Our trip to Rangitoto Island began on one of our first days in Auckland. We had heard that this uninhabited island was a good place to go for a hike and soak up some nature. We had planned to make a trip to the volcano turned eco preserve one afternoon, but when we went to purchase our tickets we were told that the last ferry to the island departed at noon, so we would have to wait until another day. Fortunately the tickets were good on any day for up to a year, making it easy to buy them in advance and come back another time. But we would have to make a point of getting there early. The last ferry to the island left at noon and the last ferry back to Auckland was at 3:30. In other words, they wanted to make sure everyone was off the island before dusk. What could they be hiding?
Interesting, I thought. Rangitoto Island was formed by a volcano that erupted around 600 years ago, so they say. No one lives on the island, so no one can say for certain what goes on there after the tour groups leave mid afternoon. It has been turned into an eco preserve by the government because it is home to a number of native species, such as the pohutukawa tree, that they want to protect. But is that they only thing they are trying to protect?
We got to the dock at 10:30 just as the 10:30 ferry was departing. They had already raised the plank and closed the gate, but the good natured captain saw our distress and lowered the gate again so we could board before they took off. It was only a 20 minute ride from the pier in Auckland to the island. When we arrived it was cloudy and there was an ominous feeling in the air.
Once off the boat we headed for the peak straight away. If there was something going on on this island we would be able to see it clearest from the very top. On the way to the top we passed a lot of volcanic rock. It looked as though it had been smashed to pieces by some great force. What could possibly be large and strong enough to smash so much rock? We stopped at the peak for some brief reconnaissance and ate some of our rations. We had to be careful as there were no shops on the island, so we had to make the food we brought last. While we were eating, we were approached by a bird friend. It came right up to us without any fear, as if it had grown accustomed to a fear of something greater than humans, and began to peck at our boots. It was hard to tell if it was simply used to tourists and begging for some crumbs, or if it was trying to chase us away from some imminent danger.
The crater, supposedly a result of the last eruption, was huge. We hiked around the rim but couldn’t find signs of any untoward activity. There were a few cement structures that appeared abandoned. Perhaps they housed research facilities in the past.
On our way back from the peak we stopped to explore some caves that had been formed by “lava flows” after the eruption. There were four caves of various sizes we explored. They were dark enough that you needed a torch (New Zealandese for flashlight) to find your way. Two of them were pretty small and we needed to squat down to squeeze/crawl through them. One of these was very short and the other dead ended a few meters in. The other two were much larger. Once inside I could stand up, and they were much longer than the first two. We explored them for a while, but didn’t notice anything suspicious. It was dark though and our time was limited (we didn’t want to be stuck on the island after the last ferry left), so perhaps we missed some cleverly disguised hidden passages.
In the end we were forced to depart, having discovered nothing of significance regarding this mysterious uninhabited island. Perhaps it was for the best. Perhaps it really was just an old shell of a volcano that houses some important local plant and animal life. If you find yourself intrigued perhaps you will come explore this uninhabited volcanic island yourself one day.