Vulcan Lane, but that still didn’t get us dinner there.

Although we’d already eaten at Revive Cafe during our first day in Auckland and would not normally make a repeat in such close time proximity, especially while traveling, we knew the deliciousness it would offer us and bent our rules.

Being budget travelers, I reserved the cheapest room available at a hotel near the airport to accommodate our early morning flight. Our budget hotel, however, is larger than our last apartment in Cleveland. There is a king-sized bed, two twins, a dining table, an equipped kitchen and a bathroom.

Dan in our hotel room that could sleep, oh, probably 24!

Dan in our hotel room that could sleep, oh, probably 24!

This was a complete surprise ending to a very memorable holiday!

It's OK. This guy says to "relax" until our gate is announced for our flight back to Sydney.

It’s OK. This guy says to “relax” until our gate is announced for our flight back to Sydney.

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