Today I took a ferry across to the volcanic island, Rangitoto, and climbed to the summit. The island was formed when a volcano erupted around 600 years ago, and now comprises a strange mixture of bare areas of black, volcanic rock and lush forest. In the forested areas it feels ancient, like a dinosaur might pop out at any moment. Bizarre and beautiful ferns, mosses and lichens dominate the ground layer and I spent a happy time geeking out, and causing consternation amongst the steady stream of fellow tourists having to negotiate me blocking the narrow path on my hands and knees, head to ground (the default botanist’s stance). It fascinates me that Auckland is constructed on top of a load of active volcanoes. Will informed me that, as it is a case of ‘when’ the next volcano will erupt rather than ‘if’ it will, a city emergency plan is in place to deal with the inevitable future event. This works on the assumption that there will be enough forewarning to pre-empt disaster, but that’s a big ‘if’ – I just hope it holds out for the next week or so…
Today has reinforced my first impressions of the laid-back kiwis. Whilst I waited for the ferry there was a fire alarm in a large office block right next to me. I watched all the office workers file out, relaxed and chatting, with zero anxious clock-watching and not a suit in sight. I spotted a suit jacket at one point and thought, ‘Gotcha’, but then my eyes travelled downwards and took in jeans and trainers. I love this attitude, especially as this city is supposed to be notoriously stressy and frenetic on the kiwi scale. Another insight was joining the Friday afternoon commuters on the ferry home – somehow it takes the corporate sting out of the CBD when a large proportion of the workers are rocking up by boat.
My final observation for today is that solo travelling has some interesting downsides that I hadn’t anticipated. Firstly, how on earth do you put suncream on your back without seeming too forward with strangers? And how to take photos of yourself to remind you of your achievements, such as reaching the summit? The latter was actually fairly easy – I found myself offering to take photos of other groups who then automatically offered to return the favour. My lack of solution to the former conundrum is evidenced by the back-slapping red blotches currently shining like a beacon on my back. Clearly I need to work on lowering my inhibition levels, but I can feel the kiwi mellow attitude eroding them already… 🙂
Piccie of my favourite Rangitoto flora below: