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sept 10, 2000
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sept 06, 2000
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september 11, 2000
The weather forecast today called for clear skies, and given the string of gray, gloomy wet, days, I felt justified in taking a full day to see some sights. when you live in Phoenix, "clear" typically means not a single cloud, and perhaps 90 straight days of that! I think in Auckland, "clear" means "not dumping down buckets" so it might still be cloudy and considered "clear"

My destination today was to hike the top of Rangitoto, the volcano island that seems to always be in the background of any photograph taken in the Auckland area. I have been here a little over a week, and have seven photos from seven different places that have "Rangi" hanging around in the distance.

So the day started with a bus ride to downtown Auckland. photo here Getting there was pretty easy from the main road, "Great North Road" near UNITEC in Point Chevalier. But I should say that the maps, schedules, signs, etc for the bus system here is terribly confusing-- they typically refer to a route only by its final destination, so it can be a challenge to get the right bus for anything in between the first and last stop!

photo here But I got some time to crane my neck up and down downtown, a thriving, busy place, with lots of shops, restaurants, and people of all sizes, shapes, colors, etc going in every direction. The streets do not have that uniform grid patters on Phoenix, and there is a moderate amount of topography (read hills) across the city center. It is a compact downtown so you can cover a lot on foot.

today's photos
- all photos   o o o o

o o Rangitoto

photo here The trip to Rangitoto is by ferry boat, so I pick up my tickets in the aptly named "Ferry Building", a lovely neo classic structure from the 1912. It sits in contrast to all the younger glass and steel cold offices surrounding it. The ferry ride is about 30 minutes, with one stop in Devonport.

Landing at the Rangitoto Wharf starts a day of exploration. "Rangitoto" comes from the phrase "Te Rangi i totongia a Tamatekapua" or "the day the blood of Tamatekapua was shed", referring to a battle in the 1330s that occurred here. (If you are impressed with my knowledge, stop- I am quoting directly from the brochure in front of me!).

photo here Geologically speaking, Rangitoto is a very young (600 years old) shield volcano, a miniature of the island of Hawaii. Archeological data suggests that Maori people witnessed its eruption.

photo here Much of the lava on tree lower flanks is the blocky, angular "aa" type of flow. The upper parts of the island include benches representing scoria eruptions and episodic construction of the current peak. The island has rather quickly been vegetated, mostly with the unique pohutukawa trees, which apparently was fond of getting start growing in the crevices of the lava. The growth is very thick in many places.

The top of the summit features a very symmetrical steep walled crater. A series of boardwalks and steps photo here lead you to the very summit, featuring a lovely view of the Auckland region. The light is not optimum for photographs (cloudy and flat light) when I am up here, but the views are certainly memorable.

photo here Sporting my Flagstaff Cosmic Cycle shirt, I am spotted by a couple, who are from, of all places, Phoenix. The are kinds enough to snap my photo and they also (for some reason) feel it is important to give me their business cards.

After munching my lunch, I ramble back down the steps, but take a different trail that circles the crater, and then drops to a road/track that leads to the two farthest parts of the island. The sign to McKenizie Bay says it takes 3 hours to go that way and back to the wharf- this would get me there only 15 minutes before the departure of the last boat of the day! Too risky!

So instead, I aim to walk down through "Wilson Park Track." Long before Dennis the Menace, this "Mr Wilson", was an Englishman who in 1915 planned to create a botanical park here and introduced some non-native plants to this part of the island, supposedly succulents and figs. It is very lush, and while it might feel overgrown, the track was very well marked. Halfway down Rangitoto, the Wilson Park track rejoins the summit trail.

With some time to spare, I am able to explore some of the tracks such as Kidney Fern Track, Flax Point, and Kowhai Grove, each unique with vegetation. Parts are pretty stark, just the inhospitable lava and some twisted trees that look like a scene from the end of "The Lorax". photo here Along the coast one finds a string of small, colorful cottages, or as they are known to kiwis, a "bach" (pronounced "batch"). These were built some time ago, and once the lifetime leases for the oringial owner expires, the government is tearing down the structures, ultimately to return the entire island to a natural state.

The ferry ride back to Auckland is full of sites, as the late afternoon light is shining pretty on the city. photo here The boat makes a tourist oriented swing through the harbor, even circling beneath the harbor bridge before returning. The bridge connects Auckland city to the residential communities of the North Shore. Built in the 1950s, the original bridge was expanded with extra lanes on both sides. As the expansion was completed by a Japan company that attache ding new structures to the sides of the bride, it is sometimes called the "nippon Clip-on"!

photo here Finally, six and half hours after I left, the boat pulls in to the ferry pier area. The trip has been well worth it, and the steep hike got the heart sufficiently pumped up. And there is still time to roam through downtown shops!

My special event then was successfully telephoning home and getting a cherished time to talk to Natalie across the Pacific ocean. It hardly feels like 10 days gone from home, more like 100! photo here Being a bit homesick, I aim to have dinner in a Mexican restaurant near the Sky Tower. The food was quite good and passes this Arizonan's palette test. Bueno!

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