Auckland

Oct 27, 2015

After a long flight from Vancouver with some bumpy sections we arrived in Auckland 45 minutes ahead of schedule, at—wait for it—4:40 am! Immigration went quickly, and it was the bio-security inspection which took the longest time. We were both flagged because we had hiking boots, which had to be checked and sprayed, and we also had two packages of freeze-dried camping food and a partly-finished bag of dollar-store mints. The lineup took quite a while but the actual bag check went quickly.

So it was after 7 am by the time we got outside. We caught the express shuttle to the city and, after walking up Queen Street for several blocks, we arrived at the hostel. Not surprisingly our room was not available yet, so we were given the key to the storage room, where we left our bags. But we had a plan. Rosemary had e-mailed the hostel to ask them about the Coast to Coast walk, and Paula, one of the managers, gave us a map and showed us where the route went, and advised us to buy lunch before we started as most of the walk didn’t have places to eat.

Coast to Coast start

Coast to Coast start

The Coast to Coast walk runs from the Tasman Sea across the country to the Pacific Ocean, but fortunately it’s only 16 km long and entirely within Auckland’s city limits! Paula had suggested we take the bus to the Tasman end and then walk back to the city centre, so we walked down Queen Street to Customs Street, where we would catch the #328 bus to Manukau Harbour. We bought some lunch at Muffin Break and then caught the bus, getting off after about 30 minutes in Onehunga next to a lagoon which was the official start of the walk.

School group on One Tree Hill

School group on One Tree Hill

The route was signposted quite well, so we didn’t have too much difficulty in following it. We passed through Jellicoe Park, which had been a military area a hundred years ago, and climbed One Tree Hill along with a big group of school kids. Then we passed through Cornwall Park and climbed Mount Eden via a very circuitous route. We’d seen a lot of birds so far but they were pretty much the introduced birds like starlings and blackbirds. But in some trees on the back of Mount Eden there was a flock of Tui, a native New Zealand forest bird.

Mount Eden crater

Mount Eden crater

After Mount Eden we continued through Auckland Domain, where several key signs were missing, so we got thoroughly lost. But by wandering around we stumbled across the trail again and continued through the University and down to the docks. It had been a good way to spend the day; we had climbed several old volcanoes, seen a lot of historic houses and statues, and found some good birds.

Pavilion in Auckland Domain

Pavilion in Auckland Domain

It was now mid-afternoon so before returning to the hostel, we found the supermarket so that we could buy food for the next few days. Our room in the hostel was not the most inspiring of rooms! It was similar to the cinder-block cell we had had in Cairns, but not quite as cramped. But at least the price was okay. We headed down to the kitchen for tea and cookies, after which we made our dinner of pasta and sauce. Tonight’s sleep should be much more relaxing than last night’s!

Auckland University Clock Tower

Auckland University Clock Tower

Oct 28, 2015

After a good night’s sleep we both woke up early, but we managed to sleep in until 7 am. Today’s plan was to take the ferry to Rangitoto Island, so after breakfast we packed up our day packs and headed down to the ferry docks. It didn’t take us long to do that but we still arrived there with only minutes to spare before the 9:15 am departure. It was a good thing we hadn’t left any later or we would have had to wait for the next ferry at 10:30 am. The trip to the island took about half an hour, including a stop in Devonport. The skies were mostly cloudy, but there was no rain in the forecast and we had some sunny periods later.

Auckland Customs Building

Auckland Customs Building

Rangitoto Island was formed from a series of volcanic eruptions which were witnessed by Maori who were living on the adjacent Motutapu Island. Since then it had a checkered past, but now it’s a protected reserve. Like many of the islands near Auckland it has been cleared of non-native predators so that native birds and vegetation can recover. We were greeted by a trio of oystercatchers and after checking the map we decided to follow the trail to the summit. This trail went through lava fields and also through forests of quite large pohutukawa trees. It was well graded but sometimes it was difficult to walk over the lava rocks.

Trail through lava fields

Trail through lava fields

Before we reached the summit we took a side trail to see the lava caves. The first one we came to was overgrown so we didn’t venture into it, but the next one looked easier to walk in. We stumbled our way through it for a short distance before coming out the other side. The next section looked very dark, so rather than digging out our headlamps we decided to retrace our steps.

It wasn’t much farther to the rim of the crater and from there we climbed a boardwalk to the high point. It was now noon, so we decided to eat our lunch while enjoying the views. There were a lot of Tuis there, flying around and squawking in their strange voices. We also saw a Saddleback, a species which used to be highly endangered but is now doing quite well on the pest-free islands.

View of Auckland

View of Auckland

While we were at the top we helped out an elderly man who was in slight medical distress. Another lady had contacted the park ranger, who was on his way, but we gave him some tea which he gratefully accepted. He hadn’t realized the length of the trail nor the amount of elevation gained, but most importantly he hadn’t brought any water or food. Luckily for him the day was overcast, so it wasn’t quite as hot as it could have been.

After we finished our lunch we walked around the rest of the crater rim and then headed down the boardwalk which would lead us down to a road. But after we reached the road we realized that we would be cutting it very close to get back for the last ferry of the day, so we retraced our steps and descended the trail which we had come up.

Bach on Rangitoto Island

Bach on Rangitoto Island

We had an hour or so before the ferry, so we followed a little trail along the coast past a group of “baches”. These are rustic cottages which were built in the 1920’s and 30’s and used for holidays or retirement. Nowadays there are only a few left, but they are still in use as evidenced by laundry hanging outside one of them. Farther along the coast we came to Flax Point, where the Black-backed (Kelp) Gull colony was. The gulls were sitting neatly and politely on the black lava, showing up very well.

Kelp Gull

Kelp Gull

The ferry picked us up at 3:30 pm and took us back to the city. On the way back to the hostel we stopped for a bit of food shopping, because tomorrow we’re off on an overnight trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island.

Next: Tiritiri Matangi

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