Feeling on Top of the World!

Isabelle Galko
August 1, 2019

Hiking is one of my biggest passions and in my first few weeks in Auckland, I've gone to as many places I can to walk trails and climb up mountains. One of my favorite things about Auckland is that it has an abundance of opportunities to climb up hills or mountains and get amazing views of the New Zealand landscape, even within the city. I’ve come to really appreciate how close nature is to the city in Auckland. I can be downtown one minute and only 30 minutes later be at the top of a volcano or walking along the beach.

The day before school started, I took a trip across the harbor to Rangitoto Island—an uninhabited, currently inactive volcanic island about a twenty-minute ferry ride away from Auckland. After boarding and watching the water speed past the boat, we finally docked at Rangitoto, where the previously small volcanic mountain now towered above us.

Stepping off the rocking boat, my feet crunched on the black volcanic rocks that coated the island from top to bottom. With the sun shining and the steep path ahead of us, a few friends and I started the journey up the volcano to the peak.

The views on the way up were beautiful, as the expansive Auckland harbor and city were revealed to us step by step. Steam resulting from the thermal energy below came off of some of the rocks around the trail as we hiked. About halfway up, we ran into some lava caves and decided to explore. The tunnels were pitch black with low ceilings, so we crawled through them with the flashlights on our phones.

After crawling through the maze of tunnels, we continued our mission to the summit. When we reached the top, it was amazing to see the 360-degree view of the environment around us. We could see the city of Auckland off in the distance, the neighboring island of Motutapu, and the coastline of the North Island jutting into the water across the horizon.

We hiked down the volcano on the opposite side, ending up on a small beach in McKenzie Bay. As it was low tide, seaweed and shells littered the sand. The scene was almost picture-perfect, with the vibrant and shimmering reflection on the water of the lighthouse and rocks along the coast. We walked along the coastal path back to the ferry and caught the last boat back to Auckland.

The Rangitoto summit hike prepared me for a few days later when I traveled a few hours south of Auckland with the AU Tramping Club to the Kaimai mountains. As it was Re-Orientation week, there were tons of people who had joined the club so the camp we stayed at was full of people, both locals and international students.

After staying the night in the bunks, we woke up early on Saturday morning to start the trek through Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park up to Mount Karangahake. We hopped across several streams and walked on precarious wooden bridges. The climb was a little tough, but we finally scrambled up the steep path to the summit, where we enjoyed the view and ate lunch. We were almost halfway through the 18 km trek and the afternoon sun warmed us up as we relaxed before the long hike still to come.

On the way back, we explored mine tunnels and saw glow worms on the low ceilings above us when the lights were turned off. We walked along the river as the sun set and a few hikers even took a dip in the river (which was freezing!). Darkness set in during the last kilometer and we took out our flashlights to navigate the path back to camp. It was nice to be with such a big group at the end of the day as we spent dinner talking, eating a hearty meal, and resting.

These two hikes were tough but a fun adventure at the same time! I can’t wait to explore more in the coming weeks.

Climb on!


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