Saturday, January 26, 2019

New Zealand Adventure - Day 3

[Composed 1/9/2019]

Today's plan was to explore Auckland, but doing some Googling last night turned up a fun adventure just outside of the city. We arrived at the waterfront at 10:00am, just in time to catch a ferry to Rangitoto Island. Rangitoto Island is a recent volcanic creation, being about 700 years old. The island promised hiking, views and truly unique terrain. It delivered on all of these fronts.

The popular trail leads from the dock-drop off point nearly directly to the summit, but that's too easy. Instead, we took an out of the way path along the coast. The reward for this was to see the volcanic rock of the island meet at the sea shore, and it was well worth the extra walking time. Even the seagulls looked impressive in the setting, rather than being the drab french-fry stealing birds we're used to seeing on the East Coast.

After a walk along the coast we made our way inland and up-hill to approach the summit. One of my favorite sites on the island was the large fields of black volcanic rock with a single plant thriving in the middle of it. Lava always wins the first battle against vegetation, but in the long run, even volcanic rock is no match for the tenacity of life.

Before hitting the views though, we stopped at a couple of lava tubes to explore them. As we arrived, a few kids came out of one tube and confirmed to us that it does go all way through. Shira passed on exploring this cave, but I couldn't resist. I flipped on my flashlight, and carefully scooted down into the opening of the cave. Within a few steps I found myself in a pitch black cavern that was tall enough for me to stand in. Hanging from the ceiling was an odd form of vegetation. I carefully pressed on, and in another half dozen steps I could see the light at the end of the tunnel; literally. I had to wiggle my way out of the cave a bit, taking a big step up onto a small ledge before re-appearing into the open.

The whole experience took about 5 minutes and was truly awesome. I'd gone caving! Sure, it was the bunny-slope of caving, but I'd climbed into the pitch black and made it out on the other side. What fun!

When I came out I chatted it up with the family that had been exploring the cave when we arrived. One of the children explained to another visitor that inside the cave this person would find roots from the trees above hanging down. Of course! That's what that 'mystery' vegetation had been. How had I not seen that immediately?

After the lava tubes we made our way to the summit for an impressive view and then hurried back down to the ferry. Shira was convinced I'd over-done it - but we had a whole 10 minutes before the last ferry of the day was to arrive.

I can't recommend Rangitoto enough. It's a natural wonder that's only a short boat ride away. But do make sure you bring plenty of water, that sun will cook you on that black volcanic rock!

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