Rangitoto and My New Red Hat
March 28, 2011 Comments Off on Rangitoto and My New Red Hat
We were up early, planning to take a ferry out to unpopulated Rangitoto Island in the Auckland harbor. The guidebook said it was covered in scoria fields, and, based on my Utah experience last summer, I demanded that we stock up on hiking goods. I had forgotten my sun hat, so I needed one of those, and Simon needed sunglasses, which we found at a store called The Warehouse, which appears to be a New Zealand version of Target. While we were at it, we also bought granola bars, peanuts, water, and sunscreen. It turned out not to be very intense but I am proud nonetheless of my foresight. Also I am kind of in love with my red hat.
We took a ferry to Rangitoto, which afforded great views of the city and of the shipping docks. Once on the island, we hiked up to the summit, which was on the rim of a still-active volcanic crater. It started out with scoria fields, but after a while it turned to wet upland forest that reminded me strongly of the Big Island. It was about a thousand feet up, which turned out to be quite a bit of work, especially considering that we were still jet-lagged.
All over the island we kept running into a pretty bird with an amazing call that sounded like hollow bamboo sticks tapped together. Later we found out it was called a tui, and is one of New Zealand’s beautiful natives (see picture, right). There’s a decent beer named after it.
It turned out that we actually had a ton of time left before our return ferry, so we decided to take the long way back to the wharf, along unpaved roads through lava fields populated with geckos and lichen. It was such a long walk that we didn’t do anything else, even though there was some other cool stuff to see on the island, and we sat near the wharf and had deep conversations and watched a fantail hunt insects.
Fantails are some of my favorite birds. They’re completely fearless and friendly and I love the way they maneuver in the air, hovering and twisting and stopping on a dime. The best thing about them is that they have these great tails that they bust out for no reason, just hopping around on the ground or in a tree, minding their own business and then fssht! Like, just to remind you, “Don’t forget I’m gorgeous.” And they’re so. very. cute.
Finally the ferry came and we headed back to Auckland. It is far and away the most wind I have ever experienced in my life, and I couldn’t decide whether it was fun or scary or just unpleasant. It was so strong that if you turned your face side-on to it, it would whisk the breath out of your mouth and you could not breathe, which is never a good feeling. Fortunately, my new red hat was put away and I did not lose it. For an early dinner we went back to Food Alley (no shame!), because it is so very delicious and you could get something different there every day for six months if you wanted to. Don’t judge. You would have done the same.
We picked up a bottle of wine and drank it in our hotel room while we planned the rest of our trip. One of the beauties of our trip was that we had no itinerary, so we were totally free to decide to spend more time somewhere if the mood struck us. (FYI—It appears that this only worked because it was the off-season. If you’re here in January, you might want to book everything ahead of time…which, in my book, means you shouldn’t come in January.) But we thought it would be a good idea to sketch out roughly what we wanted to do. So we went through the guidebook and looked up their highlights for each region and decided what sounded good; I drew a rough map of New Zealand and we marked down where everything was that we wanted to do, then planned a trajectory around that. We decided to focus on the South Island first, starting ASAP, because everything was further apart and that was where all the dramatic stuff was.
We went out to try to buy a phone or a SIM card or something (I was relieved not to have to be the one to worry about this), but things were already starting to close. Whitcoull’s, a bookstore, was still open, though, and we got an atlas, which is always an exciting purchase.
Downstairs from the lobby of the hotel are some old stables that have been converted into restaurants, so it’s turned into a kind of fancy food court. One Italian place calls itself Ristorante De Niro, and its logo is, indeed, a picture of Robert, which is pretty funny. It was as good a reason as any to pick a restaurant, so that’s where we ate. Then, because our hotel room included a washer and dryer and free laundry powder, we decided to do some laundry. We got the dryer going and went to bed.