Rangitoto

Rangitoto was my saving grace when I was coming down with a severe case of ‘cities-are-super-depressing‘. I booked a ferry ticket out to the volcanic island from Auckland for a decent price ($33 NZD). I needed a nice day-long hike to break the cycle of boredom that I was in. Being cooped up in the city for too long does that to me.

They do warn you on the way out there that the last boat is at 3:30 pm – and it’s certainly something you don’t want to miss. Being stranded out on the island overnight doesn’t sound very fun (in the pitch black, no less). It’s certainly not an experience that you would soon forget.

There is practically nothing on the island – there are some old buildings and roads – but no one lives there or is stationed there full-time. Despite the lack of civilization, there were many other people coming to the island with me. Most of them hopped off the ferry – cameras ready to go – and headed down a path to the right. Naturally, I went left.

Did I have any idea what I was looking for on the island? No.

Did I have a plan? Certainly not.

The extent of my Rangitoto research had been fare prices and boat times.

Almost immediately following my decision, I happened upon one of the more memorable views of my trip. Right there on the coastline, I had a brilliant view of Auckland city through a window formed by trees.

Conquer Fear Rangitoto
I call it: Auckland Through The Window. I’m good at names.

I continued on, and very quickly I bumped into a sign marking a pathway. It was to some kind of grove that could be found inland. What kind of tree was it? Why would it be significant? I don’t know (and still don’t). But I figured aw heck, why not? I followed the path. It wasn’t really what I would call a path. It was more of a vague suggestion for the path of least resistance through the overgrown jungle. As I pressed forward, the path twisted and turned as it wove inward and upward.

I definitely passed the grove without noticing it.

Probably just a side effect of not knowing what the heck to look for. I believe it may have been near those birds I heard that had calls like movie sound effects. That is not an exaggeration. This was the first time I’d ever encountered them, and it truly caught me off guard. I couldn’t place the noise until I saw one open its beak to sing its strange tune right above me.

Tramping deeper and deeper into the island, I couldn’t help but notice how thick the vegetation was – the sun could only shine through little holes in the canopy. Eventually, I came to a bigger opening… 

Conquer Fear Rangitoto
The sun pierces the dense canopy and illuminates the path…

My aimless forest “path” eventually merged with a track that had a much more defined purpose – to reach the summit. It was on this new gravel road, the aptly named ‘Summit Track’, that I passed most of the other hikers from the boat. They either weren’t used to the rising elevation, or perhaps I was just cruising along at a bristling pace…

I’m from the northeast – I can’t help it.

We walk fast and we talk fast.

As I was leaving my fellow hikers in the dust – er, gravel, I walked through old, dried lava fields. So, rocks. I hiked through lots of rocks. Lots.

Conquer Fear Rangitoto
Still quite a ways to go…

I was reminded of Iceland, the only other place thus far where I’d encountered lava fields. Unlike the fields in Iceland, which were barely covered by a layer of moss, these ancient flows were surrounded by the island’s vibrant flora, which had evidently had plenty of time to grow back (or perhaps just to grow, since this island had sprung up out of the sea just about 700 years ago).

Anyway, the only time those other slowpoke hikers made up some distance on me (ok, true, some of them did pass me) was when I took a detour to go explore the lava caves on the eastern side of the island. This side-track was close to the summit – probably about 3/4 of the way there.

I didn’t know what to expect, but I was a little bit underwhelmed.

It was really just a tunnel that gradually grew smaller and made you a bit claustrophobic towards the end, but it never grew too dark thanks to a convenient opening in the ceiling right near the midway point. I may have found these tunnels a bit underwhelming, but I did realize a newfound respect for people that take up spelunking as a hobby…

Rock climbing on the surface is one thing, but clambering around in caves beneath the surface that feel as though they could cave in on top of you at any moment? Humph. Maybe I just need to try it out a time or two. 

Conquer Fear Rangitoto
Would you go in?

After conquering the lava caves, I returned to the main track.

I completed my quest to reach the rim of the volcano (I may not have started with a plan but I did finish with a plan). I’d say that this last bit was the hardest for sure, with a rapid and unrelenting ascent that curled around the volcano. Upon reaching the top, I rejoined my fellow speedy hikers and was treated to a absolutely spectacular 360-degree view of the harbor. 

The surrounding islands each looked like their own enticing adventure, and the city skyline from this vantage point was top-notch. I hung around a while, rested, and guzzled some well-earned water. Then, curious, I walked the path around the rim looking for a way up to another lookout point, but it turned out to just be a big circle.

I guess I can say I walked around the rim of a (dead) volcano, but that’s about where the positives end (in my humble opinion). I mostly considered it a waste of time, especially because I had to hurry back down to the dock to catch the 12:45 pm boat. Failure to make it would strand me here until the next boat arrived at 2:30, and I was definitely ready to go by this point.

Conquer Fear Rangitoto
The only time I was ever excited to go back to the city, and only because I needed a shower!

For $33 I would say I greatly enjoyed my Rangitoto excursion.

It was an excellent way to escape the city for a bit. Especially if you don’t have a car to get out to some of the other treks around the Auckland area. 

For me personally, the Rangitoto trip broke the monotony that was daily hostel life in the city. Maybe you’re a city person, and you won’t need a break at all, I don’t know (Auckland is consistently rated as one of the top worldwide to live in). But I’ll always remember this as my first real adventure upon returning to the incredible country of New Zealand.

Conquer Fear Rangitoto
Will you conquer Rangitoto?

If you ever arrive in Auckland for an extended period of time and fancy a hike, then I definitely recommend this as a wonderful option. However, if you’ve got to choose between one or the other, I would choose Waiheke Island over Rangitoto Island. In addition to their own beautiful hiking tracks, Waiheke has numerous beaches, some lovely small towns, and vineyards where you can taste all the wine your heart desires.

That being said, of course, it is entirely up to you. You can’t go out and do a day’s hike up a volcano just anywhere!

My favorite is the third option: do both, and more!

Originally Posted October 9, 2017 

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