Tag Archives: volcanoes

Rangitoto Motutapu Circuit – Auckland

About six hundred years ago, the volcanic cone that is Rangitoto Island erupted its way out of Auckland Harbour beside Motutapu Island. Rangitoto is the largest of the approximately 53 cones in the Auckland volcanic field, all of which are considered dormant.

I’ve not previously been to either island, and at NZ$39 return for the ferry, I decided to make the most of it and do an overnight hike. There’s no formal hike here though, only a number of day hikes on one or the other. So I made one starting and finishing at the Rangitoto Wharf and camping at Home Bay, the only public campsite on the far side of Motutapu Island.

Rangitoto Wharf to Home Bay Campsite – 12.3km – 4 hours

I booked the last ferry to the island for the day at 12:15 pm. The trip over was only 25 minutes, with a stop at Devonport. There were few people on the ferry, one other guy and his son who would be staying at Home Bay, and a day walker. The Auckland weather was sunny and warm, and there was a slight breeze on the top of the ferry as we crossed although clouds hung across both islands, stretching off into the distance.

On arrival, I marched along the wharf and through the waharoa.

Rangitoto Island has the largest forest of Pohutikawa trees in the world, although large portions of the island are covered in jagged volcanic rock. A wide path had been cleared and flattened in many places for the numerous tourists who climb the peak.

After a while, the clouds moved on leaving a hot day for the rocky climb cutting a fairly straight line up the side of the 260m cone. About 15 minutes from the summit, I came to a small camping area with a trail leading off on the side track to the lava caves.

As I had no intention of returning this way, I cut off along the side track, finding some rocky paths that led back down the slope a little before coming to the first of two main lava tubes. At the first, there were two women and their young children, so I left them to it and continued to the second lava tube. This tunnel was about 30 metres long with a nice spot in the middle with a ceiling gap. At the end I had to stoop down to get through before following a trail back to the start of the tube where I’d left my pack.

The kids were just leaving the other tube when I got back to it, but the holes were only small. I walked the 15 minutes back to the main trail and climbed to the summit where there was a large viewing platform beside an old WWII bunker.

After my brief stay at the summit, I followed a trail around the side of the cone and down an overgrown path to the summit road.

This summit road cut through trees and rock fields all the way to the causeway, which was built to connect the islands during WWII. On the road near the causeway were several baches (beach houses), remnants of the 140 built in the 1920s and 1930s before they were banned in 1937.

I stopped for a rest and at the entrance to the island.

After my break, I cut along a path although the two inch grass made it somewhat hard to walk through. The two islands are like polar opposites, and could be described as Good and Evil, or Heaven and Hell. Motutapu has rolling hills, and lots of open grassy fields, while Rangitoto is harsh, with its volcanic rocks and good covering of trees and plants.

I followed the trail across the island, with good views of the harbour, islands and the Auckland Coast until Home Bay came into view.

I climbed down the hill to the campsite and found a spot to pitch my tent. The Home Bay Campsite has 142 non-powered tent sites and during my stay there was only two tents, mine and the man I’d met on the ferry on the way over with his son.

I hung out on a seat near my tent reading until the sun went down in pinks across the sky.

Home Bay Campsite to Rangitoto Wharf – 13.5km – 5 hours

There was a fine layer of dew on everything when I woke, but instead of the forecasted cloudy day, it was full on sun.

I decided I wanted to make the 2:30pm ferry, and arranged my pickup at the other end. This gave me some time to check out other parts of Motutapu Island. I headed north up the hill and along the Rotary Centennial Walkway.

The walkway came to the junction of several roads and further up a brief hill climb to a set of gun emplacements installed during WWII.

Further down the hill was the main gun emplacement area with several underground tunnels, rooms, and large emplacements along with signs explaining various parts.

After some exploring, and checking out another set of tunnels near the junction, I followed a road along to an education camp. I was supposed to stop off at reception and announce my arrival, no exceptions, but I passed through and up the hill on the other side without talking to anyone.

I crossed Administration Bay briefly before heading back up the grassy hills and around the North Western edge of the island back to the causeway. I stopped briefly to talk with some Department of Conservation workers who were scouting for Kiwi, of which they had caught, scanned and released 23 today with a target of 50. I had no idea there were Kiwi on the island.

I stopped for a break at the causeway before beginning along the coastal trail back to Rangitoto Wharf.

At Islington Bay Wharf, I realised the coastal track would take me too long, and I would miss my ferry, so I cut back along the road, followed it up towards the summit and split off part way to race towards the Rangitoto wharf. The sun continued to beat down during the afternoon, and it was again roasting on the rocky Rangitoto. I arrived back at the wharf just prior to the ferry arriving, but was utterly drenched in sweat. As soon as I could I got into a large bathroom and changed into my dry clothes for the trip back.

Overall,
My Rangitoto Motutapu Island circuit was a success, there was plenty to see on both islands, and being a Monday, it was quiet. I enjoyed my time there.

Next, I will wait for an opening in the weather and will find another, hopefully longer, walk before winter pushes me into hibernation.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

The Volcanoes of Central and East Auckland

For the past few months I’ve been hibernating in New Zealand, working and resting from my travels. But next week a group of us will be doing the Tongariro Crossing so I figured I’d get in a bit of mild training by climbing six of Auckland’s volcanoes.

Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, was built upon the Auckland Volcanic Field which contains around 53 dormant volcanoes. While many have been mined flat, some still protrude from the suburban landscape and offer great views over the city (and mild climbing experiences).

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From Mount Eden and looking east there is Mt Hobson to the left, Mount Saint John (vaguely) to the right and in the distance Mount Wellington.

Mount Eden – Maungawhau – 196m
The tallest of the six volcanoes is also the closest to the central city.

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For this reason it is a very popular mountain among tourists providing great views of the city and Auckland Harbour.

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Mount Eden has three craters and has easy access with car parks in several locations up the mountain. I began at the lowest point I could find to get the most of the climb.

Mount Saint John – Te Kopuke – 126m
My second volcano for the day is a lesser known one barely visible until you are virtually right on top of it. Compared to Mount Eden’s busy tourist vibe, I was alone on Mount Saint John except for a solitary family enjoying a picnic and a number of sheep. There is no car access to the peak and only a single crater.

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The rim of the crater gives excellent views to the east and south, with other directions blocked by trees. There is a good view over the motorway to Mount Hobson near the summit.

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Mount Hobson – Ohinerau – 143m
Directly across the motorway from Mount Saint John, Mount Hobson is perhaps one of the more human modified of all the volcanoes. It has been used for several things over the years, including an advertising medium. Due to its closeness to the motorway, signs and statements can often be mowed into the grass.

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Mount Hobson was my favourite volcano of the day with a short steep climb with few other people around. It also provided perhaps the best views from all sides but especially of Auckland Harbour and Rangitoto Island, the largest volcano in the region.

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One Tree Hill – Maungakiekie – 182m
One Tree Hill is the most famous “mountain” in Auckland and was once a special Maori landmark. Over the centuries it has had a tree growing at the top, thus its name, but due to attacks on the tree at various times, it was removed.

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One Tree Hill sits near the middle of Cornwall Park and is a very popular family area on sunny weekends. Today there were many people in the park and at the viewing area at the summit.

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One Tree Hill is the southernmost volcano of the six and provides great views out to Manukau Harbour.

Mount Wellington – Maungarei – 135m
Mount Wellington is the largest volcano in East Auckland and is a popular weekend spot with a deep cone that provides ample climbing for those keen enough. It is the youngest of Auckland’s volcanoes and like most of the others it is not expected to erupt again.

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From the summit it provides excellent views over Auckland Harbour to the Bucklands Beach peninsula.

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Pigeon Mountain – Ohuiarangi – 55m
The smallest and most eastern volcano of the Auckland Volcanic Field, Pigeon Mountain sits behind the house where I grew up.

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I have spent many an afternoon climbing the small peak which gives excellent views in all directions especially along the Bucklands Beach Peninsula and south towards Manukau City.

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While the climb up Mount Tongariro next weekend will be close to twice the height of the volcanoes I climbed today put together, it has given me some training towards what should be an epic climb. See you next week.

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia – Impressions

Yogyakarta – pronounced Jojakarta – is the capital of the Yogyakarta Special Region in Central Java. The city is a centre of education where Indonesians come for higher learning. It was also the Indonesian Capital during the War of Independence.

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Jalan Malioboro
Unlike Surabaya, where we felt like the only Westerners, Yogyakarta is the second most visited tourist destination in Indonesia. Our hostel was near Jalan Malioboro (Malioboro Street), the main tourist area in the city, so not surprisingly this was where we saw most of the Westerners.

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Jalan Malioboro begins at the main train station to the north and runs south to Beringhajo Markets, near the Kraton – the Sultan’s Palace. The street has plentiful stores and street vendors selling all the typical touristic wares. Thankfully the vendors are less aggressive than in Bali, making wandering the street far more relaxing.

Kraton Ngaygyakarta Hadiningrat
The Kraton or Sultan’s Palace is just south of Jalan Malioboro and was the seat of power in the area. While it was once the house of the royal family, it’s now a popular tourist attraction and museum. The Indonesian 1,000 Rupiah bill features an image of The Keaton.

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Taman Sari Water Castle
Two kilometres south of the Kraton is Taman Sari, the Sultan’s royal gardens. It once had an artificial lake with islands, several pavilions and a bathing complex. While most of the Taman Sari lies in ruins, the bathing pools of the Sultan’s concubines are well-preserved and open to tourists.

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Candi Borobudur
Borobudur temple is the world’s largest Buddhist temple and is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. It was built in the 9th century and abandoned in the 14th only to be rediscovered again in 1811. It contains the largest and most complete collection of Buddhist reliefs in the world.

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We took an organised tour to the site and climbed the structure via the eastern gate, the only proper entrance to the temple. The stairs climb through three large tiers to the top where there are many bell-like structures, each covering a state of Buddha.

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The site is an amazing place for photos, although getting one without tourists can be troublesome. The temple was not the only thing being photographed, Westerners tend to also be targets for photos. When first asked, I assumed they wanted me to take a photo of them with the temple but they actually wanted a photo with me.

Candi Prambanan
Prambanan temple is the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia and was built around the same time as Candi Borobudur. The temple complex was once a collection of 240 individual temples, with the largest six temples at its centre dedicated to the 3 manifestations of the hindu god and the each of their steeds.

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Most of the temples are now just piles of rubble after numerous eruptions of Mount Merapi and the earthquake of 2009. The major temples have been reconstructed and stand like fingers protruding from the dirt.

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This time my brother and I hired scooters and rode out to the temple compound, which is only 17km from Jalan Malioboro. While vastly different to Borobudur, it is equal in magnificence.

Candi Sewa
There are several other temple complexes near Candi Prambana, although most are now little more than stacks of stones. One that has been rebuilt is Candi Sewa, a buddhist temple.

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Its main temple has been reinstated, but most of it’s surrounding smaller temples have not. Yet the guard statues still stand ready to defend the site.

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Mount Merapi
Mount Merapi, literally Fire Mountain, is the most active of Indonesia’s 129 volcanos, with major eruptions occurring every 10-15 years. It’s also a popular volcano to climb, usually to see the sunrise. In my adventures I’ve climbed mountains at night and had sworn never to do it again. But for some reason I forgot and climbed it anyway.

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The climb was difficult and 300 metres from the very top I made the call to go no further. I stopped at a large group of tents belonging to the wise people who had climbed the day before, camped and woken early to climb the final hour and forty minutes to the summit. The views from the camp were still awesome, although it was very cold. My brother and our Italian friend did make it to the top for similarly spectacular views, such as Mount Merbabu, Merapi’s slightly taller twin.

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While it was good climb, I stick with my decision to not climb mountains at night and will never do it again. I prefer to climb mountains when I’m rested and not after a full day. But for those who did reach the top they enjoyed the experience, although for some it was the most difficult thing they’d ever done.

Next we head further across the island of Java to the city of Bandung.

The Trail Wanderers.